podcast | Aug 30, 2023 |
Miranda Cullen found a way to turn a profit on time billing. Now, she’s ready to franchise

Bigger project, better project—so often, designers are counseled that whole-home jobs with sizable budgets are the only pathway to success. But during a period of rapid growth for Miranda Cullen’s former firm, one statistic shocked her into questioning that mindset: Her company had turned down 65 projects in a calendar year. Alongside her then-partner, Cullen came up with a concept for a side business, a venture that would run in parallel to the full-service firm and take on lower-budget projects. To make it work, they realized the new company would need to make a profit on time billing alone. They also realized that creating a firm where designers had more autonomy was the only path forward. “Our biggest thing was creating a service that not only values the client—no matter how big their project is—but also really celebrates the interior designer as well,” says Cullen.

Then, it all came to a halt. After 10 years together, Cullen and her partner divided their assets and split up. The change forced Cullen to reconsider everything—and put her on a path to bringing that new concept, called “Inside Stories,” to the industry in a bigger way.

On this episode of Trade Tales, Cullen shares why she’s looking to franchise her firm’s unique microdesign concept, how splitting from her business partner has taught her to trust her intuition, and why she’s already envisioning her company’s exit strategy.

Crucial insight: As she fine-tuned the business model to tackle small-format design projects, Cullen quickly realized that the only path to profit was to focus on volume—fielding a lot of assignments and employing a large team of design associates. In contrast to other quick-turnaround models—Inside Stories was formed as a host of e-design platforms burst on to the scene offering room renderings and shopping lists, often for less than $100—her business stresses the importance of compensating her team fairly for their skills, time and experience. “One of my missions, now that I’m entering the second half of my professional life, is to make sure that it is very understood that what we do should not be undervalued, and that we are well worth the money,” she says. Now, she’s developed a framework to franchise the model so that other firms can tap into the same structure and successes.

Key quote: “When you’re creating a brand and it’s solely related to you—i.e., Miranda Cullen Interior Design—when Miranda Cullen wants to slow down, or Miranda Cullen doesn’t want to take on a project, the company then loses the job. My company here was way bigger than myself.”

Listen to the show below. If you like what you hear, subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. This episode was sponsored by Universal Furniture and Maison&Objet.

Homepage image: Miranda Cullen | Courtesy of Miranda Cullen

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