I am excited to be featuring Cheri Leavy and Whitney Long, the founders of The Southern C aka The Southern Coterie. What is the Southern C and The Southern C Summit??
photo credit: Gina Towson
Whitney: TSC is an online gathering place to share, inspire and nurture the creative entrepreneur, maker, doer or artisan. At the heart of it, TSC is truly a community… one with like-minded folks looking to connect, collaborate, and create together not only online but in real-life, too, at our Southern C Summits + Retreats.
Cheri: The Southern Coterie is a virtual front porch for Southern creatives and entrepreneurs. Designed to offer a community of passionate business owners, makers and doers the opportunity to connect, collaborate and create, the “Southern C” is capturing the South’s entrepreneurial renaissance one post at a time. From “get to know” Q&A’s to inspirational start-up stories, to tips from the top names in the media, blogging, and business community, the “Southern C” is the virtual version of a traditional front porch – a laid-back gathering place to share, inspire, encourage and nurture creative minds.
The Southern C Summit – The Southern Coterie’s live event, brings the online content to life offering attendees an opportunity to network and connect in person. The niche multi-day conferences combine educational and inspirational sessions with the best and brightest names in Southern business and branding intermingled with phenomenal food, drink and inspiring locales all while fostering a strong sense of community.
Joann: and I have been to almost every Southern C event and it is one of our favorite conferences we attend as a business. This is one event that IS NOT geared specifically for interior designers like most events we go to.
Attendees include marketing, branding, creative types along with artists, foodies, photographers, retailers, fashion aficianados, magazine editors and so many innovating, smart and cutting edge entrepreneurs (mostly women). The speakers are noteworthy brands such as Nikki Bazzani, Creative Strategist for Pinterest, Steele Marcoux – Editor of Coastal Living, Mandy Kellogg Rye of Waiting on Martha, and Libbie Summers, food and lifestyle tastemaker to name a few!
Gray Malin was one of my favorite speakers at the Summit in Sea Island this past February. If you don’t know who he is, check out his amazing photography of beaches all over the world here!
One of his most popular – “Positano Coast Beach”
Joann: What do you believe has contributed to the Southern C’s success?
Cheri: Hands down it is the people in the community that make it a success! We have such a strong group of alums from the Summit that #connectcollaboratecreate together every day.
Whitney: Not one thing, but many things making for a magical blend! Our attention to detail for our live events – the thought that we give to every element – is so important as we want it to be an experience – both educational and for the social elements.. We also are very thoughtful in curating the mix of presenters and niches that make the most sense given our attendees. But most of all, the spirit and smarts and transparency of our attendees create a most supportive and electric environment.
photo credit Kathryn McCrary
Now for some personal information about Cheri and Whitney:
Joann: Where did you grow up?
Cheri: I am the eighth generation on my maternal side of the Golden Isles of Georgia! I have an ancestor Cyrus Dart that settled on St. Simons Island in the 1700s and his son Urbanus Dart was one of the founders of the city of Brunswick with William R. Davis. Urbanus’ daughter Eliza Rebecca Dart Symons was my mom’s paternal great great grandmother and Eliza Rebecca Dart Symons’ maternal grandmother was Rebecca Moore who died in Glynn County in 1797. That’s a mouthful to say we have been in Glynn County since the beginning. It’s neat because my paternal side of the family has roots in Athens where my husband Vance and I spend half of our time now. My great grandmother was Exa Bae Andrews McRee who was a cousin of the catering Cobb family on Milledge Avenue. I have fond childhood memories visiting Aunt Belle’s parlor with silver trays of homemade mints and my great grandparents farm in Watkinsville where my grandmother grew up. My dad spent his summers there as a boy. We are two generations of Bulldogs that love Athens.
Whitney: Elba, AL – quintessential small Southern town with the courthouse in the middle of the square aka Mayberry.
Joann: Where did you attend college?
Cheri: With a love of everything southern, I attended Mississippi for school and loved Oxford and Ole Miss. A Tau Chapter Chi Omega, I loved greek life and crawfish boils maybe a little too much for my dad’s GPA standards and transferred closer to home to the University of Georgia. My transcript moved over with a large section of southern culture studies that fell into “other” and didn’t transfer but they are still some of my favorite classes where I studied Faulkner, anthropology of the blues, southern art history and such. But I moved into college life at Georgia with more focus on academics and graduated with honors and a BSED in secondary English education much to my father’s relief!
Whitney: Auburn University
Joann: What is your background?
Cheri: After several years of teaching high school English and advising for Brunswick High School’s literary magazine, I served as editor of Coastal Illustrated and directed The Brunswick News Newspaper in Education program. My husband Vance and I launched successful print and online publications, Bulldawg Illustrated fifteen years ago and guide2athens nine years ago. Whitney and I founded The Southern Coterie blog in 2011 and the Summits in 2013.
Whitney: After graduating with a PR and marketing major and journalism/communications minor, I did some chamber of commerce work and corporate marketing with a financial institution. While doing that, I was introduced to the magazine world by a college sorority sister and subsequently became a scout, stylist and contributing editor for print titles including Coastal Living, Southern Accents, Southern Living and Better Homes & Gardens, various special interest titles. My husband and I have four children and the associated travel for story production and photo shoots was hard so I decided to be a full time stay at home mom. Once our baby entered Kindergarten, I was ready to get back to work outside the home and looking for some creative options. I was an avid blog reader and was intrigued so I started thinking on how to do something related. Initially, the seed was planted to start a blog when I would see homes and photos from my magazine days on various blogs and Pinterest boards but wasn’t quite ready to take the leap. Then, Cheri and I connected after my husband saw her at a cocktail party and said “Y’all should talk – Whitney is looking for a creative outlet” so we talked, brainstormed and here we are! As co-founder of TSC, I feel fortunate that have been able to marry my past work experiences in a way that works in the digital realm.
Joann: How did you meet?
Cheri: I met Whitney through her husband Victor who was a Glynn Academy high school friend of mine and my husband Vance’s. Kindred spirits from the start, Whitney and I work together really well and I feel blessed to have her in my life on this journey.
Vance, Cheri and Uga
Whitney: We have known each other for 20+ years since I began dating Vic, who is now my husband. He, Cheri and her husband went to high school together and our hubbies were actually fraternity brothers at UGA so I became friends with them as a result. It’s a small world and even smaller island here on St. Simons!
Whitney and Vic – photo credit – Chanterelle Photography (Julie Lowry)
I can personally say that I am so impressed with Cheri and Whitney’s husbands. They go to every Southern C Summit and help out wherever needed, they are a huge support to their wives and we know how important that is!!
Joann: Your favorite book?
Cheri: A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway – Vance and I followed Hemingway and the writers and artists of the 1920s’ footsteps on a trip to Paris once. We both re-read the book on the trip.
Whitney: A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
Joann: Your favorite trip?
Cheri Vance and I took his mom, Sudy, to Italy one Christmas. We saw Pope John Paul II’s last mass in 2015 at The Vatican. We toured Rome, Florence and Tuscany. Sudy and I showed Vance UGA’s art school campus in Cortona where we studied photography and watercolor painting the fall before for ten days. It’s a slice of heaven with gorgeous vistas and incredible food and you can’t beat local Italians barking at you, “Go Dawgs!” Vance is a Kappa Sigma so we went to where they began in Bologna which is also the food capital of the world. We did a cooking lesson going on a tour through their markets with an insider and then preparing the meal. The whole trip was pretty spectacular at every turn and I was with two of my favorite people in the world.
Whitney: ANYWHERE with my family! That makes me the happiest as long as we are together.
Joann: One word that describes you best?
Cheri: I asked Vance and he said generous. After my verbose answers, I would say talkative!
Whitney: Dedicated – to my family, faith, friends, work.
Joann: What is your guilty pleasure?
Cheri: I am a magazine junkie and subscribe to over a dozen easily! I love, love, love to lounge in the sun with a libation and dig into publications. I receive fashion, interiors, travel, food, beauty and city publications. There are piles of magazines everywhere. I believe in the power of print!
Whitney: Me time… taking an afternoon nap on the weekend or just sitting on the beach or our porch catching up on some fave magazines that accumulate in the basket by my bed.
We are so pleased to find out the the next Southern C Summit will be held February 7 – 9, 2018 in Sea Island! Sea Island company rolls out the red carpet in their five star way.
Cheri and Whitney celebrating a return to Sea Island in 2018 – photo credit Gina Towson
Joann: Who would be your dream speaker at the Southern C?
Cheri: Let’s see who Whitney says. I feel like we continue to have so many of my favorite industry leaders and influencers presenting so it is already a dream to me.
Whitney: May I name two? Reese Witherspoon! And also Lauren Bush Lauren – so poised, gracious, forward-thinking and philanthropic with her FEED project.
Joann: What do you see in the future for The Southern C?
We are striving to pull the community together even more between the annual early spring big Summits. We will offer meet-ups and workshops in our member’s cities. We are launching an exclusive digital membership on our new website developed with Nicely Built that will have online interactive events with our subject matter experts, job board, membership directory, community calendar, etc.
#tsctravels with Coterie friends in Savannah, left to right Holly Phillips, Kat Neunaber, Cheri Leavy, Whitney Long and Monica Lavin (Photo Credit Kelli Boyd Photography)
There is no shortage of fun, friendship and creativity related to Cheri, Whitney and The Southern C. We are fortunate to be part of such a great community.
Thank you Cheri and Whitney for all you do!!