In preparation for this year’s Summit set to start in just a few short weeks, I sat down with co-founders Whitney Long and Cheri Leavy to gather information about this years line up. Having one year as an attendee under my belt, I plan to use my time to the fullest soaking up each and every second of the magic that is the Summit. The only conference of its kind, this intimate setting fosters amazing opportunities to connect, collaborate and connect with one another. Any one who has attended knows how special the Summit truly is, and any one in attendance for the first time this year is in for a true surprise.
As an attendee last year I experienced something I can only describe as magical. The atmosphere led to many conversations where I not only made incredible contacts, but I also learned many valuable tips from designers, business owners and fellow bloggers. It was quickly after returning home I made the decision to make the jump from blogger to brand. In the span of a year I have tripled my Instagram following and upped my game in collaborations and advertising revenue. In short, I am not the same girl who showed up the first day truly not knowing what to expect.
How did it all begin? With a mutual love for the south, these two power houses joined forces to create The Southern Coterie. Cheri with a love for connecting people and a print publishing business she runs with her husband joined forces with Whitney and her background in scouting and styling for magazines like Southern Living and Coastal Living. The two desired to create “the virtual front porch of the South”, a place where “southern voices could be heard and creatives could connect”. They have effectively created the “social network of the South”.
The women graciously spent their time with me sharing some snippets from the 2016 Summit …
What’s new to the Summit this year?
Lots of fun new elements to the Summit programming this year! We’ve added intimate Wednesday workshops with some brilliant, creative brains – some of the best in their fields. Think small groups with the opportunity for face-to-face interaction with the presenter and plenty of time for Q&A’s. I am also looking forward to the fun after-hours night cap Wednesday night at Striped Pig Distillery. Love this spirited way to connect outside the actual event!
Lastly, we felt compelled to add a wellness/health element to programming as this is so important to the entrepreneur lifestyle – we have to take care of ourselves! We thought that after a couple of days of intense learning, epic networking, and food and drink galore, Friday morning was just the time to re-center and find your zen at the poolside yoga session on the rooftop of The Mills House.
Coolibar will be presenting this wellness component along with some of their fabulous yoga and swim UPF 50 fashions and hats — super cute and perfect for our Southern climate and lifestyle. Sarah Frick, owner of Charleston Power Yoga, will be instructing along with Molly Casto. With picturesque views of the Holy City, a hydration station and smoothies, won’t this be a great way to kick off the day and the weekend?
And while this is not new, as we always have incredible swag bags for attendees, but look for a nice mix of new and established brands represented in the bags … things have started arriving and it’s going to be good! You can also stop by and visit POUT and One Love Organics in the break tents both days to sample beauty products and leave them with a little treat.
How will my attendance help grow my brand?
We want to bring our tagline to life – we truly want both attendees and sponsors to connect, collaborate and create with one another. It has been both amazing and fulfilling to see the connections made at each Summit and watch as they unfold. We also want to bring top notch speakers and programming to our attendees thru a variety of topics and content. Take-away info is big at the Summit. We want the Summit experience, and the time and money invested to attend, to live for beyond the days you are there.
What kinds of people attend the summit?
We have a wonderful mix of creatives and entrepreneurs from various niches, all ages and many walks of life; small business owners, creators, makers, bloggers, artists, interior designers, event designers, photographers. Many are from the South but we also have many attendees from all across the US, too. No doubt, it’s a fun group!
What can I expect on Day One?
There’s no better way to start your time in Charleston than with a proper Southern welcome! Join The Southern C and our friends Southern Proper and Southbound magazine at The Mills House hotel for a mouth-watering brunch to kick off this year’s Summit. We can’t tell you enough how good the shrimp and grits will be – the tasting menu was spectacular!
We have three amazing sessions on Wednesday from top names in the media and blog community. Attendees will have the opportunity to hear from the editors of national lifestyle outlets such as Alexandra Macon, Managing Editor of Vogue.com, Sarah Karnasiewicz, Digital Food Editor at Real Simple magazine, and Krissy Tigilias, Executive Editor of Southern Living magazine; Eddie Ross, East Coast Editor of Better Homes & Gardens. You will also meet the women behind four top lifestyle blogs – Chassity Evans, Look Linger Love; Grace Atwood, The Stripe; Liz Adams, Sequins & Stripes and Caroline Harper Knapp, House of Harper
Wrap up Wednesday’s sessions the Southern way with cocktails and conversations in the scenic courtyard of the historic William Aiken House. Nosh on Food for the Southern Soul’s pickled shrimp and pulled pork BBQ, GooGoo Cluster’s dessert bar, Proper Pepper Pimento Cheese and Shermer Pecans while enjoying live bluegrass music from The Bluestone Ramblers. Cathead Vodka will be mixing up craft cocktails made with Food for the Southern Soul’s cane syrup. And we will be showing off #usingthesilver with Croghans and a fashion capsule from Hampden Clothing.
Explore Charleston on your own for dinner with friends old and new and join us to visit Charleston, South Carolina’s first micro-distillery for a night cap. Striped Pig Distillery will reward your taste buds with sophisticated, handcrafted rums, truly fantastic ‘moonshine’ whiskeys and silky smooth vodka.
To note: We focused on improving our own branding and design for the Summit in 2016. Both days our idyllic setting at the historic William Aiken House and American Theater will shine even brighter through the help of an amazingly talented team of valued sponsors. The Vine and Beachview Event Rentals are creating the vibe of the tents in the William Aiken courtyard with the help of Stray Dog Designs and others. The stage stylings are a collaboration between BMA at Home and Chairish. Emily McCarthy is helping with our cocktail napkins, cups and entertaining accoutrements. STITCH Design Co is helping with our print collaterals. Y’allsome created the design for our swag bags and some tees and hats. steve mckenzie’s and Atlanta magazine HOME are teaming up to lead a workshop with attendees that will style the luncheon tables in the William Aiken house. And Patrick Properties Hospitality Group is the glue that brings it all together with The Southern C Team. It’s truly an example of our mantra #connectcollaboratecreate.
What can I expect on Day Two?
Day two is a full, busy but fun day as we switch to tracks. The sessions are in the ballroom and the cinema. So many excellent speakers this day so, in all honesty, we think it’s going to be hard for attendees to decide whom they wish to hear. Our suggestion is to find a buddy, make a deal to divide and conquer, take notes for each other and then compare afterwards! Most sessions will be taped so there will be access for attendees post-Summit.
On the food and drink/social front, be ready for a fabulous morning break with book signings (great Mother’s Day gifts and teacher end-of-school gifts!), Equal smoothies, Fire & Flavor deviled eggs, Terra’s Kitchen keenWOW salad. The day will conclude, as the day before, with Cocktails and Conversation in the beautifully decorated and tented William Aiken courtyard. Expect more food and fun with brands such as Cathead Vodka, Treehouse Macarons, Chick-fil-A, and Mod Squad Martha. Moon & Lola will have their adorable interactive signature Charm Bar set-up for attendees to play designer and create a bracelet.
We are super excited this year about the luncheon on Thursday at the historic William Aiken House because Chef Nico of FISH Restaurant always serves something yummy and Summit attendees will stop by the courtyard tent for a Georgia Peach bellini or tea on the way to this highly instagrammable event. This year the tables at lunch will be styled by attendees of the “Tablescapes: Setting the Scene” workshop under the direction of Jill and Steve McKenzie of steve mcKenzie’s and Atlanta magazine’s HOME Editor-in-Chief Betsy Riley. Each place setting will feature Dot & Army linens for luncheon attendees to take home!
What is the best way to use TSC App during the summit?
The app is going to be a game changer this year. Far more than a paper agenda, it will allow us to present richer, more in-depth information for Summit attendees, and in a format that can be accessed prior to arriving at The Summit so that attendees will arrive with greater knowledge of what is going on and how to best capitalize on their time in Charleston and at The Summit. But what really gets us excited is that the app allows attendees to more easily connect with one another, presenters and sponsors. You can view and bookmark other attendee’s profiles and even send private messages through the app, making it easier to connect, whether it is to arrange a meal together in Charleston or collaborate down the road.
I hear so many alums say there is something special about the summit. What do you think sets you apart?
You know, we are thankful to hear the same thing from attendees in person and also in our post-event surveys and the blog post wrap-ups that many attendees share. We think of the attendees as our friends, because that’s that they really are to us! We want to treat them as if they are guests in our homes and show them a good time while learning so we think that makes the Summit stand out. We like to mix business and pleasure!
It’s hard to explain the Summit until you attend but we have to believe it is a combo of things – beautiful, out-of-the box venues and city locations, speakers and sponsors that are truly engaged with attendees and are so willing to offer their knowledge and valuable takeaway. Finally, we believe the Summit magic is largely because of the openness and transparency among attendees and presenters that takes place at each Summit. It truly is a supportive community and it is amazing to see how everyone continues to connect, collaborate and create together long after that particular Summit is over.
What would you say to the first time attendee who is coming not knowing anyone?
Don’t be shy and jump right in! This is such a supportive group that will quickly become some of your best cheerleaders and friends. In advance of the Summit, join the 2016 Summit Facebook group and download The Southern C Summit app from iTunes so you can begin to connect with others before the event as well as check out programming, presenters and sponsors.
One of my favorite things about attending is the scheduled breaks allowing attendees and presenters to mix and mingle. How would you describe this to a first time attendee?
Again, mixing business and pleasure is always on our minds when working on the programming and agenda. Entertaining is so much a part of our lifestyles, particularly in the South, and the Summit environment lends itself to this – put smart, dynamic people with common interests together and good things happen! The breaks and end of day social hours are fabulous fun and offer the perfect opportunity to see what a lot of brands are doing, meet the people associated with those brands but also catch up with fellow attendees – those you may have just met and those you know from previous Summits.
The sendoff brunch is always so fun. Why is this event one you definitely don’t want to miss?
We love the sendoff brunch at Le Creuset too as it is such a great opportunity to relax and enjoy each other since our brains are brimming with new ideas and enthusiasm gleaned from the Summit. This year at the brunch Sea Island Resort is sharing the vibe of their summer festival, Southern Grown which will make our farewell so much fun! The Charleston Blog Society will have a DIY table where attendees can make a minted design business card holder for all those cards collected. Southern Proper will also have a little send-off goody bag for attendees.
Wow! I know I am not the only one counting down the days! It is hard to believe they could top last year’s line up, but it seems they have done just that. Just a few more weeks until we are all in Charleston enjoying the charm of the city and the amazing conference in store for us. I hope to see you at the Summit this year! I may or may not have already starting packing. xo …