Q+A with Vietri Founder Susan Gravely
In this series on The Southern C, readers get to “meet” many of the interesting and creative entrepreneurs we know online through our social network and also in “real life” at The Southern C Summit.
These individuals are the CEO’s, founders, creative directors, artists, designers, makers and doers that are shaping our landscape with their vision and ingenuity while following their hearts.
Meet Susan Gravely, of Vietri, a favorite tabletop and decor brand of The Southern Coterie. Vietri was born after Susan, her sister Frances and their mother, Lee, took a trip to Italy. That was more than 30 years ago, and in the time since, Vietri has become the largest American importer of handcrafted Italian tableware and home décor products, working with multiple family-owned and -operated factories throughout Italy.
What did you want to be when you grew up and how has your background influenced your work?
I grew up always being a part of things – Brownies, choir, volunteering with handicapped children, vacation bible school, camp, lemonade stands, cheerleading, honor councils, officer of classes, etc. I was always thinking of how to make things better, how to make the people involved feel better, always busy making things, creating things, thinking about things. I was never idle for sure.
We also traveled a lot as a family – abroad and in the US. We spent Thanksgivings hunting and summers at the beach and water skiing on the lake. I loved being with friends but there was nothing better than being at home! I still feel that way! We often had visitors from foreign countries in our home because my father was an international tobacconist. I was allowed to sit and listen and learn and I did! My nickname was “Big Ears” because I wanted to hear every idea and every conversation.
I was always entrepreneurial and never afraid to try. My parents encouraged us to do and be – “You are always a phone call or plane ticket away so go and explore!” (But I was always homesick in the beginning – and I still am today!)
We always had chores and responsibilities as four children with a traveling father. We made up our beds every morning, we kept our rooms clean, we helped with setting tables and cleaning up after dinner. We were expected to have manners. We were expected to do our best.
I realize all of this had an enormous influence on our fearless beginnings with VIETRI, my endless work hours and ethic, and my passion for what I do.
Favorite business tool(s)?
I love to write and I love to keep my documents organized so I am constantly using Microsoft Word. I use Google all the time to research things. And I love an old-fashioned calculator on my phone. And of course, that iPhone is always at my fingertips.
Where do you find inspiration?
Everywhere. Sometimes I can’t sleep because I am thinking about what I have heard or seen. After watching a movie, I can’t remember much about the plot, but more about the environment, maybe what someone wore or something special she said. I am inspired by a good speaker, a walk in the woods or scanning a magazine or business article. A great vacation helps too, and of course my time in Italy! I am always thinking about what I see or what I hear – always looking for that one word or meaning to take away.
The rare day off – what do you do to unwind?
I STAY HOME!! I never take off my nightgown and I rest in bed, read, watch some brainless television and eat whatever is in the refrigerator. If it is a pretty day, I might take a walk through the neighboring woods with my husband, Bill and my dog, Franco. And have a glass of wine and down time with Bill at night. A great day.
Best business advice or motivational quote?
Tomorrow is another day. And there is ALWAYS another day – or you are dead!
Finding something good in a situation—even when it seems bleak—is a lot more rewarding in the end.
Given the nature of your business/brand, share your top three entertaining tips:
- Keep it simple! Grill something, create a new type of salad (right now I am loving mixed greens with ginger, walnuts, chopped apple and oil and vinegar), cook fresh vegetables and have a simple dessert – an affogato is my husband’s latest favorite (vanilla ice cream with espresso poured over it).
- I love to set my table so I am constantly switching placemats and cotton or linen napkins and glasses and dinnerware. I love our old FOGLIA collection and I like to mix prints with it as well. And I always have fresh flowers on the table!
- Bill and I love to host a range of ages when we entertain. If it is a dinner and there is a newlywed couple, I keep them in foot distance of each other, but otherwise I try to mix people according to interests.
Book – Any light mystery or a great biography.
Movie- No favorites really. I like light movies – nothing heavy. I love to belly laugh when possible!
Song – Uptown Funk by Bruno Mars makes me laugh and dance.
Drink- Vodka martini, up with olives
Indulgence – Having a day off when I never dress and hardly talk! Or… a great holiday with Bill and a couple we adore from Manhattan.
Holiday – Thanksgiving without a doubt! The best! The more family the better – and family means anyone we love!