30 Best Small Companies To Watch 2018

Solving Market Problems with Unique Methodology: Ayni Brigade


Ayni Brigade is the fusion of a strategic consulting company and a creative boutique—a unique weave of objective analysis and creativity that thinks beyond the “expected.” The company reveals strategic pathways unseen to others and forges new ways to connect with potential customers—all in the name of growing their clients’ business.

“Ayni” is the Andean philosophy of reciprocity. It’s the belief that mutual support is essential to social well-being. And, true to its name, Ayni Brigade operates through a conscious capitalist model: aiming to do well but designed to give back. Yesterday’s solutions don’t fit today’s problems, and those solutions “weren’t serving our clients anymore, so we decided to shake it up,” says Ayni Brigade.

At least 60% of the team members are military veterans, with the rest a mix of civilian advertising and consulting professionals. This workforce model infuses immense industry experience with the skills and values of military veterans—such as intelligence gathering, strategic development, and executional excellence, backed by integrity, leadership, bias for action, and a strong sense of team unity. This potent combination provides their clients with solutions that produce real impacts on their markets.

In just 5 years, the company has generated a great deal of award-winning work for its clients. They were named #9 in Crain’s New York Business Fast 50 in 2017 and included in the Inc. 5000 in 2018.

The Distinct Vision of Ayni Brigade

The company laments that agencies and marketing firms have traditionally passed over military veterans because their Military Occupational Specialties don’t appear to be relevant to the HR professionals. They’d rather hire someone with a year or two experience in advertising over someone who may have real leadership experience with a couple hundred folks under their command.

As a company, AB focuses on partnering with clients not only to fulfill but to surpass their objectives, igniting growth, and sharpening their focus along the way. AB believes that a business lacking a strong brand focus will always fall short of their intrinsic potential. Consumers may purchase from companies with compelling business models, and that’s a given, but the emotional connections they establish with brands lead to true loyalty. Consumers often don’t mind paying a premium to associate with brands aligned with their values. “We are strategists, marketers, creators, thinkers, doers, designers, technologists and we are fueled by intelligence, situational awareness, strategic planning, unrestrained creativity, flawless execution and a whole lot of coffee,” says Ayni Brigade.

The company’s vision is clear and most definitely out of the box—and it shows in the firm‘s strong customer base.

The Great Ayni Brigade Trio

In June 2013, three industry experts co-founded Ayni Brigade with the goal of leveraging the talents of military veterans in order to train them in developing innovative brand platforms with high impact on their target markets.

Mark Russell, Co-founder, and CEO: Prior to AB, Mark spent 21 years as the CEO building the MRA Group. In 1998, Mark was named in the CNY Business Journal’s 40 under 40. In 2000, his business was named the New York State finalist in the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year competition.

In 2008 he combined his company with Eric Mower and Associates and formed the 19th largest independent advertising agency in the country. In 2013, he left to found Ayni Brigade.

Sherry Russell, Co-founder, and CCO:  Sherry loves big ideas and gorgeous aesthetics. Through many years of experience, she has channeled her love for beautiful, intelligent design into impactful 2-dimensional, 3-dimensional and digital solutions. She runs point on all things creative at AB.

She completed her BFA in Advertising Design at Syracuse University and served as VP of Design at MRA for over 20 years. Further, she was a partner in design services at Eric Mower and Associates for 5 years.

Brian Hollyfield, Co-founder, CTO, and COO: Brian is a seasoned and resourceful senior executive with broad experience in digital marketing and CRM. He also served in the US Marine Corps flying the F-4 Phantom II, retiring in 1996 from the Reserve component.

Brian has held executive positions with JWT (COO-NYC) and Omnicom agencies Atmosphere BBDO (COO-SF), (President-Dallas), and Targetbase. Brian has also held program management and leadership positions at Sabre, EDS, Raytheon and Hughes Aircraft.