During his time as chief creative officer for the U.N.'s Global Education Program a few years ago, Mark Wnek was moved by the number of disadvantaged, yet extraordinarily creative young people he met around the world.
"It struck me," he says. "This is a gigantic resource of talent that no one is touching."
So Wnek, an alum of Lowe, New York and Euro RSCG in the U.K., decided to create an agency – though he refers to it as an "army" -- dedicated to finding the brightest millennial and Gen Z talent from all backgrounds.
His New Breed Talent Army, based in New York, officially opened a month ago with a project from Airbnb aimed at getting people worldwide to live like locals in Sydney, Australia and stay at an Airbnb there. Wnek says Airbnb is an ideal client because it's "frictionless, modern and different."
And project-based is the way he wants the New Breed Talent Army to remain. "No account management, no playing golf, none of that," he says.
Wnek launched the shop in partnership with artist and educator Mark T. Smith, who founded Breed Worldwide earlier this year. Breed develops bespoke creative and strategic training workshops for brands, agencies, media companies and more and Talent Army is its sibling.
Aside from Wnek and Smith, New Breed Talent Army currently has 50 millennials and Gen Z staffers, 65 percent of which are female. Wnek says he spent about 18 months identifying the people he wanted to become part of his team. Diversity is important, too. The team working on the Airbnb project includes all different background – African-Americans, Russians, Latin Americans and more.
The New Breed Talent Army has an office in New York, but Wnek says it's more of a place for people to throw their bags down and meet up in person once in awhile. He says no one will be forced to work in the office. "Nothing brilliant ever gets done in a cubicle," says Wnek.
Wnek and Smith are looking to open other hubs in London in Beijing by the end of the first quarter of 2018.
When it comes to salary, the New Breed Talent Army brings everyone in on retainer, and when a project comes in, whoever is on it receives an undisclosed and variable sum. The person whose work goes forward gets another sum and so on, says Wnek. He and Smith want to remain flexible and allow team members to work on any other freelance or personal projects.
"What we're building here is for NBTA to be their passion and when something is your passion, that's where you're always going to do your best work," says Wnek.
By the time the international offices open, Wnek says the agency will offer benefits to its team.
While there are 50 people in their "army" right now, Wnek and Smith plan to double that number by the end of the year through its soon-to-launch apprenticeship program.
Each staffer is tasked with finding someone with a disadvantaged background to bring on as an apprentice for one year. The apprentices will get paid during their 12 months of training. "It's literally sink or swim," says Wnek. "If they make it, they become one of us; if not, at least they got training."
The New Breed Talent Army has no financial backers, but Wnek says it is looking for sponsors to help bring its apprenticeship program to life.
"We are passionate about making everything we do 21st century and forward-facing rather than backward facing," says Wnek, adding that the team even thought long and hard about whether or not to have a website. Ultimately, they decided to create a site, mainly so that would-be NBTA-ers can check out the company for themselves.