Who We Are
Yes, we are expert marketers. Consummate consultants. Brilliant at fostering strategic partnerships anchored in trust. And we do all of it better than anyone else. But, at our essence, we are people who care about people.
We care about connecting the disability market with compassionate companies, brands and products that get them and their distinct needs. We care about the families of the people we push for because it’s never just about one. We care about integrating disability, erasing stigmas and bashing stereotypes. We care about proving to the world what we already know—that people with disabilities and those that love them want the same things as everyone else. Opportunity. Love. Relationships. Experiences. Fun.
We care about the opportunity the disability market represents but we care more about who they are.
What began as a small agency with seed money from an investment club in 1999, is now a international marketing firm that serves clients so they can effectively and precisely understand, penetrate and retain the disability market.
Real Work. Real Results. Real People. Real Difference.
We are committed to helping our clients understand the many dimensions of the disability market, so they see beyond the disability to the individual who wants the same things they want – the opportunity to engage life fully by accessing the goods, services, and career opportunities they need. And, we help our clients understand that targeting the market isn’t about ‘special needs’, but a business-building opportunity to gain market share.
Carmen D. Jones, CEO/President
“Good marketing uses the products to help tell a story.” Simon Sinek
On November 30th, 1986 my life, as I’d always known it, completely changed. I woke up that morning the same as I’d always been. The next, I wasn’t. My physical body was different, but the foundation of who I was—who I am—was not.
I lost the use of my legs. But I didn’t lose my life.
I was still a young woman who was working towards her college degree. My goals didn’t change even though my life did. After graduating from college I had to earn a living. I needed to go places and do things. I still need to be. I had to seek out products and services from companies that could best help me to do all of the things as my able-bodied peers, now that I was a wheelchair user. And as I began to look for them, I realized how hard they were to find.
So the vision for Solutions Marketing Group was born.
My accident led me to the work I do today. My experience shaped my lens on disability and awakened me to the desires and needs of our community. Becoming a strong voice that advocated for the disability market in corporate settings, became a must. Creating a consulting firm that directs clients to understand, penetrate and retain the disability market became my purpose. Marketing to the disabled community expands our clients’ reach and takes an inclusive approach to business strategy. Positioning SMG as an industry leader is who we are.
While the genesis of our work is an outgrowth of my experience, my team and I are very intentional about understanding nuances of how to best meet the market so our clients capture their loyalty and trust. This is why our insight is so clear. Why our facts are so straight. Why we can innovate, lead and implement for our clients so well.
Our company is driven by a passion—an experience—that shaped our values, molded our vision and makes us who we are.
Bill and Cheryl Duke – Outreach Managers
I have discovered I always have choices and sometimes it’s only a choice of attitude.” — Judith M. Knowlton
We got into the disability business from life experience. Our immediate family lives with a multitude of disabilities – sensory and physical. What we learned obtaining accommodations for our 43-year old son, who uses a motorized wheelchair and is respirator dependent, really opened our eyes to the needs of consumers with disabilities.
As members of the disability community, we’ve known both personally and professionally the power and potential of the disability market. Since 1988, we’ve worked to develop customer service and customer relationship management strategies for companies.
Just because a person lives with a disability doesn’t make that person an expert on what a business or organization needs to do. Between us, we’ve 60 years of instructional and corporate training experience in developing lively, creative programs teaching personnel what they need to know to best serve and build a relationship with customers with disabilities. We help SMG’s clients provide three key elements to the disability market: equality, dignity, and independence. The disability community wants to access your products or services, be welcomed as valuable customers, and enhance their quality and enjoyment of life. They’re waiting to spend their money with you. Marketing to the disabled community provides inclusive strategy to a population that possesses the buying power to make a difference to your business.
Carol Blymire – Communications Strategist
“If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.” — Don Draper
In the summer of 1990, I was fresh out of college and working in the speechwriting office for President George H.W. Bush. I helped research and write his remarks for the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Working on that speech opened my eyes with new clarity and made me hyper-aware of issues I hadn’t even known were issues. I now live with an autoimmune disorder that, over the years, has deepened my already-strong connection to the disability community. More than 50 million Americans live with a disability, and most Americans will experience a disability at some point in their lives. We’re all connected to the disability community in some way. The challenge is what we do with that connection.
As a communications professional, my work centers on three core elements: audience; purpose; message. These three elements must be defined for a campaign or project to succeed, no matter how large or small. I’ve worked with Fortune 100 companies, foundations, nonprofits, government entities, and individuals who value the disability market’s economic engine and have learned to harness its power by being smart, strategic, and inclusive. SMG’s clients know a person with a disability wants what any of us wants: Respect. Opportunity. Authenticity. Community. Freedom. Security. That’s what makes this work important to me, and to the whole SMG team.
Joan Leotta – Editor
“When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.” Franklin D. Roosevelt
In the late 1990s I was looking for a full or part-time job in an office to have an additional source of income to pay for college. At this point I had been doing freelance writing and story performing for more than twenty years. If I had to go back to an office I wanted it to be for an organization I believed in. So, I went to work for Evan Kemp Associates, a company founded by the late Evan Kemp. There I met Carmen Jones and became more and more involved in disability issues. Since I had been interested in job-related discrimination issues, from earlier in my career when I worked for the U.S. Department of Labor, this job heightened my interest to do work that impacted people’s lives.
It is my hope that SMG’s clients, the people and firms I interview for the Profiles in Excellence, and our readers, will be empowered by what we share, and what they read. I also want to communicate that disabilities don’t have to be a barrier to achievement, contentment, and joy. As a writer and performer, I consider respect for my audience and consideration of the needs of my audience when crafting any article. I write on topics I think will benefit readers. I also want to provide an honest appraisal that respects the topic through research and shaping of the material into a coherent form and overall give information that will empower.
Booker Daniels – Marketing Strategist
“There are no silver bullets, magic tricks, or short cuts on the road to success – hard work, willingness to risk, and unwavering tenacity are the only true way forward.” NY Giants football coach, Tom Coughlin
Sometimes you find your passion in life. Sometimes it finds you. My journey to work with consumers with disabilities came as a result of someone else’s experience, rather than my own. A call came in the middle of the night. My sister had suffered a spinal cord injury and my sister and family were forced to learn a whole new life. As my sister and I matriculated at the same university, I quickly became aware of how people, policies, and attitudes could either make assure that my sister had fair and equal access to opportunities potentially limit her aspirations. Years later, as a marketing professional, and also a sibling of a person with a disability and an uncle to a child with a disability, I appreciated a simple truth. Consumers with disabilities have considerable product needs and choices – most of which go largely overlooked or undervalued. It wasn’t long before I realized that helping businesses understand the value of marketing to the disabled community wasn’t just a good business proposition; it was also an important vehicle for engaging, valuing, and empowering an often overlooked segment of our community.
We have the privilege and responsibility of advocating for the disability community by making sure that the efforts of our clients are predicated on respect for individuals, their families, caregivers and the professionals who work with them. When this happens we’ve seen the Fortune 100 companies, non-profit organizations, governmental entities transform their organizations. As we say at SMG, “we are in the transformation business.” Given our team, our commitment, and the opportunities that lie ahead, it is fair say that business is good. Good indeed.
Jessica Daniels, Sr. Consultant
“If you don’t like the way the world is, you change it. You have an obligation to change it. You just do it one step at a time.” Marian Wright Edelman
In the fall of 2002 I got married and entered a family were I was introduced to the world of a person living with a disability. My sister-in-law is a paraplegic who is one of the most dynamic people I know. She reshaped the way I thought and viewed people with disabilities. Watching her life in a wheelchair gave me a greater appreciation of the businesses she supported, the sidewalks she rolled on and the access points we utilized in public settings.
My first working opportunity with SMG was being a scribe for a focus group in Midtown Atlanta. The participants were dynamic and gave me a good lesson on their loyalty to brands, what they look for when they enter into a business establishment and the correct approach to address their needs. This experience not only provided me tremendous insight into the disability community, but it solidified my commitment to help businesses and government agencies to see the intrinsic and monetary value in serving and marketing to people with with disabilities.
As SMG’s Program Manager, I develop opportunities for corporations to build their brands in the disability market and I assist government agencies to expand their reach to their targeted disability community. I want our clients to understand their important role in shifting paradigms about how people with disabilities are perceived and marketing to. When done right, the opportunities are limitless.
Sheridan Walker, Sr. Employment Consultant
“Never say never, because limits, like fears, are often just an illusion.” Michael Jordan
When my father suffered a stroke when I was very young I remember a person calling my Dad a “vegetable” and he would not be able to do anything. I did not know the full meaning of that comment at the age of 6 but I did know it was negative and that I did not believe them. What I knew of my dad was loving, caring and determined to prove them wrong. They told my Dad he would never walk again—he did. They also told him he would not be able to take care of himself—he did. My Dad took great strides to regain his dignity and respect.
My father profoundly impacted me. When I entered college, and became a therapist, I found myself treating many people who had disabilities like my dad—people who acquired strokes, brain injuries, spinal cord injuries and other neurological disabilities. My mission was to make sure my patients were independent and that they could achieve anything they wanted to, albeit in a different way.
I’ve come to believe that everyone deserves a chance. As a businessperson, my work focuses on the inclusion of people with disabilities in employment. I work to ensure that our clients realize that employees with disabilities be granted the same access as those without disabilities. SMG works to bridge the gap to assist businesses become or remain in compliance, while they focus on recruitment, hiring and retention of employees and candidates with disabilities. We provide the answers and solutions for business to take action and implement, resulting in success.