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who is
The neely agency?
By Sheri Neely and the #FunCrew
The Neely Agency
Sheri Neely is the founder and managing partner of an award-winning boutique integrated marketing firm The Neely Agency, LLC headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee. She has always been an entrepreneur by heart. It is in her blood. Her friends and family agree that she has a drive and a positive attitude that was special from a young age. Her father and her grandfather were entrepreneurs. As a senior in high school, she took the newly formed entrepreneurship class that was designed for students who lived in rural Lee County, Arkansas where she grew up.
By the end of the school year, she would receive the prize winnings for having the best business plan in her class which included a meeting with the Arkansas governor and a trip to Washington, D.C. for the Young Entrepreneurs Conference. She would go on to get her feet wet in launching a few side businesses with partners over the next several years. As a child, her mother and father would tell her that she could be anything that she wanted to be. But it wasn’t until she joined corporate America that she knew that she wanted to be a business leader in corporate America. She had a successful career working for Fortune 500 companies in advertising and marketing over a 15-year period. She attended college right after high school but decided to join the workforce and did not earn a degree right away. However, an encounter with a sexist, racist manager prompted her to leave corporate America and attend school full-time and earn her degree. With her husband’s support, she did just that.

While she was pursuing a degree in journalism with an emphasis in public relations at the University of Memphis, she decided that she wanted to pursue an education in law which would take her and her husband to Orange County, California. Not too long after attending law school, she discovered that law wasn’t her true calling. Bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and armed with her degree in public relations, she hit the pavement off looking for her dream job in one of the top PR markets in the world. She immediately humbled herself when she discovered that Los Angeles is also one of the most competitive PR markets in the world. She made it up in her mind that she would be willing to work in the mailroom for an opportunity to get her start in a PR firm in Los Angeles. She ended up in a position right under the Vice President of the firm.

Her corporate America marketing and advertising experience was looked upon favorably in the multi-million-dollar integrated marketing firm that was one of the largest African American firms in Los Angeles. She was hired to manage the day-to-day public relations, advertising and marketing of the largest and oldest account that the firm had. Her dad’s illness would bring her back to Memphis, Tennessee. After returning to Memphis, her dad passed away a year later. She feels one of the best decisions she ever made was to be by his side for his last year on earth while being back home in the South. Although, the decision was bittersweet.

She had to leave her adopted city of Los Angeles where she and her husband had developed a very substantial network, made new friends, was introduced to family, enjoyed attending celebrity events, and going to the beach almost weekly. She founded The Neely Agency, LLC in 2013 while her and her husband were between Los Angeles and Memphis and is thankful for the opportunity to have her husband Victor Neely whose background is in auditing and account management and her aunt Selma Brinson whose background is in tax management and accounting as partners.

What is your daily routine?
What is your daily routine? I wake up at 5:30 a.m. every morning and meditate for 15 minutes, I read the Bible and I pray. This usually takes about an hour and a half. This time is the most important part of my day. I may or may not go work out. I must do better in this area. That’s why it’s important for me to have my prayer and meditation time and eat healthy to make up for not working out sometimes. You must have a way to deal with stress. Meditation and prayer are my ways of dealing with stress. I check my emails, social media, and text messages early. Sometimes I may take an early morning conference call from home. But I typically eat breakfast which is my favorite meal of the day…which just so happens to be one of the most important meals of the day. A couple of my favorite foods to eat for breakfast are oatmeal with fruit, craisins or raisins, and nuts or “green eggs and sam” which are simply egg whites, salmon and spinach mixed together or as an omelet. One of the things that I love the most about being the CEO of a marketing firm is no two days are ever the same.

Running an integrated marketing firm that also has a casting division, there are multiple projects to manage. I enjoy pulling teams together to execute client projects, managing the projects and watching them come to fruition. As a consultant, I enjoy helping my clients see their dreams come to reality or help them work through marketing issues within their companies. My day consists of meetings, calls and emails with clients, partners, team members, vendors, and media. It also includes writing, editing, reviewing, and planning PR, marketing and advertising materials, messaging, and campaigns. After my work day is over and if there are no conference calls, evening meetings, client events or networking events that I must attend, I usually go home and cook one of the meals that was delivered from either Home Chef or Sun Basket (two of my favorite meal kit delivery services). I must admit that I am constantly checking my email on my iPhone or iPad throughout the day because as a CEO, your day never really ends.

What do you like the most about being the President/CEO of an Integrated Marketing Firm?
From a personal perspective, the most important thing to me is that I am my own boss. Family is very important to me. Friends are as well. I like being able to go on vacation whenever I want to… (for the most part…as long as I plan around mandatory client events.) I like being able to go and come as I please. From a business perspective, we typically work on projects that we enjoy. Overseeing the creation of positive messaging, campaigns conceptualized, developed, and executed for the world to see or hear has always made me smile. Although I have been doing this for years, it still makes me feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside. It is very rewarding to be a part of the process. Generating results for our clients are always enjoyable…the kind of results that make our clients grin from ear to ear. I also enjoy being able to select who I want as a client. I am a realist, and I understand that every client is not a match for our firm. Finally, being able to groom and mentor young people of color in an industry where people of color have been marginalized. Although there have been efforts made to improve diversity in the marketing and public relations industry, I think we still have a long way to go and I would like to help contribute to these efforts.
Does your firm have a specialty?
Due to the growing multicultural population, and due to the growth of underserved populations, the Neely Agency fills that gap in the industry by setting up highly skilled teams with the knowledge and expertise to create campaigns that are culturally-sensitive across all populations. The Neely Agency is an agency for the new multicultural America. We also saw a growing need for full service communications firms that can handle clients’ multiple needs for traditional marketing, digital marketing, advertising and public relations which fosters an environment for consistent messaging and content across all platforms. The Neely Agency customizes marketing and PR services for each client’s specific needs. There is no job too big for the Neely Agency as we source the specific talent and services to meet each need. The Neely Agency can even cast and secure talent for television, online, and print advertisement.
Why should a potential client choose your firm?
One of the many benefits of working with our team is personalization. The president and the creative/design team personally supervise all accounts. We personalize service needs based on the current situation, past challenges and future goals. We understand the value of a dollar and limited budgets. As a lean, flat company, we have a responsibility to stewardship of resources, which puts us in a position to provide great value to our clients. The Neely Agency service model allows us to create a team of the best of the best contractors who work for their reputation and not just for a paycheck. As a result, we can always provide services that are client-focused and results-driven.
What and who motivates and inspires you? Do you have a support system?
My favorite Scripture is “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I really believe this with all my heart and have seen it throughout my life. So, God is my primary source of inspiration. My mother and father were my first source of inspiration and biggest support system. My siblings were my second. When I married my husband 18 years ago, he became a huge source of inspiration and motivation for me and he still is to this day. He has been a consistent support system for me.

My aunt Selma Brinson, who also runs a successful business, has been a huge inspiration, has always motivated me, and has always supported me from day one. I also have other close family and friends who are also part of my support system and who consistently motivates me. Mentors over the years have also been a source of inspiration. One that comes to mind is Ephraim Urevbu. He has been an awesome mentor for years, and still is. It would be remiss of me if I didn’t mention Kim Hunter and Keisha Brown. They gave me my first PR and marketing job and helped to develop me into the successful PR and marketing practitioner that I am today. I was inspired by them then and I am yet inspired by them today. But there are also other giants in the industry who are “mentors in my head” who I have admired from afar and have been inspired by such as the owner of The Britto Agency Marvett Britto and Cathy Hughes founder of Radio One who became the first African-American woman to head the publicly traded company. Of course, most African-American women are inspired by the likes of Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey and I am no exception.

How do you like having partners?
Even though I have partners, they allow me to manage the company as the marketing expert and business leader that they know I am. However, they are there when I need them. I don’t think that this firm would have grown consistently year after year if I didn’t have partners like them. They bring more than 50 years combined of invaluable knowledge, expertise and experience to the firm.
Any tips for others who may be trying to get into the industry or build their own business?
Identify a mentor or mentors who is/are successful in what you want to become. Also, identify mentor or mentors who are simply successful and can provide you feedback from a different perspective. Meet with him or her as often as possible, at least once or twice a month. Become a lifelong learner. Although, I earned my bachelor’s degree, I knew that I needed to learn how to run a successful business, so I went back to school and earned an Executive MBA from the University of Memphis. If you are not able to go back to school, take independent classes online or go to seminars or workshops.

Join professional organizations which also offer classes or workshops. I did not stop at getting my MBA. I also participated in The City of Memphis’ Propel Accelerator founded by StartCo which is a 12-week intense program for minority entrepreneurs and business owners. I also graduated from the Small Business Administration Emerging Leaders program that is hosted in Memphis and included the opportunity to meet with and learn from the top business coaches, bankers, and CPAs, and develop connections with others in the community. It also included nearly 100 hours of executive entrepreneurship classroom time focused on business development and expansion strategies. Also, network, network, network. Attend relevant events where you can potentially meet your next client, business partner, or team member. Organizations can be very good for networking.

I am a 2017 graduate of the Leadership Memphis Executive Program and although it took almost a year to get through the program, it was well worth it. I look back on all these programs and I am thrilled to have been a part of each one of them. I learned invaluable information and made lifelong connections in each one. I can go on about things that you should do, which I would probably have to write a book about it one day. But, the most important are to keep God first and family second; be a loyal friend; live a healthy lifestyle, don’t compromise your integrity; be positive; be confident; work hard; learn as much as you can; set goals; take risks; read daily; don’t give up; enjoy life; love people period; love yourself; don’t take yourself so seriously; and laugh or smile at yourself and with others as often as you can.

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