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Huma Gruaz '08

A marketing 'arm and partner'

By Daniel P. Smith

When Huma Gruaz '08 moved to the United States in 1996 after a multi-year stay in Holland, she was the mother of a toddler, pregnant with her second child, and without any U.S.-based work experience.

"I wouldn't say I was positioned for success," says Gruaz, who first resurrected her professional prospects in 2000 as a PR agency volunteer while she was a single mother of two.

Within eight years of landing on U.S. soil, however, Gruaz had started her own PR firm; within a dozen years, she had earned a Kellogg degree and a growing client base; and within 14 years, PR News hailed her as the industry's 2010 Brand Marketer of the Year.

In 2004, Gruaz founded Alpaytac, a full-service integrated marketing and public relations firm focused on providing strategic, ROI-driven services. The company's diverse client base touches industries as wide-ranging as technology and travel, finance and fashion, housewares and nonprofits. Gruaz's be-better, do-more mindset is reflected in the agency's "Good is just not enough" mantra. Today, she serves as CEO and president of the Chicago-based firm.

In just seven years, Alpaytac has notched a number of industry awards. PR News has three times named Alpaytac a finalist for its Firmof the Year award. The agency has also collected a pair of Bulldog Awards, a BrandSmart Award of Distinction from the American

Marketing Association and two Stevie Awards for Women in Business.

Alpaytac's client list includes Bellator, the mixed martial arts (MMA) organization that competes with the dominant UFC brand. While other upstarts have tried to enter the $1 billion MMA landscape and failed against the UFC's heft, Bellator's tournament-based model continues its ascent with Alpaytac's guidance. Bellator's success, as well as that of other Alpaytac clients such as Euro-Pro and Protection 1, highlights the firm's ability to craft programs that place a business and its products' best interests at heart.

"Our clients see us as a marketing arm and partner and not merely an agency on retainer. We've fostered a culture in which creativity is at the center of what we do," says Gruaz, whose work with Bellator earned finalist nods from the Platinum PR Awards in the "Best Branding" and "Best Multicultural Campaign" categories in 2011.

Alpaytac is also the U.S. lead agency of ECCO, one of the largest international communications networks in the world. With this alliance, Alpaytac is able to provide services in more than 40 countries.

"It is a cost-effective, boutique approach to global marketing communications for businesses that want to go international," says Gruaz, "but do not want to get lost in the vast sea of multi-national PR shops."


This article originally appeared in the Fall 2011 issue of Kellogg World alumni magazine.


 
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