Get Dialed In: How the Summit Changed My Business Reality

Sep 9 2016

by Haile McCollum

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photo Nickie Cutrona Stone
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photo Chanterelle Photography

Connecting with people in passing is one of the pleasurable rhythms that a small southern town fosters. When I moved to Thomasville, Georgia I learned very quickly that if I wanted to pop into a shop downtown, I needed to add on some time to stop and talk. Time to talk about the weather, about where I’d visited recently, about my children. But almost never did I talk about my business (the one thing I wanted to talk about). It felt pretty lonely.

Luckily I have a sister-in-law, Nan, who also has a business and she’s pretty dang dialed in. As the owner of Firefly she gets to leave Thomasville a few times a year to work – to connect – at gift shows in Atlanta, New York and beyond (ask her about the gift show in Scotland next time you see her)! She mentioned that she would be presenting at a Southern C Summit in Nashville (Fall 2013) with Amy Flurry of Recipe for Press fame and maybe I’d like to come along and share a room and maybe we should take some other friends, like Michele Arwood (Editor and Publisher of THOM Magazine), too? Yes, yes, and yes!

Boy am I glad that I tagged along. Immediately I felt the hum in the room, the buzz (or maybe that was the sugar in the multiple on-the-spot-made pralines that I devoured), the connections and collaborations literally forming in the spaces between presentations. These were my people!

It was clear that Cheri and Whitney had created something very special, something compelling. Something that was much bigger than the room we were in.

We came home and Michele enlisted Bunny Byrne (you may have met her at the 2015 Charleston Summit) to write a beautifully worded and thoughtful article in the 2014 Spring/Summer issue of THOM Magazine.

Later that Spring we also brought Lee Epting to Thomasville with Schermer Pecans to make pralines at Due South (a music festival in Thomasville). That never would have happened if I hadn’t seen that magical copper kettle in Nashville. Those couple of days in Nashville changed my business reality. I was no longer feeling lonely or isolated, I felt a part of something bigger, I felt connected to a creative world outside of Thomasville.

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photo Chanterelle Photography
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photo Nickie Cutrona Stone

I knew I had to get to the next Summit, to feel that hum again, come hell or high water. So I talked Nan into collaborating on a “Taste of Thomasville” sponsored break at the first Charleston Summit in April of 2014. She styled it and we brought copies of THOM magazine, Sweet Grass Dairy cheese, Schermer Pecans and Blackberry Patch jams and syrups, all clients of mine, all from Thomasville and all part of our shared southern story. That was really just the beginning.

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photo Nickie Cutrona Stone

Fast forward to 2016 and…

I’m speaking again in Sea Island (pinch me!) and I’m part of the most fun and rewarding speaker/sponsor, speaker/attendee and sponsor/sponsor collaborations known to man. The best part? I know I’m not alone. I’d love to document the impressive list of connections made and collaborations built around the work that Cheri and Whitney are doing.

Let’s start a list! Leave me a comment if you’ve worked with another Southern C alum, sponsor or speaker and tell me what you’re up to! And for goodness sake, run, don’t walk, to the 2017 Southern C Summit on Sea Island.

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Haile McCollum View More Blog Posts from this Author

Haile is the Owner of Fontaine Maury a brand and design firm in Thomasville, Georgia. Fontaine Maury works with emerging and growth minded companies and non-profits to engage their audiences in a more meaningful way and maximize profits. She develops, documents and extends brands through creative business strategies including: brand messaging, brand strategy, print design and digital design.


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2 responses on “Get Dialed In: How the Summit Changed My Business Reality

  1. Dominique Paye

    Fun hearing about your first experience at the Summit! I clearly remember sitting in your branding session during MY first Summit and having an epiphanous moment. To illustrate a point, you asked if we were a cocktail, which cocktail would we be. One lady raised her hand and said, “Champagne”. It was the first time I really realized that even though I could appreciate someone’s champagne branding, that type of branding would never work for me–– I am a vodka soda with lime. 😉

  2. Cadence Kidwell

    After my 1st Southern Summit in Charleston, I heard about The Laundress. What I heard was how fabulous their cleaning products were for fibers. Bang! I talked to Gwen and Lindsay about how their products would be perfect for the hand crafted projects our customers make with the yarns we sell. I cleared out all the standard wool washes that every yarn shop carries and brought in many lines from The Laundress. It’s been a great educational process for our customers to learn about fiber care. An extra bonus is that we’re on the map of non-knitters who know The Laundress products.

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