Where you won’t find trendy business tactics, but you will find truthful insights and timeless stories from leaders to look up to.
Ep. 009 | Curate Conversations With Pia Beck
“And I think what we keep running into, working with people, trying to create this like human experience on a consistent basis is wanting to just constantly slow down and approach something with kindness — even when you encounter a point of friction.” — EB Combs
PODCAST SHOW NOTES
Episode 009 of the Curate Conversations Podcast features EB + Jonathan Combs, co-founders of Realm, a photography studio and event space in Denver, CO and the visionary, envelope-pushing, and edge-riding team behind the brand visuals at CWco.
In this episode, you’ll get to know them better through our candid and relatively “uncut” conversation. While most people can identify a fantastic photo or a well-executed event, few notice what goes into it. We talk about the role of kindness and loving people well in business, how to balance form and function, and the power of asking, “What if we made it a little harder on ourselves…?”
About 3 years ago, I approached EB at an event at Realm and begged her to shoot a session with me. She was “retired” from portrait photography, but finally agreed to just one shoot.
3 years later, we’ve shot together countless times, captured tens of thousands of images, and found ourselves stuck in weird positions, fully submerged in the ocean with our clothes on, and there was even a questionable encounter with a seal once. While EB leads creative direction and captures photos, you can find Jonathan flying the drone, carrying heavy sand bags, holding up sheets, and capturing video content.
They’re an absolute dream team, wholly responsible for the trend setting brand y’all have come to know and love from us at CWco., and true partners in bringing this vision alive.
I’m so excited for you to get to know them better through this candid and relatively “uncut” conversation.
I hope you enjoy this episode.
Links mentioned in this episode:
- Curate Community Membership (code PODCAST for 20% off)
- Follow Realm on Instagram @realmdenver
- Visit Realm’s site at www.realmdenver.co
- Special thanks to our sponsors:
Music created by Queentide.
[00:00:00] Episode nine of the Curate Conversations podcast features EB and Jonathan Combs co-founders of Realm. A photography studio and event space in Denver, Colorado. And the visionary envelope pushing edge writing team behind the brand visuals at Curate Well Co. About three years ago, I approached EB at an event at [00:01:00] realm and begged her to shoot a session with me.
She was quote unquote, retired from portrait photography, fully focused on Realm. I finally agreed to just one shoot. We joke now that I’m very good at getting people to do things that they really want to do, even though they say they don’t want to do it. So three years later we’ve shot together countless times, way more than that one shoot.
We captured tens of thousands of images together, and we found ourselves stuck in weird positions, fully submerged in the ocean with our clothes on. And there was even a questionable encounter with a seal once.
While EB leads, creative direction and captures photos. You can find Jonathan flying the drone, carrying heavy sandbags, holding up sheets and capturing video content for us as well.
They are an absolute dream team, wholly responsible for the trendsetting brand that y’all have come to know and love from us at Curate Well Co. And they have been true partners in bringing this crazy vision that I have alive. I am so excited for you to get to know them better through this candid and relatively [00:02:00] uncut conversation. Enjoy.
Before we get into the episode, let’s hear from our partners.
Parker Clay was co-founded by a husband and wife, Ian and Brittany Bentley. Their founder’s story started with adoption. They adopted their daughter Saylah from Ethiopia, and that prompted them to ask the question, how do we prevent a mom from having to give up her child? They quickly learned that what these women needed were jobs.
So they started Parker, clay to empower women through dignified employment and contribute to the end of exploitation. Brittany’s creative drive as a woman co-founder is evident in the company’s commitment to creating beautiful bags. While Ian and Brittany are proud to own a social impact company, they started the company with the product, not the impact. Because they knew that if they could create something consumers really wanted, their impact could be that much.
Brittany [00:03:00] is constantly designing new products for Parker Clay. They are launching new collections all the time. A few of my favorite products that she has designed are the TOPA Mini Bucket Bag, the Paderno Bag and the Mercado Shopper Tote. You can shop all three at Parkerclay.com and get 15% off with our code CURATE15.
This podcast wouldn’t be possible without our sponsors. Let’s hear from SeaVee’s.
SeaVees recently introduced the sea change collection, making the most comfortable shoe in my closet and hopefully yours too, even better. Every style in this collection is made with recycled material from lace to soul. Which means that every single component of the shoe is made with recycled material. And that just shows how SeaVees is really putting their best foot forward and making their shoes more responsibly.
You can shop the see change collection at SeaVees.com and use our code CURATE20 for 20% off.
Okay, EB, Jonathan, I’m so excited to have you hear this. I’ve been looking forward [00:04:00] to this since we talked about doing it because I’ve gotten the chance to know both of you pretty well. And everyone gets to see your beautiful work all across our platform in all the places, including the cover art for this podcast.
And I’m really excited for people to know the humans that make that possible. So welcome. So happy to have.
Glad to be here.
Yeah. I’m so excited to, um, get to stretch and flex the muscles that aren’t very normal. Um, and it’s always good to kind of like pause and pivot out of our like primary lane. So happy to be here.
So the first question I always like to ask, and you can each answer, um, or you could answer it together, whatever you want in your own measure of success. Tell us about your growth at realm. So this could be like the number of sessions booked. It could be how your, your work has changed and evolved over time.
It could be brands you’ve gotten to partner with. It could be events you’ve put on, like whatever feels meaningful to you.
Do you want to take it?
Sure. [00:05:00] I mean, you know, the measure of success for me. It’s probably too friendly. I think first and foremost, like getting into really any work we’ve done is like about the humans. So typically my measure of success is are we connecting with people? Are people enjoying what we’re doing?
Are they enjoying working with us? Um, are they enjoying the thing we’re creating all of that. Um, and I think from the get go realm has very much connected with people which has been fun to see. Cause it was our first. Physical space. Uh, we, we had done a lot of photography and design and, and things that are very computer focused and put out into the world, but designing that physical space and seeing people interact with it and just fall in love with it, I think was a pretty huge, early indication to me that we were being successful.
Yeah. And with opening, I think in 2019, right. We weren’t even open for a full year before we were shut [00:06:00] down. Um, so it was kind of like we had this baby business that was just like learning how to walk really well and really starting to like move and groove. And then we were just launched like straight into crisis management mode for over a year. Um, so just knowing that we’ve made it out to the other side of like 20, 20 and 2021, like we’ve arrived at a new year now. And it’s just been way more of like this thriving, beautiful year that we’re having this year, um, versus kind of that survival mode. So we learned a lot, like.
None of that was in any of our control, but it was just really incredible to see our team like learn how to kind of respond in and evolve and grow our business to look a little different, even like doubling down on what was working in, what we were learning as kind of life lessons through the pandemic.
So that was a big takeaway for us too.
Yeah, that’s great. I love both of your answers. And I personally believe that every [00:07:00] small slash medium business owner that made it through the pandemic deserves like a vacation that is of equal length of the pandemic, because it was gnarly and having physical constraints that is even more challenging.
I think it speaks to the power of what you’ve created, that you made it out on the other side of that.
Thanks. Yeah. And Jonathan noted, right? This was like the first time we made a physical space that people were like on-site to experience. And then that was like worst case scenario for COVID, um, was a place that people had to connect together in. So it was like, oh, is for people to gather can’t gather.
Yeah. And we wanted to make this for like years and years. It took us three years to make, and now it’s shut down and it’s not safe to go to. And we were like, well, this is, this is.
Um, yeah, totally on that note. So I have a question about the three years that it took for you to create this. We’ll get to that in a second, but let’s back up for just a moment. [00:08:00] As you, you noted Rome, wasn’t your first business, right? Y’all did this together with your friend, Rachel. And that was after you had lots of creative endeavors and businesses that came before that and still exists now and all the good things.
So for everyone who isn’t local to Denver, and hasn’t yet gotten to experience the magic, that is Realm. Tell us what it stands for. Why.
I mean for me. It goes back to the answer. I was just giving of like this connection piece, and being a physical space and from our background, like we wanted it to be beautiful. Like we wanted a, definitely a place where people could connect, but we wanted a place where it like inspired people to create it inspired people to, uh, Just, you know, it is an inspiration.
I get that often when people are coming in, they’re just kind of like, oh my gosh, this is great. I can’t wait to like create in here. Can I live here? Kind of thing. And I think that’s what Realm is to [00:09:00] me. Whether, you know, people are renting it out for photo studio or event stuff it’s about gathering and creating.
Yeah. And I, I think right. Everything we were doing before around was more service focused. And so we were kind of like popping into these physical spaces, like periodically. And there was just still something like missing in Denver that we were really hoping for. Um, so that was like kind of this ambiguous driving factor in creating Realm.
But for us, like wanting to be the driving force behind it was, we wanted to be like instigators, right. Physical space where people could be connecting. Um, and I think we really got that out of Realm. Right? We were like all kind of like moving through our lives, doing contract work with clients and just always wanting like more of a larger scale opportunity to connect with people.
Whether, whether it’s like. something together on site, like for a photo shoe or like vendors coming together, putting out events. Um, we got like lots of little nuggets of moments there, but never this like one enter goal space that you keep returning [00:10:00] to that has like ability to transform and was also like warm and inviting.
So that was a big reason why we made Realm.
That’s good answers. And the way that you talk about it is just as lovely as how it exists in life inform it’s, it’s a, it’s a really beautiful space. You, you walk in, you get that wow factor. Um, and it is really lovely and really intentional in every way. And one of the things that I appreciate most about you, two as humans and as business owners is that you.
Create really dialed beautiful things digitally, physically the whole spectrum. And you also, uh, are. Weird as we all are, and you all have a lot of fun and you laugh a lot and I’ve gotten to experience that, which is so fun. And I know that every time we work together, it’s going to be a lot of fun. And we also know that when you gather people together, like TBD on what’s going to happen.
So what’s the weirdest thing that’s happened that Realm that you know of.
Well, I appreciate [00:11:00] the compliment of our weirdness. Um, I really like to celebrate it, so I don’t want to like call out anyone. This was super strange that happened. Cause I’m like, yeah, strange, weird, good. More of that. Let’s do more of that. So it’s kind of hard to say. Um, I think Denver’s really like growing in this editorial component. So it’s really fun to see that growing in styled shoots specifically outside of like the wedding sector.
Right. We’re seeing a lot more like kind of avant garde play within the studio, which we’re really. Um, enthralled by so excited to see that happening. I know we’ve had like a ton of different events. I think one shoot that we had. I always love when they come in, but it’s a pet toy company. And so they have pet models.
And, um, I actually had the pleasure of having two of our household animals model in the shoot, and I got to be the animal trainer. So I was like onset at realm with our dog and one of our cats and our cat mochi was apparently the best cat model they’ve ever had. She’s all over [00:12:00] Amazon with their products.
Um, she, they about fell over when she like, kind of ran off set and I like called her. And she, you turned in like ran back over there, like your cat comes when she’s called? So that was quite fun. And also really hilarious to see one of our cats at R ealm.
So another one of the things that I really admire about both of you is just the warmth that you bring to everything that you do in your work. So you’ve hinted at this, right? That it’s, it’s very much about the people and about the, uh, The people that you get to meet the people you get to work with people getting to fulfill on their inspiration and the experience that you’re providing.
And I think that it’s really rare in creative and or, uh, event venue spaces to really put like the humans first. Right. I think there’s this kind of like dogmatic conversation about like the [00:13:00] product, right? Like, like what event is being produced or, or what work is being produced here in, I think that part of the magic of what happens at Realm and when people get to interact with you and your lovely team is that there’s really this like humanity to what you’re doing that I don’t think.
Uh, evident in or exists in a lot of other interactions in your space. So what are some of the experiences that you had before opening Realm that led you to really want that to be at the forefront of what you’re creating?
I think, well, all of this is kind of interesting, I think specifically for the event side and how we’re kind of implementing this now. Because our background being more creative, like being more on the studio side was like a really easy thing for us to kind of like step into, but events like we’re getting educated constantly.
Like we have been in like this like full speed crash course. Um, and we’ve been trained and equipped really well, but we just don’t have that [00:14:00] as like our background. So a lot of things where, you know, you like walking kind of late to the game and you’re like, but why is it that way? How can we make it different?
I think that’s been a really beautiful ad for what we’re doing for events and. Being able to bring in that human element of experience, both internally for our team. Like how can we improve the experience of being the venue manager? How can we improve the experience of our clients, final walkthrough and making sure like these details aren’t missed.
So I think that’s been a huge add, but I’d say. Like before we opened Realm, I think it’s kind of like how we were both raised. I think to really be considerate and intentional was big part and how those values are kind of like driven as well as probably our education piece too, of just being extremely, extremely brainwashed to obsess over like every little part of it.
Um, and really. Seeing the like power of that and how it affects experience.[00:15:00]
For sure. I think what he be saying, we came into it understanding the type of studio we wanted to create, because we had been in a lot of studios and just didn’t like the overall experience. So we already started from a place of like, let’s improve this, this and this.
And we still continued to have to improve things, but definitely on the event side too. We had to do a lot of learning, especially over the last year. Um, of fully understanding everything we could in order to continue to improve it. In order to continue to push it, to make it more human focused. And yeah, I think like EB said it was kind of our upbringing for sure.
My parents. You know, that was a major thing for them of just like loving people well. Like how do you love people? And how do you treat them with respect? And, you know, my mom’s a, a successful business woman and that’s how she runs her business too, is like, how do you treat your managers and your employees?
Like everyone from the top down with love and respect. [00:16:00] And you know, that doesn’t mean you just let them roll over you either. It’s like, how do you get things done and love people well? At the same time.
Yeah. And I think we’re seeing that more and more with who we’re working with, who we’ve brought onto our team.
Right. Like everything we’re touching in our business is like so consuming. And then you add the element of like managing people and you’re like, wow, that’s another full-time job. Will they ever sleep? Um, but it’s just been really empowering to see the, like the feedback, like the not feedback. The like takeaways from actually like showing up for who you’re working with, like who our employees are.
I it’s like weird to call them employees. Like teammate is like way more appropriate of a word, I think. Right. Because we feel very partnered with them. We check in with them wanting to make sure that if something’s not right, like we’re. Shifting the model, somehow we’re changing how we’re communicating with clients and setting [00:17:00] expectations.
Um, and I think really caring about what the internal experience looks like is shaping both the external and our like, relationship with everyone we’re working with. And that’s been really powerful too.
Yeah, for sure. It’s like super important to us. Not just that the job gets done, but that our people feel equipped and are enjoying it and don’t feel, you know, left behind that we’re all on the same page.
Or burnout or burnt out. Yeah.
Yeah. You each said something, uh, that I thought was really powerful. And so Jonathan, you asked how do you get things done and love people well at the same time? And that has been like the biggest question that I’ve asked myself as I become a people manager of all of the things that go into building a business and growing a business.
In my opinion, managing people is like one of the hardest of them. And so EB, what you said too about like, this is a full-time job. I just totally relate to that. And I think that, that question of how do you get things done and love people while at the same time is not one that I yet have like a [00:18:00] definitive answer to.
Right. It’s like a daily practice of like asking that question. And then answering it, like in that moment, in that day, in this situation, kind of like over and over again. Um, but I think that’s one of the biggest questions and one of the hardest questions for business owners that people don’t really talk about, right.
People talk about like the financial part and they talk about the work-life balance part and they talk about the renovations and they talk about like all of these other things. And I don’t think enough people are talking about, uh, people management and what it takes and what you have to work through.
Individually, like personally and together as a team to make it work and to have people have fun and do the things that you’re all there to do.
Yeah, my mom calls it friendship management. She’s probably going to fire me for saying that on a live podcast. But, um, but yeah, this idea that like, You’re managing people. You can do that and be their friend and still be managing them. That both things are possible to [00:19:00] where you can feel on the same team, even if you’re above them.
Even if you have to tell them this is what we have to get done.
Or this is a boundary.
Yeah. Yeah. You do that in a way that loves them well. Um, and puts you alongside.
Yeah. And she does such a great job. Like she genuinely does get to work with like all of her friends and has built a business doing that.
And I don’t even think we realized the direct correlation that we’ve always wanted to be like, we’re going to open a business so we can hire everyone we love to come and work with us and we’re like, oh, dev, we’re just like copying Marcel. But it’s really great. And we’ve gotten to like hire a lot of people.
We don’t have close relationships with, or like some like starter relationships with, and really growing in that friendship has really been fun to just like, get to know everyone really well.
Yeah. That’s definitely been a huge difference for us with Realm. Because before that we’re each other’s business partner, or we had Rachel our business partner in some businesses.
Um, but it’s just such a different dynamic when somebody is coming into your company [00:20:00] that has no loyalty, no reason to like, make your bottom line go up. It’s like, how do you help them with what they’re trying to accomplish in your business?
Yeah, totally very well said. I want to go back to, you mentioned earlier that Realm was kind of an idea. It was in the making, it was in its building phase for three years. So what was that like? How did you take your vision for what this could be and literally create it? What was that process like?
I think similarly to doing podcast. It was definitely like getting out of our lane right. Of working with like service contractor, kind of clients, like just doing design and photography and video is what we were doing before. So working. On finding a physical space, working through like bids on build out, like working through lease meetings, all sorts of things.
We’re just like, so outside of our normal, we were constantly having to [00:21:00] get more and more educated in different sectors. In order to like navigate unchartered territory just constantly. And so it was exhausting. It was also really exciting. There was a specific day that was extremely discouraging and felt like we had just hit a massive roadblock which I’m assuming you want, might want more details on. Um, but yeah, I would say the process was really great. I don’t think any of us started it being like, you know, It’s probably going to be three years.
I think we had the advantage of time on our side because no one knew this thing existed and our friends and things like that. You know, we have ideas all the time, so I’m sure every time we tell them like, oh, we’re going to start this thing.
And they’re like, Okay. Like, we’ll see it. But yeah, I think it was just such a long process because we had the ability to kind of think through what do we want to do and what do we want to create? And every time we would look at a new space that could possibly be a fit, we’d have to [00:22:00] change that model of like, oh, well, this space can only handle this type of thing.
So like changing that business model, every single space we looked at, um, until we got to the, the final iteration of what Realm is today.
Yeah. And even once we opened, right, we had the pandemic. So pre pandemic, we had the coffee shop in the front, like totally different from our renovations that took place in spring of 2021 where the coffee shop was renovated into a secondary studio.
And that had more flexibility also for event use. So even like once we were open, we had to still. Well, when a world crisis occurs, sometimes you have to continue to like make big moves to shape your model and a more sustainable, and honestly like usable, activating way for all of our clients who were already coming in, who are already excited about what we were doing.
Yeah. And I think that’s something we, we took from the rest of our businesses and jobs and things like that is just learning to be flexible, learning, to [00:23:00] see a problem in front of you and figure out how to solve it. Not always in a timely manner, but eventually solving the problem. And hopefully on the other end, uh, end up with something that’s better for your business and your clients.
Yeah. We all, Jonathan, Rachel and I all did the same graphic design program and they liked to call us creative problem solvers the term. Which is terrible and not sexy at all. But I mean, I guess you could apply it to almost everything we’re touching and creative problem solving is a part of it.
I think that there’s two things that stand out to me. And in you talking about this and the first is, just like the intentionality and thoughtfulness and consideration that goes into mixing and matching business models with spaces. And formulating this idea over three years, I think shows just a ton of diligence to that process. And it’s one of the things that I really [00:24:00] appreciate about how you all go about your work is just like that patience to like sit in the incomplete until. Yeah, the thing that’s going to allow you to move forward in a really, really powerful way.
And so that’s the first thing that comes up and I acknowledge you both for that because you do it really gracefully. And I have another question about that. And the other thing that came up is a term that you all taught me. That was like one of my biggest upgrades of 2022, about what happens when you are talking about solving a problem and like not necessarily yet solving a problem.
And I would love if you would share with everyone what toilet bowling means.
Yes, we do. We do call it toilet bowling because sometimes you’re just swirling and swirling and swirling and you need to flush and move on.
And this whole thing came up. Right? Cause we started with these utopian ideal ideals from our education where we were like, collaboration is [00:25:00] key. Like if we’re doing a design project, like a whole branding, Client, Jonathan, Rachel and I are all going to do initial sketches and like independent exploration, regardless of who’s most suited to this client style.
We’re all going to spend time on it. And it was beautiful and it came a way with some really, really solid client meetings where we were wounded slash had a lot of laughter over things such as a client calling a logo, a pork chop. It was not a pork chop. It was a really beautiful topographic mark, um, anyways, um, but like lots of baggage there.
Um, but right. We had these ideas that were, you know, everyone should be involved. Like everyone’s mind should be activated touching every part of the process. And we spent so much time on every single product or project and. Honestly like a waste of the client’s time and also inefficient approach to projects.
And it also would just put us at these like meetings where we’re trying to discuss them thing [00:26:00] and right. Cause now it’s all exploration on the journey. Which is beautiful, but it’s also just, you never get anything done like ever, ever, ever, ever. Similarly, like equal, equal kind of like voting rights, if you will, within each conversation was really important to us.
And then we were kind of taught like, no, you guys all have different strengths and weaknesses. One of you needs to be lead in every single area to where you can move on. You can flush the toilet and actually like move on with your lives because. Like, if you want to be creating something, you have to actually like stamp it and send it into the world and move on and do another, another project, another assignment.
And sometimes that’s hard. I mean, EB mentioned the coffee shop. We opened our space, there was coffee shop. It was great. And then the pandemic hits and we left the coffee shop empty and unused for at least a year. Even though we knew we needed to move on. And we talked about ideas and talked about, but [00:27:00] eventually we just had to like, Just go for it.
Stop iterating, stop trying to come up with the perfect idea or hoping the coffee shop would come back back. We just kind of had to stop. And flush the toilet and move on.
Yeah. And it requires boldness, right? Like we never knew that it was going to be that length of time before we were going to have to really be forced into making a move.
And I wish we would’ve made it earlier, but we also weren’t ready in the same way. Like when we started Realm, we had no idea what was going to be three years. We had no idea it was going to be another year and another year. It just was such a process, but we were so driven to executing, that we just, we just kept churning that.
Turning that butter turning that wheel.
Of all of the things that I’ve learned in business and picked up along the way and all of like the concepts that clicked for me, toilet bowling, we’ll go down in the hall [00:28:00] of fame of like one of the most applicable things I have ever learned in my entire life. The day that I die, I will remember toilet bowling as like the perfect description of a problem that so many teams face.
So thank you for that.
And it like, so happy. The whole like, um, unfortunately very unattractive, like visual of toilet bowling. Is we’ve all been there in a panic moment, when it’s just not flushing and you need it to flush. And there’s like a worst, worst, worst case scenario. If this toilet bowl does not flush. So it just like dissatisfaction and panic and urgency to move on and like, see it flush. There’s just a lot of beauty there.
If it makes you feel any better because I’ve been at Realm than I’ve been in your home. And I have gotten to like, see your creative work, come to life visually. The toilet bowl that I picture is like very pristine [00:29:00] and like very white and bright and airy. So that makes you feel any better about the visual arts.
It’s an on-brand toilet bowl.
Great. There we go. Great.
Okay. So my follow-up up question to kind of how I cued up this toilet bowling conversation was about getting the shot. Which is, um, something that I made up and I’m like very hooked on in case you can’t tell and is what I’ve kind of wanted to center our conversation around today. And this is how I’ve been referring to the quality of your work, like you two specifically, and that you are both willing to do some radical things. Not that I’m advertising that for you and do them with a very good attitude and like really genuine excitement to get the shot. That is like that whoa shot. And, uh, we have plenty of experiences together that we can call upon. And I just think it’s so rare that there are. That someone is willing to do the extra [00:30:00] 10%.
That’s like not ideal and not comfortable and not in the plan and not foreseen to get a shot literally or figuratively that is 20% better. And really has someone get, that felt experience that you were going for in the first place. And, uh, it’s what I love about you. And it also has created some really fun memories for us, I think.
And so. Tell us about the role that doing things with excellence and intention plays in your work
I mean, I think we’ve already hit it a little bit, but for me, everything I want to hit form and function. Like aesthetics are very high on my list. Very important. But if it doesn’t do something, if it doesn’t do what it needs to. Yeah. Then that I don’t want it and vice versa. Right. If I have something that works perfectly, but I don’t like the way it looks, it’s gonna bother [00:31:00] me.
Um, and so that’s always been very high on my list. And I think that’s. You know, I think of any of the things at Realm that I want to improve and they all come down to that, making it function better and making it look better. And that’s kind of always my question. Um, and I think, you know, speaking of, we were just talking about toilet bowling for me.
I just get stuck in the details trying to make it perfect before it gets out there. And having to learn of like, You know, Done is better than perfect and we can, we can fix it as we go along or we can replace it later or we can make it a little better. Um, once we see how it’s working, kind of those kinds of things.
Yeah, I think to the done is better than perfect speaks to, right. We were all creating things in design school that were being printed. And if it was going to the printer, it better be, it better be as good as perfect as it’s ever going to be. Um, and now we’re operating in such a digital platform. Like I’d say 99% of the [00:32:00] work we’re all doing is mostly digital.
Um, and so it just gives you this freedom while you can’t really like take back an Instagram feed post without deleting it. But, um, like most everything else, right. Is so like you can send it out to the world. You can put it on your website and you can fine tune it later. Um, so I think there’s just like a lot more opportunity to lean into done is better than perfect. And I really love that, but yeah, I think we’re kind of odd balls in that. I don’t think, like we know we’re not very cool. Like we know a lot of people who are way cooler than we are, and we don’t mind making fools of ourselves. Like we don’t mind having conversations that are kind of like miserable to have.
Cause it’s. I mean, the worst they can tell me is no. So I might as well go ask, or I might as well not ask and to ask for forgiveness instead of permission. Like I think that frequently comes into play is just not being too concerned with like how we’re perceived and you know, outside [00:33:00] of the light clear obsession with intentionality and care, um, towards others.
But yeah. We kind of have a mission, right? Like we’re going to do a photo shoot at the beach and it’s gale force winds, and it’s not the vibe we were going for it all. Um, it’s just kind of making adjustments along the way. I think the way that we created Realm with a lot of malleability and how the space like functions and it’s beautiful, like malleability and how we’re approaching everything, having openness to adjusting all along the way.
And. Yeah, I think just curiosity and approaching things like asking why and genuinely listening. I think, especially when you’re coming up against those moments of having hard conversations where you don’t understand why there’s a no being assigned to something. But when you don’t know like why that door can’t swing open, um, why someone’s telling, you know, and, and you don’t know where to go beyond that. It’s like, well, why don’t I. Kindly, try to ask a little bit more about it, to gain more [00:34:00] insight around like why it is an actual no, or maybe it doesn’t have to be.
And I think it just creates more and more opportunity when you’re willing to maybe go a step or two or three or four or five further.
Yeah. And sometimes EB has to talk me off of that cliff. Um, she’s just like, why do you have to make it so complicated? But I think we’re just willing so often of like, oh, it could be.
A little better, a little better here. If we just did this instead, I know this is the way everyone else is doing it, but what if we made it a little harder on ourselves? Would it be that much better? I think we’ve just had a lot of practice of, of getting weird of trying new things, trying hard things, um, to see what happens. It doesn’t always work out, but yeah, you learn to roll with that too. You got to keep moving forward.
And we’re going to push and pull on each other. Right. We work in a similar field. We have different things we’re lead over, but we share a lot of things in common, but we’re wildly different people and like [00:35:00] how we approach things.
So I just want to steam roll through my task list and get her done. And Jonathan is just like constantly considering all of the different components. And I’m like, oh wow. I see the toilet it’s beginning. Um, and so I think just really understanding the power that both of us bring to the table. Not just like giving space for it, but inviting it in. Like when he wants to push on something, meeting him there when I need to bring to the table, like we do not have time for this.
We have got to, these are where our priorities lie on what’s urgent and important. Um, and this. Still has to be done, so let’s make it done now. And we can come back to it later and having to kind of push and pull with that.
Yeah, I think that’s a huge reason why we work together on so many levels is EB’s helping us get things done. I’m helping us think through all the details and hopefully we’re moving forward at the same time.
That was [00:36:00] also well said. And I want to reiterate one thing that you brought up that I was going to bring up and I’m so glad you did, which is the malleability of the space. It’s one of the things that makes Realm really different as an event venue is that. There’s so much room to like give and take and flex in that space and really turn it into what you want it to be.
And I think that that holds room for that excellence. Right. Um, you can really turn this into whatever you want it to be. And I think when met with the human element of like an we’re here to help you see that vision, right. And we’re here to connect you with the right people who can execute that for you.
I think that that’s really where the magic comes in.
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Thanks Pia. We are obsessive over creating things that have transformability. And I mean, we have a lot of. Really beautiful pieces in realm. And at the same time we had a client just completely clear everything offsite for their wedding. So I’m like, yeah, that’s also an option. Like there’s such a range.
I think of like, just pushing play as is and using the space as is, or. We’re going to go with 1 billion variations of how you could use it. I don’t know what that math equation is. Math, not my strong suit, but yeah, I think [00:39:00] there’s just like a lot of different ways to leverage this space that makes us really excited.
Yeah. And I think that’s the form and function piece, you know, it’s the space itself. We want that to, um, to be beautiful if you do strip everything away and then each piece that’s in it. Use it for studio, use it for event, use it as a backdrop, use it as whatever, each little piece and overall being, meeting that, that form and function quality.
Yeah. And I don’t think anyone ever quite on the nose understood the value of considering how an event is photographed from the physical creation of the venue. And the way that we kind of accidentally did with Realm. Right. Because it does shoot so beautifully. And it just really, I mean, not to be biased, but I think it’s one of the prettiest spots you can celebrate in, in Denver.
And it’s definitely has an extra level of elevated aesthetic. And I don’t know, it’s just really fun. I think now getting to see it [00:40:00] doing more and more events, right. And this year versus the last couple, has just been really. I dunno. It’s like energizing to see this space come, come alive in so many different variations.
I might also be biased and I agree with you. Okay. So, um, a lot of people in our community know of you because you are responsible for all of the beautiful work on our platform. And, uh, I don’t know that people know that much about you as people. So what is one thing that our community probably doesn’t know about each of you
I’ll do just about anything. If you dare me.
Dangerous to mention that.
I’m worried. I was so curious. I didn’t know what you wrote down for that. So you looking for something more insightful.
No, that was great.
He’s really good at standing back flips, but he has a torn ACL at the moment. [00:41:00] So not doing a lot of those, but it is a skill. We haven’t seen it in a minute. What do people not know about you? I mean, some people know about my horsey stuff.
I have like one that’s
in our give us the horsey
it needs to be said,
I think it needs to be
okay. I am a three time world champion within the all American quarter horse association.
Um, we’re sitting in a closet, there’s a couple of Globes in here, possibly on the floor. They need a shelf to sit on, probably. Um, but yeah, I did that for like most of my life started riding when I was four. And I kind of took a hiatus from competing when I was like 21. And then I came back to it for a moment, mid twenties.
So horses are a big part of my life.
And one year, third world champion, after being off for like five years.
I did, I rode my mom’s horse accidentally got qualified, and then we won. Hilarious and I see it on the cake. So yeah, [00:42:00] that’s my like secret fun fact. Um, and I really do love animals, but I have a pretty significant fear of birds just because I can’t predict their movements.
Like they don’t function like in movement the way that most animals I interact with do. And so I can’t tell when they’re, I don’t know, gonna come and dive bomb me or something.
And you need another one for me, I spend 90% of my time at home in a robe.
And you listened to birds instead of music on your headphones. When you’re working all section.
Oh, yeah. Yeah. So when I’m, when I need to get work done, because so much of my work takes my creative brain power to concentrate. I don’t like listening to music cause I get distracted by the words. So I listened to nature. Sounds.
Which was survived when Rachel and I would be in the same room with him, like blasting Betty, whose new album or something. And he would have to like, [00:43:00] just completely shut us off.
Go to my Zen place. Yup.
I love that. I’m going to try that.
It’s great. I don’t want it. I want to.
What lies in the future of Realm? What do you want it to be?
I think this is the question that’s forefront right now. Right. As we just like past chapter of survival and we’re in our first like genuine season of like thriving, right. I would say our first nine months of being open were really great, but we were just open, like really starting to just work.
People knowing about us. And this year we’re genuinely like thriving. So I think we’re catching our breath to finally like, look ahead and be like, okay, we’ve proven the model it’s working well, and we’re going to continue fine tuning it. And at the same time, like how do we want to scale? What is the best method to scaling?
What works best? Money-wise what works best concept wise, what works. People-wise and how do we find that [00:44:00] intersection best. So I think that’s an answer we don’t have right now. And I think we’re really excited to explore all of the options of that.
Yeah. I think this is a hard one to answer for me because I think when we opened realm signing a five-year lease.
Thinking about, this is what we’re doing for five years was a big deal for us at the time, because we had always designed our work life to be very flexible. We would have new ideas and just try it out and, um, kind of jumped from here to there and work remotely if we needed to. And, um, so it’s hard to think what the future of Realm is sometimes because we have ideas and we think through, but I think what I come back to is continuing to like, do what I love.
And support people in doing what they love. That’s what I love about realm is just seeing people come through on the creative side and create things for themselves, for their clients. And seeing people come into this space and celebrate, um, [00:45:00] just all of those things. So I think that’s the future of Realm in some kind of sense is, continuing to provide a space or support people in doing what they love.
That’s great. What about for each of you personally? What’s something that you want to do outside of Realm?
We want to live on a ranch. Yeah. We are currently actively looking at ranches that we could never afford, because why not? Both of us want to live in the mountains and EB wants to have some horses and yeah,
I think we’re in the phase of dreaming big right now. I guess we were kind of transitioning out of that.
Right. Starting instead of dreaming small and growing it, we’ve approached this whole process a little differently and we’re dreaming like really big. And then we’re kind of like editing and paring down. Right. And deciding what we want to have on our shoulders, like in the next five or 10 years or 20 years.
So, and also just like planning for exit [00:46:00] strategies is something that’s really important to us. I think that’s probably something that the pandemic has taught us, is just, what does, like an intentional exit strategy look like? Which is not that we have on the docket for Realm. Like we definitely want round to like, grow.
And get better and better and better. Um, but I think just that’s been something that has been brought to our table from like a purchasing land perspective that I think has really interesting and different.
Yeah. And I mean, back on the, you know, more business side of Realm, I think we do have ideas of expanding the business, opening more locations, possibly looking into digital offerings with apps and things like that, kind of that support piece I’m talking about.
But I think we’ve learned to hold so many of those things in open hand of like, Hey, things could change and we might have to have a different idea for, you know, what another Realm looks like or, or whatever that is. Yeah. And we are never short of ideas, on concepts. [00:47:00] So there’s no issue with finding, motivation or inspiration for that.
I would say what Jonathan’s mom right. Has taught me before when we were opening Realm. Cause it was so consuming was to take that drawer full of ideas and to shut it. Like the idea drawer, focus on the one. Access the drawer later, open it later, but you have to honor the one that you’re doing right then, when it is that kind of scale of something that demands so much time and energy.
So I think that’s something that we kind of have to balance and call each other on a. You know, we’re doing too much right now. We don’t have capacity to like, even explore this. So let’s put it on the back burner, something that we’re always open to calling each other on. And we’re both like extremely applied in every part of our life right now.
Right? Like probably, beyond capacity in a lot of respects. And that happens frequently. Like. I acknowledged like this is a season of [00:48:00] chaos that we’re in and we have to slow down at some point because we will literally just fall over, fall flat on the ground. Or at least I will, for sure. and that is, I think a really important ebb and flow for us is we’re going to speed up and we’re going to take on a lot, a lot of things for a portion of time.
And then we have to slow down in order to make this sustainable and to not like suck the life and joy out of it.
Extremely applied. I love that. I am also, I am also extremely applied.
Did you resonate with that? A little.
I read, I resonate with that a little. Um, that’s great. So I always love to wrap up by just kind of, uh, handing you the microphone to say whatever you want to say that we haven’t talked about yet. What do you think needs saying? How do you, how do you want to end? What do you want to make sure those out into the world?
Is this your mic drop moment?
It’s a, your mic drop [00:49:00] moment.
Oh yeah. That’s what I meant.
Something, it seems like this kind of thing has come up before. Um, but we keep speaking about my mother. But I think she inspired so much of our business side of things that like, I think of the thing she taught me in business the most, is that like, you need to stand your ground and be confident, but everyone deserves kindness and holding those two things.
Um, in your hand and we kind of already touched on that, but I think that’s, that’s my biggest takeaway. My biggest leader is, treat people with kindness and be confident.
I let you go first and you used one of my things. That’s what I get. In some ways, mirror this and also a little nod to a family member. My mom’s dad. So we were actually at a movie over the weekend and one of the characters said, um, [00:50:00] please be kind, especially when we don’t know what’s going on. And I think that was such a powerful thing to hear in such a simply stated way. Right? Cause we have all experienced so much stress, especially in a consolidated amount of time.
And I think what we keep running into right. Working with people, trying to create this like human experience. On a consistent basis is wanting to just constantly slow down and approach something with kindness, even when you encounter like a point of friction with a client or a vendor or somebody, just always wanting to remind yourself that everyone deserves kindness, just like you said.
Um, and as a nod to my mom’s dad, he was like the most gentle kind person I’ve ever met in my entire life. And I think. One thing, I little cry, but we’re going to keep going. Um, one thing I noted at his funeral in celebrating that [00:51:00] about him is that kindness is a choice and we all have the capacity to show up with that.
In moments and days and years. And it’s not something that was just personality based. I mean, sure. He had a disposition for it, but we all have the capacity to choose kindness, tears.
Thanks for sharing that. And what a lovely note to end on. And what I’ll say is that there are, so there’s so many things that I’ve gotten to experience and do and feel because of both of you in the work that you do and both in your space at realm, and also just like in your presence and in my space and kindness is always something that’s at the forefront of that experience.
So. Your family would be super proud to know that you are very much bringing that into your life everyday.
Thank you so much for doing this. [00:52:00] This was super fun. And I just appreciate you both so much for saying yes to things and figuring things out and stretching your comfort zone. And. Also being willing to have conversations where you don’t know all the answers and you show up anyways.
Yeah, I think it’s such an important reminder to not have the answers, right? Like I’m, I’m team steam roller over here. So if I like rolling through life, like a million miles an hour. I’m never pausing to take these moments, to have these conversations to really consider what, what is the most important thing that we’re doing?
What’s at the root of it all. Um, so I think this is just, it’s always a great invitation to step back.
Yeah, it is. Okay. So y’all can see Jonathan and EB’s work on [00:53:00] our platform Because it’s everywhere and it’s stunning and it’s the best out there if I do say so. And you can also learn what they’re up to by checking out their website, realmdenver.co, and following on social media. It’s a stunning space. If you’re in Denver, you need to go.
If you were passing through Denver, you need to make sure you carve out some space in your itinerary to take some photos. Thank you both so
Yeah, we have people, we have people flying in all the time from all over who come in just to shoot at Realm, even people in the UK. And I’m like, I don’t think we’re that cool, but yeah, let’s do it. Come on over. Yeah.
I could go on forever about how much I love EB and Jonathan as creatives, fellow business owners, clients, friends, and humans. And one of the reasons I love them so much completely separate from their mad skill is how incredibly kind they are to me, to [00:54:00] each other, to everyone that has the fortune to cross paths with them.
They’re generous, ambitious, funny, intentional, curious, and silly. And while there were so many incredible pieces of wisdom and insights from that conversation. I loved that. We ended with the theme of kindness. And what does it look like to express kindness? No matter what. To express kindness, even at a point of friction and with the reminder that we all have the capacity for kindness.
Be sure to follow EB and Jonathan on Instagram @realmdenver, visit their website, www.realmdenver.co and keep an eye out for the incredible new ventures they have in the pipeline.