This article was written using excerpts from a recorded interview. To hear the interview in its entirety, please listen to the audio below.
Suhayb Zarroug is the modern embodiment of a Renaissance man. He coupled his experiences in art dealing, events, design, and creative consulting with strong marketing fundamentals and relationships. His latest venture is Novo Press, a publishing company that engages readers and supporters throughout the drafting process in an effort to connect networks of disparate freelance artists in the current landscape.
This concept of purpose-driven publishing will be exhibited in Novo’s upcoming first edition featuring photography, poetry, and mixed media content focusing on personal encounters with climate change and “beautiful trash.” It’s a perfect reflection of our collective experience of 2020.
I asked Suhayb what experiences led him to publishing:
I came about this idea because over the last four or so years, I’ve done a lot of high-end marketing activations, mostly events… really, in Greenwich, Connecticut and Soho, New York. So the creativity started there, and then, one day, you know, we held an event at my business partner’s loft in Soho, and the woman we did the collaboration with, uh, had a book company that did small run coffee table books done in a very artistic way, 2,500 copies, never before seen images, and she did them direct-to-consumer.
Suhayb’s marketing activities included starting a company called Zarr Group Holdings, which represented and sold paintings by artists like Michael Hafftka, and curated and hosted events to sell artwork and luxury properties in Greenwich, CT with the Tamar Lurie Group. Pre-quarantine, Suhayb and his business partner, Missy Papageorge, organized the Dertbags fashion show, which was featured in New York Times. The duo also collaborated with Eliona Cela, creative director for the Marsé Group, creating immersive activations for photographer Robert Whitman. Eliona opened Suhayb’s eyes to the small run coffee table book world through her work with NJG Studio.
So after all these years working with artists, doing these events, and seeing how much she was able to accomplish in a few short years, I thought to myself, why not?… I thought it was the perfect blend of art and creativity and business that I never found. Better than anything I would do like this documentary I tried to do on Kanye’s creative director, who started with him way back like when he still wore baggy clothes.
Pre pink polo?
Haha yeah, I did the main doc on her and we got into Hypebeast and they wrote about us but, uh, you know, it just didn’t work out. That was too much on the creative side, like, we didn’t even know if it was going to make money or not, we just joined it because we loved her stories and her storytelling. So then the events were basically more on the business side… So over the years I feel like I’ve always been trying to find the balance of creativity while also trying to make a living for myself in a substantial way. So I think this is the perfect blend of all that I’ve done over the past five years.
Novo Press will be a subsidiary of Oeuvre Group, a creative consulting company created by Missy Papageorge and Suhayb Zarroug. Melanie Holmes will lead Novo’s marketing team. Novo recognizes the mistake many publishers are making pouring money into pre-purchase marketing. Instead, Novo strives to get readers involved as the book is being written and manufactured. Supporters are encouraged to submit their own works, to participate in dialogues centered around environmental justice, and to collect litter from their local community and donate it so Novo can repurpose it as a resin used to create the book’s binding, packaging, and decorative holder. All materials will be sustainably sourced, and the design will make each book a one-of-a-kind statement piece.
I asked Suhayb what his goals for the company were and his response further emphasized the importance of post-purchase marketing:
…Like almost sending out a signal and then the people who agree with that are a part of your brand now. And I love post marketing, especially like the packaging I’m gonna focus a lot on as well. I want the packaging to be a surprise, have it be so beautiful that people keep that with the book and they gasp as they unbox the book.
These things should be fun. Make you laugh, cry… Anything I do, I like to create an emotion serving someone or passion or something. Cause that means that you unlock something real, it’s not just another magazine.
I just want to create something so mesmerizing that just captivates people. I want organic press. I want it to be talked about as one of the most creative brands of 2021.
These sound like lofty ambitions, but all of Zarroug’s answers seemed to be focused on achieving scalability of this project through the right structure of teams and strategy. The power of connections is evident through his experiences with advisors and the organic collaborations he hopes to bring about through this project.
In terms of like a branding perspective, marketing perspective, I know NYU has lots of capabilities like web design. Hopefully we can engage with these communities and use the different resources that we have, be it through innovation lab, grants, as well as the vast network of people at Stern.
Have you seen the stuff that Mary Oxygen’s doing at MIT? What she’s doing is like space-age. She’s like growing materials. Like using silkworms, but planned mathematically.
Let’s start with picking up trash and then we’ll move into urban farming.
It’s a big creative step up. But really, we’re all capable of thinking like that. We’re all going to bring things to the table. Like when we first had our convo at the party and you started talking about the 3D printing… I heard you and just immediately knew it was right.
If this idea resonates with you and you want to get involved with Novo Press. Please reach out. There are countless ways to get involved. We are looking for passionate people who can provide solutions and ideas to help us structure this out of the nascent stage and create the right systems and nodes that allow the brand and company to grow.
I think people who feel something from this message and have a certain skill set to offer, should reach out. And you know, hopefully there’s a specific fit. The biggest focus right now is the website.
A big part of the success of the brand because the immersive experience is what is going to sell this… as well as the design of the book and the book. There’s nothing without a beautiful website.
Right. That is your Apple store.
We spoke about the methods of communicating his vision to the network of collaborators. Creative practicality seems to rule the domain. Through a series of “spectacular prototypes” Zarroug’s been able to craft, hack, and polish rough ideas until they embody the vision they set out to accomplish.
I like being like… slick with it. I feel like that’s a muscle you build. And then you’re doing things on a much bigger scale. It helps you propel your ideas further
I’ll just be describing my vision, and they [collaborators] will be like ‘oh no, I can’t do that… I don’t know that program,’ but I’m like, well maybe just cut this and paste that, screenshot… and we end up figuring it out because it’s like just flowing like water. You always just have to be wise with it. You always have to stay true to it regardless of the challenges… It’s going to get done one way or the other.
And it’s going to adhere to that vision. I’m just impressed how you see these things and like, you understand what you want. You have these guardrails set in place, you have the brand to be, what you want it to look like, what you want to feel like and like how you want these things to happen.
It’s very binary. Exactly. No gray area, really at home, and I feel like a lot of people just want things to be easy. This helps get things done.
We talked extensively about why now is such an opportune time to engage with a project like this. The isolation and disconnect we are all feeling is, oddly enough, the perfect foundation to connect with one another. It’s not just one person that will change your life, or one day you’ll wake up and your dreams will suddenly come true. We need to make things happen.
People sort of think, one person is going to change their life. As far as like, just the pursuit of like your own endeavors, it’s not going to happen. One person could maybe a play, a bigger role, but too many people, like meet, someone in their field and then they do anything to not lose that connection, and of course there are times where that makes sense… But what I’m saying is generally an abundance of opportunity.
That’s how I think, I know that’s the thing. I know what I have put in. So I like to fill those gaps with people I trust can do it right. If it’s like one of the areas that I know I have strengths, I’m taking full control of that. But outside of that, I try to… surround myself with the right people to just keep things moving, because you can’t always fill those gaps, and sometimes I’ve had to just learn new things. And that’s why now, especially creating something like this where I feel like if I’m able to plug those holes like you said, yeah, I can be even better with creating the right way. Particularly accounting.
This is only a taste of our conversation. We also discussed smiling Prince, telescopic architecture, and how rushing into things can sometimes lead to nasty exchanges with A$AP Mob. Hopefully this is the first of many conversations with Suhayb and the community of artists involved with Novo Press. If you’d like to get involved with Novo, please reach out to the Oppy to learn more.