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An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

It’s not just about “leading” in the typical sense. It’s about listening, collaboration and encouragement. It’s about trusting the people on your team to take ownership and then stepping in to make quick decisions when you have to. And it’s about always leading by example — we still take the trash out at the end of the day, we always say thank you and we treat everyone as we want to be treated ourselves.

As a part of our series about lessons from Thriving Power Couples, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mark and Rebecca Christou.

Mark Christou, Founder & Creative Partner of Independent Creative Agency, ROOK/NYC, specializing in branding, packaging design and creative production, and Founder & Partner of R/Co Ventures, a fund created to invest in and work closely with emerging CPG companies that require brand and capital partnership. Rebecca Thomas Christou, the other side of this duo, is the Managing Partner of ROOK/NYC. As Managing Partner, Rebecca is focused on partnering with clients to collaboratively ideate, develop and deploy impactful, actionable brand solutions to build awareness, drive consumer consumption and impact culture through strategic thinking and disruptive creative.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you two to your respective career paths?

Mark: It was the only thing I really excelled in at in school…I was good at design and art and I’ve always had a passion for typography, so I went the creative route. I studied at Norwich School of Art and Design and started my career in the branding and packaging industry with an internship at Pearlfisher London in 2001. By 2009 I was named Creative Director of Pearlfisher New York.

Rebecca: I started my career in the Architectural industry as a designer. When the market crashed in ’08 my firm took a hard hit, and I was left looking for a new job in an industry that had been completely crushed. I met Mark in ’07 and was fascinated learning about the branding industry through him, so I applied for a job at Wolff Olins (I had admired their work for years) and the rest was history. They really took a chance on me — coming in fresh from another field — and I’ll always be so appreciative of that. I remained at WO right up to the point when I decided to join Mark to build ROOK/NYC.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you two got married?

In 2016 one of our clients approached us to partner with them and a recent equity partner to massively scale their already $300M business. We and our team went to work for their company, building an “internal creative agency” from 3 to over 30 in 18 months. In 2018 the company was acquired by Unilever, and we exited in 2019 to begin rebuilding ROOK/NYC. Working on the internal brand side for that time was an immense learning experience that we were fortunate to have. We had the opportunity to see things squarely from the brand’s point of view and learn all sides of the business from sales challenges, retail partnerships, national advertising campaigns, manufacturing and production, international partnerships…the list goes on. You won’t get that with only agency-side experience. It changes your whole perspective, and develops a level of empathy for your clients that is key.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

It wasn’t funny, but one mistake we made more than once early on was working with the wrong clients. You may have seen Anthony Burrill’s book or graphic prints that read “Work hard and be nice to people.” That couldn’t be a truer statement, and we might follow it up with “and only work hard for nice people.” After we learned the hard way that working with unkind people isn’t worth it (no matter the fees on the table), we’ve become very mindful about who we partner with. Every client that comes through the door starts out with an initial project. If we detect anything concerning in that first engagement, we don’t continue beyond that project. All that to say, we’ve been fortunate to have mostly incredible clients as of late.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story? We’re partners in brand. Not just your typical creative brand agency. When we were working with one of our very first clients, Michael Lastoria (of &pizza), we came up with the brand name “&pizza” in an off-the-cuff naming ideation session in Michael’s living room as he swung a baseball bat around. We really get in there and get to know our clients and the fabric of their businesses through building genuine relationships.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We’ve been working with a great company called InOn Health (internationally known as Access Mobile, but recently we helped them rename their US arm for this market). They’re in the medical tech communications space and reach untapped communities (both urban and rural) to help individuals get the proper medical care they need.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?

You really have to meet each employee where they are and get to know what makes them tick. Each person is different and needs different support. You have to set aside the time to provide that support and be thoughtful about it. It’s easier said than done, since everyone is so time-starved these days, but it comes back tenfold.

How do you define “Leadership”?

It’s not just about “leading” in the typical sense. It’s about listening, collaboration and encouragement. It’s about trusting the people on your team to take ownership and then stepping in to make quick decisions when you have to. And it’s about always leading by example — we still take the trash out at the end of the day, we always say thank you and we treat everyone as we want to be treated ourselves.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Mark: There are too many to list but one person that helped ROOK/NYC become the agency it is today was Tom First. Tom convinced Purity Organic, a brand that he had funded though First Beverage, to work with us on their brand redesign. This was our very first job as ROOK/NYC. Fast forward to today and Tom has continued to be a supporter of ROOK/NYC, so much so that we co-created Culture POP Soda together in 2020.

Rebecca: My former boss at Wolff Olins, Erica Garvey. She really took me under her wing when I changed career paths, and taught me so much. And she trusted me even though I was a rookie. She was an excellent leader and just an all-around great human.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

We both believe education and mentorship for the next generation of creatives is key, and that there’s work to do in bringing more diversity to the creative industry. We have a concept in the works related to this. Stay tuned for more…

What are the “5 Things You Need To Thrive As A Couple”? Please share a story or example for each.

Patience — because it gets intense when you work together AND live together.

Passion — to keep pushing forward even when the going gets tough.

Intuition — because sometimes you just have to go with your gut.

Empathy — because it won’t work unless you have an open mind and heart.


Wine — for when you just need to take the edge off after a long day/week.

You are people of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

We really feel strongly that design and creative education needs to be available and accessible for all. We have something in the works to start the conversation on really addressing this need.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

We’ve always been very inspired by the Vignelli’s — Massimo & Lella — who were a husband/wife power duo that championed simplistic, timeless design. They were quoted saying “If you do it right, it will last forever” which really resonates — some of the purest designs we’ve created have truly stood the test of time in an environment where constant rebranding and repackaging is the norm. Massimo was also quoted saying “I am the engine and Lella is the brakes” and that just happens to comically mirror our working dynamic as well.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

In our industry it would be the Vignelli’s, hands down, if they were still alive.

Rebecca: I’d probably have to have a glass of wine to chill out prior because I stan her, but for me it’s Serena Williams. She’s so inspirational for obvious reasons, but the way she’s powered through all of the challenges she has faced, especially since becoming a mother, really hits home. She’s the epitome of strength to me.

How can our readers follow your work online? & @rooknyc on Instagram

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

Thank you!

Lessons from a Thriving Power Couple, With Mark & Rebecca Christou was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.