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Michael Ventura

Founder & Chief Executive Officer / Sub Rosa


Michael Ventura is an accomplished entrepreneur and creative director. In 2005, Michael founded Sub Rosa – inspired by the idea of creating a best-in-class, strategy-led, experience and innovation practice that creates closer relationships between brands, consumers and organizations. As a creative entrepreneur first and foremost, Michael Ventura brings a fresh perspective, critical thinking and innovative approach to Sub Rosa and the marketing industry. As CEO, Michael is responsible for setting the firm’s vision and overall growth. 

Some of Sub Rosa’s most notable experience design work includes the conception and execution of Levi’s Workshops, a series of craft-based community spaces built to encourage creation, inspiration and collaboration; the GE “For Women By Women” initiative that re-imagined the mammography experience; and the global brand launch of Nike Flyknit, which brought designers and athletes together to create installation pieces for key cities around the world. Digital work includes website launches and online media campaigns for clients that include Niemen Marcus, 7 For All Mankind and FCUK Fragrances.

Before founding his own companies, Michael served as a strategist and creative developing campaigns for clients such as Citigroup, Merrill Lynch and Fidelity Investments. In addition, Michael has served as a consultant for companies like New York University, DaniloBlack, BMG, and American Media. 

Michael has served on the boards of several organizations and non-profits including Behance, Falling Whistles, Operation Design and the United Nations Tribal Link. A frequent speaker throughout the industry, Michael’s point of view has allowed him to become an advisor to the C-suites of large corporations and ambitious entrepreneurs around the globe. He lives in New York City with his wife Caroline and their obligatorily handsome dog, Darryl. 

How did you decide to name the firm Sub Rosa? What does this phrase mean to you? What are your firm’s capabilities?

Sub Rosa is a Latin phrase used to denote conversations had in private. Given the strategic and highly involved nature of our relationships with clients, we wanted a name that secured their privacy and confidence in our partnership.

How has Sub Rosa evolved since you founded it in 2005?

It has changed in every imaginable way. Being focused on creating innovative digital and real-world experiences mean that our work has to evolve at the pace of consumers. As new technologies, networks, trends, products, and other innovations are introduced, we need to be in lockstep and ensure that they become part of what we bring to the world.  

What’s the biggest challenge that you’ve had to overcome while being an entrepreneur? What did you learn from this challenge?

Being okay with letting go. In the beginning of starting something, you control everything. Every decision. Every idea. Every moment. The company sinks or swims on what you do in those early days. But as the company grows, you have to have the complete faith and trust in your team to share the responsibility of the company’s success and own its wins and losses. Being able to let go was completely nerve-racking at first, but in time it taught me lessons about partnership and trust that are invaluable.

What is the best advice that you’ve ever received?

“If you don’t get into trouble, you’ll never get out of it.” Taking calculated risks is the lifeblood of truly progressive companies.

What does it take to become part of the Sub Rosa team? What do you look for in employees?

Confidence, honesty, focus, and passion. We’re not interested in how many Lions someone has or the fact that they proudly spend several nights a week sleeping at their desk. Most of this industry’s dysfunction is too celebrated. Give me a smart, honest hard worker whose managed to not be spoiled by the bureaucracy of the business any day.

What’s the project that you’re most of proud of?

There are many that I am proud of but the one that I think has done the most good for the world was a campaign we did for GE called “For Women, By Women”. It was an immersive and strategic reinvention of GE’s mammography business. Our findings and recommendations have increased breast cancer detection and screening rates around the world. If we saved even one life from this work, it was worth everything we put into it.

What do you do for creative inspiration?

This is always a funny question when I encounter it in interviews. Everything is inspirational. I don’t mean to sound trite, but honestly, inspiration is everywhere. Take a walk. Read a book. Eat a new food. Smell the roses. Pet a dog. You never know where the next idea will come from. (That said, I think 30% of my ideas still happen in the shower – I attribute it to lack of distractions and the white noise of the water.)

What do you do when you take some time off? Any specific hobbies or interests that you’d like to share?

I like to explore new places. My wife and I get out of town regularly; whether it be to the woods, the desert, the beach, or another city or town that’s been on our radar. In addition I’ve been a practitioner of healing arts for several years. I see 5-10 patients a week in my non-Sub Rosa time. It’s an important part of my life and something I’ll always do.

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