How we created a business on our own terms
The days when workers were expected to stay at their desks are long gone as champions of flexible working, artist Kathryn Callaghan and Garrett O’hare, tell Lisa Smyth
GONE are the days when workers were slaves to their desk. Now it is possible to meet an important deadline while sitting on the beach, or even lying in bed.
And most employees now favour a job that gives them the option of flexible work schedules. Yes, there’s no doubt the business world has changed dramatically in the last decade.
Garrett O’hare recognised the change in the landscape and set up Flexi Work Space, which opened its doors in May in Newry city centre.
The facility provides a range of services — businesses can rent a fully serviced private office space or there are options to rent dedicated desks, floating desks or the plug ‘n play service which allows users to access the space as required.
The business has already enjoyed success, with 52 members now using the facilities.
“There has been really good uptake,” says Garrett.
The business was in the planning for a year before it finally opened its doors.
Garrett explains: “I have two businesses: Flexi Work Space and Bradley NI, which is a commercial and residential property agency.
“Bradley NI has three offices, in Newry, Warrenpoint and Rostrevor, and is really an amalgamation of three businesses.
“It all came about because I’d been working in the family business, which was primarily concerned with the management of shopping centres and office spaces.
“We wanted to diversify into the residential market, especially as we moved away from that in the recession years.
“We had an opportunity to acquire the other two property agencies which is what we did and we now have our flagship office in Newry.
“I suppose we’ve always felt that it’s important to keep in-
I really did have this feeling that ‘If you build it, they will come’
novating. Traditionally our focus would have been on retail but that sector has changed so much.
“Over the last 10 years we have seen a large proportion of sales move online which has meant it is more difficult for retailers to trade in the traditional brick-andmortar approach.
“At the same time, businesses want a different approach to their office space, they want more flexibility.
“A lot of businesses don’t want to plan long-term, they are maybe looking at the next three to five years.
“All of these things made us consider the possibility of setting up premises to try and cater to those needs — so, for example, we can offer a short-term lease but at a really high quality.”
Garrett started out in the business world in a long-established family firm — his father Gerard’s company Parker Green International was best known for owning Newry’s The Quays Shopping Centre until its disposal earlier this year.
But setting up Flexi Work Space was his first experience of starting up a business from scratch.
It has been an experience that Garrett has relished.
“I really did have this feeling that ‘If you build it, they will come,’” he says.
“I suppose that’s really important for any entrepreneur, that you’re passionate about what you’re doing, that you feel like it’s going to be a success.
“I’m turning 30 at the end of December and I just got married in the summer. I’ve been working for 10 years but I feel like I am really starting out in my career.
“I have so much time left to develop and I’m really excited to grow the business, both Bradley NI and Flexi Work Space, over the coming years.”
There is no doubt that Garrett, who did a degree in communications and marketing and spent several years working in marketing before joining the family business, believes utterly in his product.
He has plans to take stock in May 2019 with the hope of developing the brand and expanding further.
“I want to give Flexi Work Space a year and then I will start looking at other locations,” he says.
“For now we are just working with the businesses and entrepreneurs who are using the space in Newry to make sure that we meet their needs and provide the best service possible.
“We want to provide as flexible a service as possible. If a business needs the space set up in a certain way or requires certain services, we are willing to do that to meet their expectations.
“Customer satisfaction is so important in business. Obviously every day I am learning something new and we’re still adapting the product.”
So, why did Garrett choose to locate the first office space in Newry?
The answer lies in is his passion for the city.
“I am from the Newry and Mourne area and it really is a great place for business,” he says.
“We have some really successful firms operating here, for example we have First Derivatives. Newry has so much to offer the world of business.
“From a geography perspective, it’s half-way between Dublin and Belfast so we provide the perfect solution for anyone travelling between the cities.
“And then there is the area itself. When you aren’t working you have the Mournes nearby, you have an endless list of activities, so it offers a great work-life balance.”
“I just really believe in Newry and everything it has to offer.”
‘It’s always been important to me to keep innovating in property’
Customer satisfaction is so important. Every day I learn something new
Garrett O’hare at Flexi Work Space in Newry, which provides a variety of short-term lets for local businesses