Roby S. Williams has seen businesses come and go. Ninety percent of them are start-ups that fail to sustain themselves the first couple of years in the marketplace, said Williams, president of the Black Business Association of Memphis, a non-profit network of African-American entrepreneurs, businesses and organizations.
Not all businesses fall by the wayside. One of them – The Carter Malone Group, LLC, a public relations, marketing and advertising firm – beat the odds and celebrated its 10th anniversary on June 21.
More than 150 celebrants crowded the Calliope Room in Downtown Memphis and paid tribute to the firm's president and CEO, Deidre Malone. The venue was in close proximity to where Malone had opened her first office.
"It's remarkable!" Williams exclaimed. "She began her business with experience. She conceived it and developed it with solid strategy, practical processes and consistent execution. I salute her for 10 years."
CMG opened its doors for business on May 23, 2003, with one client, the National Baptist Congress.
"I was the Vice President of Marketing Development for ALSAC/St. Jude Children's Research Hospital making six figures," Malone recounted. "When the National Baptist Congress was scheduled to come to town, my pastor said they needed someone to handle public relations. I told my husband about it and he supported my decision to step down from my job at ALSAC/ St. Jude."
After tending the needs of NBC, CMG started growing exponentially. Malone and her team would go on to earn several VOX Awards from the Public Relations Society of America (including this year's VOX Award for "Best in Show" for BlueCross BlueShield's Healthy Church Challenge weight loss campaign), a national Gabriel Award from Unda-USA, and a Telly Award for regional broadcasting. Malone herself was nominated for an Emmy Award.
"We are a small firm in comparison to others in the industry, but we're able to compete on a larger scale because we are driven, trusted and proven, and because we've built brand awareness for the firm," said Malone, a former Shelby County Commissioner and member of the Shelby County Economic Development Growth Engine (EDGE) Board of Directors.
"It takes perseverance and belief in your product," said Sandra Burke, a consultant for Dress for Success, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of women. "It takes patience and continuous analyzing, reviewing and looking at what you can do to keep your business successful. And you have to have a strong infrastructure for your business as well: family, friends and staff."
In 2011, CMG became a charter member of the Tennessee Public Relations Alliance with Moxley Carmichael Public Relations in Knoxville, McNeely Pigott and Fox Public Relations in Nashville, and the Hispanic Marketing Group of Nashville. The alliance offers blanket geographic coverage for products and issues in Tennessee.
CMG has worked with several organizations and represented such luminaries as the late International Presiding Bishop G. E. Patterson and the current International Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake.
With more than 20 active local and national clients, Malone said she's looking forward to extending CMG's reach across the state of Tennessee by creating the kind of communication strategies that keeps the firm out front in the industry.
"It's an amazing accomplishment, especially in today's economy," said barbeque maven Patrick Neely, who along with Gina Neely have endeared themselves to millions on the Food Network's top-rated "Down Home With the Neelys" cooking show.
"It's difficult to wear so many hats... dealing with taxes, insurance, managing people. It requires a lot of hard work. That's why she is so successful," Neely said. "I truly tip my hat to Deidre and all her accomplishments."
Neely had been a client of CMG's as well and attended Malone's 2nd-year celebration in 2005.
"We (Gina) still call on Deidre for advice and solicit her opinion," he said.