We talked to Rui-Long Monico of Candy Factory about the boutique agency known for the creation of high-quality branding, design, and multimedia products, and he had the following to say:-
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Rui-Long Monico: Thankfully, we have been doing fine amidst this turbulent situation. Of course, we had to adjust a few things along the way. At times, especially during the spring confinement, it has been hard to be apart from family members and friends. On the bright side, the confinement has allowed us to slow down our pace and reconsider our priorities. Not being able to travel has made us (re)-discover simpler pleasures as well as unearth a wide range of activities available in our immediate vicinity. Overall, we are very grateful for the manner the Swiss government has been handling this crisis. Even if far from perfect, it has been done with calm, dignity, and pragmatism – protecting both lives and liberties.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Candy Factory.
Rui-Long Monico: I was born and raised in Geneva, Switzerland. I then spent a few years in the United States, initially to study fine arts (painting, photography & design) and philosophy at the University of Texas. On-campus, I witnessed a very strong entrepreneurial spirit amongst my fellow students; a fair share of my peers having experimented in one or more side businesses. It comes as no surprise that I, too, ended up creating my own company – Beyond Wonderland –, running it in between classes. A creative studio dedicated to graphic and web design, it was quite successful at the time. In 2008, I felt that it was time to come home and decided to return to Switzerland.
In Switzerland, all able-bodied male citizens must accomplish compulsory military service, which consists of a 21-week boot camp followed by a yearly 4-week “refresh” training. Upon my return, I was thus drafted in the Swiss Army, a challenging yet rewarding experience that gave me a lot of the grinta that I would later need to overcome the inherent difficulties that we all face at some point. I’m currently an officer incorporated at the Patrouille des Glaciers, as well as a judge in the military court.
With the compensation we received from boot camp, I co-founded Candy Factory, a visual communication agency based in Geneva, in which I act as both the managing partner and the creative director. Candy Factory is a small, independent boutique agency known for the creation of high-quality branding, design, and multimedia products.
In parallel, I also pursue an academic career in the fields of communications studies and art history as a specialist of contemporary Swiss art and design.
How does Candy Factory innovate?
Rui-Long Monico: Foremost, innovation is a mindset. Curiosity is in our DNA, and that naturally leads to taking risks and exploring new venues. For example, at Candy Factory, nothing is set in stone. Whether something as mundane as the style of the furniture or as critical as the type of software we use and the creative process we follow, everything can be challenged. We set our ego aside and welcome any critique that can make Candy Factory a better firm.
Switzerland is quite a prolific territory in terms of innovation, thanks to its political stability, the presence of numerous top-ranked higher education institutions, and an entrepreneurial-minded population. As such, many of Candy Factory’s clients are startups, coming from a vast array of domains: fintech, health tech, real tech, gov tech, legal tech… A climate of emulation has emerged from the proximity of so many visionary individuals and companies. And, on more than one occasion, we have materialized recommendations and ideas that were given to us – from going paperless to using 100% renewable electricity or developing our own secured cloud-based file-sharing system.
However, we are generally averse to gratuitous “disruptive” change; changes are not initiated for the sake of changing. Something that has proven to be efficient won’t be replaced just by any fleeting trend full of unkept promises. Instead, we are enthusiasts of the Japanese “Kaizen” method, which advocates continuous improvement by means of small steps changes and incremental innovation.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Rui-Long Monico: 2020 has been a very difficult year in terms of challenges – perhaps the most difficult since the creation of the company – and morale has been fluctuant, yet we are not in a position to complain. Compared to other businesses that were either in the frontline or massively impacted by the pandemic, Candy Factory has had to suffer relatively limited damages.
Advertising and brand communications are usually the first budgets to be cut in a time of crisis, and, logically, we had to put up with projects being canceled, postponed, or paused by clients waiting for the tide to turn. Tragically, we also learned that a few of our clients went bankrupt due to the situation. Adjustments were made internally, and we are currently doing our best given the odd period we are all experiencing. Nevertheless, I’m quite optimistic in regard to the future. The Swiss economy is very resilient, so we’ll undoubtedly come out stronger from this turmoil.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Rui-Long Monico: I believe the key to handling stress and anxiety is to structure oneself around a healthy lifestyle, most notably by keeping a good balance between professional, family, and personal time. It requires strict discipline and good organization skills that I have learned and honed during my military service. Good hygiene never hurts; I personally abstain totally from smoking or drinking alcohol and coffee. Additionally, I try to dedicate enough hours of my workweek to sport – cycling to work, martial arts, basketball, rock climbing –; a perfect formula to release accumulated stress and gain perspective.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Rui-Long Monico: In our industry, anyone with a brain and two hands attached to a computer could be a competitor. And indeed, there is no shortage of freelancers, large and small companies – from absurd charlatans to creative powerhouses, both locally and around the world – fighting to get a piece of a finite market.
That said, after more than ten years of activity, I’m quite grateful that Candy Factory has developed a solid and loyal clientele that cares about a high quality, bespoke solutions and outstanding customer service. We tend to maintain a low profile, and most of our client acquisition comes through word of mouth, and that is a good thing! Growth has always been a secondary priority as our aim remains to enjoy coming in to work every morning whilst crafting beautifully designed communication products.