Meet The Southern C Founders, Cheri Leavy and Whitney Long

It is long overdue that I highlight and feature the ladies that have done so much for so many. I have known Cheri and Whitney the founders for The Southern C for less than 3 years and what an amazing few years they have been.  I have watched as they have grown an idea of bringing southern creatives and entrepreneurs together on an online forum to creating a highly coveted conference for those aforementioned with the fabulous Southern C Summit.  These ladies have spawned businesses, ideas, brands and friendships.  I am proud to call them my friends.  I hope you are as inspired getting to know them as I am daily. 

Cheri Leavy & Whitney Long

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What is your training / background?

Cheri: I taught English and produced the Literary Magazine for Brunswick High School after receiving a BSED from the University of Georgia.  I served as editor of Coastal Illustrated and managed the island office of The Brunswick News.  I currently operate Bulldawg Illustrated and guide2athens, successful online and print publishing businesses with my husband Vance.  I am a consummate cheerleader and consultant to small business owners and brands which led to southerncstage.wpengine.com and its live events – the Southern C Summits – a must visit for Southern entrepreneurs looking to make valuable connections.

Whitney: In a previous life, I worked for many years as a freelance scout, stylist and writer for several national publications.  Prior to that I was in marketing and communications.  I took off several years while having our four children and there, I honed my skills (and still am) on the homefront as a domestic engineer haha!

What inspires you? 

Cheri: People inspire me – lifestyle entrepreneurs, creative makers and doers.

Whitney: My business partner, Cheri, and my husband, Vic,  inspire me tremendously.  Both have a double (or triple) dose of the entrepreneurial spirit and it is inspiring to be around their minds.  

Also, I am inspired by the many talented and creative people I meet online and at The Southern C Summits.  It’s so cool to see many in our Coterie literally taking off!  We often times get to know them on the ground floor (online by featuring them or in person at the Summits) and just as the seed is just being planted with their brand.  Then before you know it, that work is paying off with mentions in national magazines and blogs and as they top the lists of illustrious maker awards put together by names like Oprah, Martha Stewart and Garden & Gun, to name a few.  We feel like proud parents, or better yet a proud older sister J

What do you love most about what you do?

Cheri:  I love connecting people.

Whitney: Meeting so many creative people – big thinkers, out-of-the box thinkers, the makers and doers, risk-takers, artists and designers.  It may sound kind of hokey but these individuals are the ones shaping our landscape with their vision, ingenuity and passion.

How has the area influenced your work?

Cheri: The south is such a mecca for lifestyle brands and people pursuing amazing endeavors and I love creating platforms to promote them and places to connect.

What is your favorite restaurant in (your city)?

Cheri: I split time between St. Simons Island and Athens, GA and both towns have really great restaurants.  On St. Simons, I always have to visit my buddies at Southern Soul Barbeque and Halyards Restaurant.   Athens is a foodie town and just too many to name but here is a list of faves from our guide2athens.

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 pictured Cheri and Whitney with Chef Dave Snyder of Halyards Restaurant and Tramici.

Whitney:

Family night – Tramici’s

Date night – Georgia Sea Grill

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What is your favorite cocktail?

Cheri: I love a mojito in warm temps and an old fashioned in cooler temps.  

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I love a big bold glass of red wine or a vodka Gimlet any time of year.

Whitney:This depends on my location and the company!

St. Simons: Mojito at The Lodge at Sea Island with the hubby while kids run around on the ocean front lawn.

Charleston:  Moscow Mule after hours at The Rarebit with The Southern C Summit team post-event.

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Beaches of 30-A (Florida Panhandle):  Alabama Slammer at my old stomping grounds with some of my friends from growing up.

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How do you balance personal life and work?

Cheri: I don’t.  Yikes as that is my struggle and every once in awhile I burn out and have to check out.  I tend to mix work and play so much that the lines get blurred.  My business partner in one business is my husband and in the other it is a dear friend.

Whitney: I don’t know if I do!  I do try to turn it all off (emails and social media) on the weekends.  Started this about a year ago and it has really helped me tremendously to take a mental break and zero in on my family time as it is so important.   My oldest is about to be 16 and I feel like I already am getting “early empty nest syndrome” (is this a thing?)  Sounds crazy but I am not too far away from it and realizing I do not have that much more time with him under my roof!

Dream trip?

Cheri: I am ready to get back to Italy.  It would be blissful to have a week on Lake Como and then have another week for adventures in our favorite spots like Cortona (UGA has an art campus there) and Florence and maybe another cooking class in Bologna.  I know I should choose somewhere new but I love the Italian culture.

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Whitney: Cross country road-trip with the family.  No, I have not lost my mind… yet! See above answer —  I really want to savor these moments and this way they have to hang around me and I get their undivided attention while exploring our great country.  But, I do have a plan – this trip would culminate in the California wine country (where my husband and I got married).  The kids would fly back home to stay with grandma while we reward ourselves with a few days alone for making it across the country with them!

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Where do you want the Southern C to go?

Cheri: We have a digital component and event component serving The Southern Coterie as the resource for the entrepreneurial South and offering a community of passionate business owners the opportunity to connect, collaborate and create.  I feel like we want to grow both of those elements and support the members of the Coterie even better before we launch anything new.

Whitney: In the direction we are currently on – onward and upward!  We have experienced lots of growth with our site and events.   We continue to raise the bar across the board for our loyal and engaged following and sponsors and we want to offer them something more each time as well as offering a first class event and unforgettable experience to our new TSC attendees (what we call friends).

Your favorite host / hostess gift to give?

Cheri: I like to give items produced in the South.  I mix it up so it might be a bag of Schermer Pecans (Thomasville, GA) and a bag of Kingbean Coffee (Charleston, SC) or a piece of R. Wood Pottery (Athens, GA) and a Low Country Luxe candle (Savannah, GA) or a local cookbook.

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Whitney: Through the Southern C Summit, we get to know so many great brands both as sponsors and participants in the swag bags.  So I now have  a long list to pull from when I need a good gift!  Some of my go-to’s include a beautiful candle from Low Country Luxe, marinade from Hummingbird Fine Foods,  

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roasted pecans from Schermer’s PecansCallie’s Biscuits (great for the hostess – an easy and quick breakfast the next morning) Valine’s Cocktail sauceGoo Goo ClustersKing Bean CoffeeFood for The Southern Soul sauces or Blackberry Patch Jam.  

Who is your style icon?

Cheri: Amy Wallin Smilovic, designer of TIBI and our hometown success story in the fashion world.  Pinterest figured out I have a crush on Olivia Palermo and suggests her non- stop now.  She wears a lot of Tibi and has a chic clean aesthetic I love.

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 Pictured Olivia Palermo and Amy Smilovic

Whitney: I am loving Reese Witherspoon and Marion Cotillard right now.  They both nail it without being too “out there” but not too conservative either. For old school icons, the classics come to mind – Grace Kelly and Catherine Deneuve are my tops.

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Your favorite up and coming artist / designer / creative?

Cheri: I love the artists that Gregg Irby represents at her gallery in Atlanta.  She has an amazing eye for emerging talent.  Right now, I am really drawn to Lindsey Carter’s line Troubadour.  I plan to celebrate our host city of Charleston at The Southern C Summit and wear something of hers with something fun from Charleston jewelry line Theodosia or maybe some Charleston rice beads from Candy Shop Vintage and bug earrings from Croghan’s Jewel Box.

Troubadour Clothing – 

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Whitney: Through The Southern C, I have met so many up and comers that are making their mark on the design world be it art, jewelry, fashion, interiors. I often introduce our readers to them in an “In the Studio” post.

What is your most treasured possession?

Cheri: I love my majolica collection especially the oyster plates and my original art.  Since college, instead of a car payment, I have always had a monthly art payment.  My friend Cullen O’Steen who is an interior designer in Athens says most of her clients are looking for a piece of art to fill a space and I am looking for space for a piece of art.

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Whitney: My family, our health and our faith.

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What are you reading? 

Cheri: I just got back from the Thomasville Antiques Show and picked up a book about Thomasville’s historic homes.  My friend Haile McCollum’s home is on the cover.

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WhitneyThe Boys in the Boat – this came highly recommended by two friends.  I just ordered if from our local bookstore and hope to start it over spring break. 

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I am also re-reading a devotional book by Priscilla Shirer – He Speaks to Me.  It’s so good I had to pick it back up after several years. 

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What are you listening to? 

Cheri:  I have been listening to the 90s lately on Sirius as going back to that age always makes me fired up.  I love Alabama Shakes and Gary Clark Jr.  I always fall back on Widespread Panic and Talking Heads.

Whitney: Haha!  I have a split personality when it comes to music because I love so many genres.  Currently, I am listening to a mixture on Pandora  —  old school country like Dolly, Merle, Willie and Hank  (grew up on this and makes me think of my Dad) plus old school funk – Bruno Mars song “Uptown Funk” got me thinking of groups like Morris Day & The Time,  Prince and Gap Band.  Gets the energy up. 

What are your favorite blogs / publications?

Cheri: Impossible question for this publisher and media junkie.  I easily subscribe to 25 magazines monthly.  I love Vanity Fair and I treasure the time to read every word of it.  Porter has become a new fave 

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and I am thrilled Domino is back.  My city magazines like Charleston Magazine, Atlanta and Golden Isles are awesome.  What southerner doesn’t love Garden & Gun and Southern Living?  These days I clap and cheer while I read Southern Living as it is packed with Southern C Summit attendees.  I like the digital magazines like Matchbook, Rue and Lonny.  I keep up with Summit attendees’ blogs including this one!  You are such a fun shopaholic, world traveler and visual person that I adore The English Room in my inbox.

Whitney: The usual suspect for online publications – Domino

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Glitter Guide, Rue and Lonny.  For blogs, wow, I can’t name just one.  Of course, The English Room is a favorite read! Food, fashion, interiors, art, I admit to a blog reading problem.

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Holly Phillips @The English Room View More Blog Posts from this Author

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