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PR pros: Valrie, Evans team up for Deuce launch

Jackson — On April 28, McAllister Enterprises of Mississippi Inc. and Deuce McAllister Motors, LLC, officially opened for business with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Located in the newly renovated Union Station Railway Depot, the event drew a crowd of public and private sector leaders.

Among those in attendance were two public relations professionals who were more than willing to get lost in the shuffle. In fact, they were primary reasons the crowd was there in the first place.

Sherry Evans of Grapevine Marketing Inc. and Monti Valrie of The ZEMI Group formed a first-time partnership in launching the McAllister businesses. It has proven a mutually beneficial relationship.

“It’s been great working with Sherry,” Valrie said. “She has local connections that has helped me get established in Jackson, and I have national and international contacts that can help her.”

Evans is a graduate of the Mississippi University for Women (MUW), and she has more than 20 years of experience in public relations. A little over three years ago, she formed Grapevine Marketing, which has since gained an impressive client base. This includes the Minority Capital Fund of Mississippi (MinCap), Children’s Defense Fund, Lakeland Motor Sports, Got Gear Motor Sports and the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.

“I majored in commercial art at MUW, which in essence is a marketing degree,” Evans said. “I’ve done ad placements, sales, free lance work. It’s been great.”

Valrie’s business card reads “The ZEMI Group…Miami, Los Angeles, New York, Jackson”. His career has taken him to all those places and more, but Jackson is where he calls home.

Valrie lived in Jackson as a child and attended Callaway High School through his junior year before heading west to Arizona in 1986. There, his father owned a sports marketing firm, working with such athletes as Deion Sanders and Emmitt Smith. Valrie got his feet wet career-wise as the marketing director of a professional hockey team, but branched out from there into entertainment.

Valrie has worked with and for such record labels as Sony, Atlantic and Universal, with the TV networks MTV and Nickelodeon, with corporate giants such as General Motors and such artists as Shania Twain and Trick Daddy. (At one point, Valrie was working for four of Billboard magazine’s top 10 artists.)

In short, with The ZEMI Group Valrie has created an entertainment media integration company, matching retailers and manufacturers with sports and entertainment stars to brand products for businesses while providing extra revenue sources for the athletes and entertainers.

Valrie has worked all over the globe, but said it was good to be back in the place he calls home. He came to Jackson last December only intending to visit, but he decided to stay, relocating with his family from Boca Raton, Fla., a move he can only credit to “divine intervention.”

“I want to get involved in the community, with what’s happening here,” Valrie said. “I see so much potential in Jackson and Mississippi, and I believe I can use some of the contacts I’ve made over my career. I want to be a part of the effort to show the rest of the world what Mississippi is about, the positives, how we can work together. I’m excited about it.”

Evans and Valrie continue to work with the team put together by Deuce McAllister, the former standout running back with the University of Mississippi and now all-star performer with the New Orleans Saints. McAllister Enterprises office will oversee all corporate functions, starting with the King Edward Redevelopment Project in downtown Jackson. Deuce McAllister Motors’ scheduled openings include the Deuce McAllister Pre-Owned store in June 2005 and Deuce McAllister Nissan in November 2005.

“Deuce and his people are doing it the right way. I’m very impressed,” Valrie said.

Evans said she and Valrie are planning on working together in the future, though at press time they had no other project other than McAllister’s in the works. Still, she said Valrie brings a wealth of experience and contacts that provide an outstanding opportunity for her and her current and potential clients, and pointed out that while Valrie may have worked with larger clients in bigger arenas, the basics are still the same.

“More and more small businesses are realizing that they have to market themselves,” Evans said. “It used to be that small businesses thought a listing in the Yellow Pages was enough. It is not any more. The marketplace has gotten too competitive. You have to find your place, your niché.

“It all comes down to listening to your clients. You have to understand what it is that they want to do and say, do the research and then partner with them. It’s all about making them look good, not me. It is just basic marketing.”

Valrie agreed. “Businesses want to see solutions and results. A marketing consultant is like a doctor. Something is wrong and it needs to be fixed. Who wants to go to the doctor, and leave with just an idea?”

Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at northway@msbusiness.com.

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