Southern Makers Series: Spotlight on Cheri Leavy and Whitney Long, founders of the Southern Coterie

We have a new series on the blog this week: the Southern Makers Series. This series highlights creative entrepreneurs—the best and brightest in the South. This week, my blog guests are Cheri Leavy and Whitney Long, founders of the Southern Coterie and creators of the Southern C Summit. The Southern C Summit is tailored to offer community, connection, and collaboration amongst top names in media, branding and blogging. King Bean is a proud sponsor of the Southern C Summit, which will be held February 6-8 on Sea Island, Ga. This year’s event is sold out, but sign up for the Southern C’s newsletter at www.thesouthernc.com or follow the Southern C on Instagram @thesouthernc for great insight and creative business advice that you don’t want to miss.

  1. Tell us about your company and its origin story—the who, what, when, how, why.

CL: I wonder if folks know we started as a blog in November 2011 about all things southern – the people, places and products. Whitney Long and I quickly found our niche which was the entrepreneur and the entrepreneur’s need to connect with other business owners for support, creative power and at times to just good old problem solving. In 2013, we launched The Southern C Summit with support from Southern Living magazine and visited three southern gems with the conference: Jekyll Island, GA, Athens, GA and Nashville, TN then on to Charleston, SC for three years and now Sea Island, GA for three. 

  1. What’s your company’s vision? And / or what problem do you solve in the marketplace? Who is your product for?

WL: Cheri and I were connecting with so many incredible entrepreneurs in the South and realized there needed to be an arena in which we could all connect. We created The Southern Coterie to offer a community both online and in person where the ability to connect and collaborate was fostered, encouraged and supported. 

CL: Digitally, we offer a blog on our website, regular newsletters and a vibrant social media conversation.  We are expanding on that by launching a membership app. Our team in-boxes are filled with requests for a job board and service recommendations so needed a directory to point them to. So we will offer it all in the app plus webinars with industry experts and a member forum for an annual membership fee. It is going to be the spot you turn to for working on your business not in it. Click the app and give yourself a seat with others in the same spot as you. Can you tell we are excited?

WL: We currently hold our annual Summit in February in Sea Island, Georgia with 325 attendees. It is a beautiful mix of educational sessions and networking with other entrepreneurs and the top names in media, branding and blogging. Past session topics include social media strategy, branding and marketing, PR, working with influencers, best practices for websites and newsletters, entrepreneurial advice/tips/motivation, work-life balance, and partnerships and collaborations, among others. The Summit has featured editors from Bake from Scratch, Better Homes & Gardens, Domino, Elle Decor, Garden & Gun, Real Simple, Southern Living and Traditional Home among others. 

We are offering smaller group workshops (to our members first) in 2019 in Atlanta, GA with Mandy Kellogg Rye of Waiting on Martha in May and in Philadelphia at Maximalist Studios with Eddie Ross and Jaithan Kochar in September. This lets us get more specific on topics like marketing for retail and e-commerce with Mandy and then photo styling and shooting with Eddie.

3. How does coffee play a role in your day as an artisan/craftsman/business founder?

CL: I open my eyes when my hubs is handing me my cup of coffee every morning so I associate coffee with how you start your day. Often I drink it in the afternoon for an extra perk.

WL: I love the whole ritual associated with coffee – the aroma, the careful selection, the various way to serve but most of all, I love the way people talk over coffee – face to face conversation is almost a dinosaur these days but that changes over a cup of coffee! Many a wonderful meeting or connection has happened over a cup of coffee.  

5. Besides being based in the South, what else makes your business a Southern company? I.e. what traditions and values do you think make you a uniquely southern?

CL: We know part of the magic dust on The Southern Coterie is that in the South, we share our thoughts and dreams and fears and support freely and that transparency and reinforcement is what makes the Coterie so special. It’s a welcoming community. Southern Living dubbed us early on a virtual front porch and the social network of the south.

6. What about the South inspires your business or you personally?

WL: Her people - the conversations and creativity and community! We are fortunate that our business enables us to interact and connect on a daily basis with the entrepreneurs, makers, doers, creators, artisans that are doing really cool things with their brands and businesses. Whether online or in person at The Southern C Summit, it is such a treat to move in this world and they inspire us daily. It makes work a lot of fun!

 7. Anything else you’d like to add or tell us?

WL: Don’t let our name - The Southern C – lead you to believe we are Southern centric. We are often asked “Do I have to be from the South or have a business there to be involved or attend?” and the answer is not at all!  While we did start out with showcasing Southern people, places, and products. we quickly grew beyond the Mason Dixon and now have presenters and attendees from all across the country which is really cool!

For more on the Southern C visit www.thesouthernc.com

Photos: Teresa Earnest / Kelli Boyd 

 

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Coffee, Y’all shares everything we love about coffee in the South. Based in Charleston and the surrounding lowcountry, we showcase our fantastic culinary scene, our thriving King Bean community and of course, talk about all things coffee! We hope you enjoy it.

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