Tom Ainsley is the CEO and Founder of Ainsley & Company, a marketing and creative services agency based in Baltimore. Focused on growing its clients’ revenue and ROI, the firm specializes in strategy and branding, inbound marketing, website development, and video production. Ainsley & Co. was founded in 2010 and has grown rapidly in the seven years since. The agency’s clients include Capital Funding Group, Horsetail Tech, KatzAbosch, the city of Baltimore, Maryland Food Bank, and many more.
Tom Ainsley spoke with citybizlist founder Edwin Warfield for this interview.
EDWIN WARFIELD: Tell us about starting the company.
TOM AINSLEY: We started in January 2010 and actually founded as Baltimore Media Group. It was bootstrapped, it was just me. We actually started in a small office up in Timonium. It was in a basement of a building about 400 square feet. Literally it was me with a laptop and a cell phone, that’s pretty much it.
What we’re trying to do here is based a lot on what my experience was working at a PR firm in Raleigh, North Carolina. I’m from North Carolina. I moved here in 2005. I worked at a communications firm where really there were a lot of really smart talented people that were public relations folks. We had video in-house, there were designers, web developers. It was really a fun time. I moved up to Baltimore, went to work at WBAL Radio. I was in sales—great organization, great news product. I really learned a lot about Baltimore just from that job. We got to work with the Ravens sales teams, the Orioles, got a lot of access and I really learned what Baltimore is all about.
Q. How did you get connected with the ETC?
A. When I first started the company, I was in Timonium, and we had actually moved in with my in-laws and rented out our townhouse. I had a five-week-old and it was really “let’s do this thing and see where it takes us.” I was working by myself in a basement of a building at 201 West Padonia Road. I was next door to a plumber. The walls were very thin. There were no windows. It was like the inside cabin on a cruise ship. You really didn’t know what time it was. So, after being there for about four pr five months I started to do some work with a couple of companies that were downtown, met them for coffee and they told me a little bit about the ETC. I went up, checked out their offices, met Neil Davis, and decided I had to get down there quickly. I looked at the energy of being downtown. I looked at the entrepreneurs that were starting up and forming their companies, and just a lot of collaboration. I said, “this is where I have got to be.” So, I had a lease that ran through December of 2010, but I think it was late July and I just said, “It’s time to go. I can’t wait four months to come down to be a part of this.” So I talked with Neil and signed the paperwork and moved in the beginning of August.
Q. What did being involved with the ETC provide your business that working by yourself couldn’t?
A. I’ll speak specifically from my experience: this is my first venture—I’m not a serial entrepreneur who has done this multiple times. I think when you’re starting a company, it’s one of those things where you’re looking for a support network. You’re looking for people who can help you and guide you and be a mentor to you and just fill in the gaps where maybe you lack experience. It could be that insurance, legal, recruiting—all types of different areas of the business. I think also for the services that we provide— part of our key value proposition now is that we have this team of designers and web developers and videographers and content marketers, all in-house, all full-time here under one roof. We’ve built a pretty awesome culture, but early on that wasn’t the case. You’ve got to look for resources and other companies that you can partner with as you grow.
Being in the ETC was awesome because there were a lot of companies that were there that were going through the same kind of growth stage at the same time. The hallway conversations that we had there and the support from the Neil Davises and the Deb Tilletts and the Ann Lansingers of the world were just priceless.