Devon Tobin, left, and Miranda Cullen, right, photographed by Jennifer Olson.
As a network of more than 3,000 small businesses, we’re paying close attention to how they’re faring in an age of stay-at-home orders and social distancing. In an effort to stay connected to our TSG community and share their stories, we’re “catching up with” different business owners every week to hear about their challenges, learn how they’re coping, and find out how they’re spending their time at home. Today, we’re checking in with Devon Tobin and Miranda Cullen, founders of Duet Design Group, a full-service, luxury interior design firm based in Denver, Colorado.
What’s your business up to right now?
We wanted to make sure our Duet Design Group Foundation partners are staying safe as they work during these trying times, so we have put together self-care packages to send to them. These include reusable face masks, rubber gloves, and homemade hand sanitizer. We are thankful we can help keep everyone safe in our own way. We created the Foundation in 2015 to improve the lives of residents of the Denver area who are unable to take advantage of professional design services, and we’ve had the opportunity to work with some wonderful organizations.
Additionally, we’ve added some safety precautions to help do our part to flatten the curve in Colorado. Face masks and/or face shields are available during all site visits, and all employees travel with gloves and hand sanitizer. Remaining six feet apart is easy to achieve, since we’ve rescheduled any on-site visits that require more than four people to be present. Also, our designers can walk the space without the client present, and if the client doesn’t feel comfortable, they can vacate the space during walk-throughs. Video conferencing is also an option to all clients who prefer not to meet in person. For measuring spaces, we use laser distance measurers to limit the touching of the space.
Your biggest challenge, professionally and/or personally:
Devon: This is the first pandemic recession I have experienced as a leader of an organization. I have found it professionally challenging to lead with the confidence our team deserves in order to feel assured that we will come out on the other side roaring and stronger, while also maintaining a realistic and honest transparency about the unknown. It is a fine balance between sharing just the right amount of information at the right time without causing unnecessary fear and disruption. Personally, I am challenged by maintaining a positive state of presence while also continuing to contemplate what the future will look like. I can find it overwhelming when I allow my thoughts to run through potential changes that would create a less-than-optimal and bright future for my two little boys. I gently remind myself to return to what I can control, and the numerous silver linings that will result from this worldly shift.
Miranda: My biggest challenge right now is balancing life. With two teenagers at home needing support with their studies, a husband who is also working full-time from home, and still being accessible to our clientele and employees in the manner in which they choose to interact with us. Everyone has their own way of working through their “new norm,” and I find that I’m having to adapt to everyone right now. Not a complaint at all, just a different mindset!
What’s bringing you joy:
Devon: Undoubtedly the slower pace of life. The opportunity to journal more, read, and organize areas of our house I have wanted to attack for years. The pleasure of play wrestling with my two- and five-year-old boys in our basement. I also find joy in my children’s reaction to the pandemic. It is neither a burden or scary for them, but rather an opportunity to have additional quality time with mommy and daddy, and physically see us more often.
Miranda: Personally, the concentrated time our family has together right now. We are re-connecting in ways that I didn’t realize we were lacking because we are a typical family, always on-the-go. Professionally, beautiful spaces as always.
What you’re watching/reading/listening to:
Devon: I love most documentaries, especially ones that combine cooking and traveling. My current obsession is Netflix’s “Ugly Delicious” with Chef David Chang, and The History Channel’s long-running series “The Curse of Oak Island.” My nightstand has a plethora of good reads. I am currently switching off between Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens and The Universe Has Your Back by Gabrielle Bernstein. My Audible is playing The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sherman. My top four favorite podcasts are “Unlocking Us” by Brene Brown, “Super Soul Conversations” with Oprah Winfrey, “Work Life” with Adam Grant, and “Truth + Basketball” with George Karl.
Miranda: It’s all about Netflix and Hulu in terms of what I’m watching. I’m not reading as much right now, which is kind of shocking as I love to read. Not sure why that is…some self-reflecting is necessary, I guess. I am doing puzzles like crazy though!
Your go-to snack:
Devon: Mixed nuts, and crackers with hummus.
Miranda: Cheese and crackers, always!
Your favorite family activity:
Devon: Movie night on the sofa with lots of blankets, a fire, and fresh buttery popcorn.
Miranda: Right now, everything seems like a family activity. When it’s nice out we are having fun transforming our driveway into a piece of artwork with sidewalk chalk, and of course the two to three walks a day we take.
The local businesses/services you’re using this week:
Devon: We ordered takeout last night from one of Denver’s oldest and most treasured family-run Italian restaurants, Shells and Sauce. It was delicious.
Miranda: While not much is open and we are enjoying our home cooked family dinners during the week, we have reserved our weekend meals for supporting local small restaurants that are offering takeout. Plus, it allows us a couple of days to have a clean kitchen. Keeping the house clean these days seems like an impossible task with everyone home all of the time.