Good morning, and Happy Cinco de Mayo!! It’s been a while. As you may be aware, I spent the better part of last week in Charleston, South Carolina at The Southern Coterie Summit. Buckle up, buttercups. Here we go!
It was my first time attending a Summit, although I’ve been a member of “The Southern C” for a while now. The Southern Coterie is basically a forum where Southern-enthusiasts like myself can go for recipes, travel information, and general fellowship – a virtual “front porch,” if you will. Two to three times per year, The Southern Coterie Summit is held in a Southern town where entrepreneurs, writers, bloggers, photographers, and all sorts of other business owners converge to learn more about branding, marketing, and growing a business, all while making connections and getting to know each other. It’s not specifically for women, but it turns out The Southern C Summits are made up of 91% or so women. It’s such a creative, empowering, inspiring environment. I’m so glad I was able to attend! Shout out to Bunny, who strong-armed me into going. :)
Seriously, so. much. rain. The streets were flooding, but that didn’t dampen our spirits! Luckily, not too long after we got to Charleston the rain subsided. It threatened us all week, but never followed through.
The packing material “bee hive” was my favorite part of Butcher & Bee. Besides, of course, the food.
I had a grilled cheese with gruyere, cheddar, caramelized onions and roasted broccoli and it was divine. Also love the house-made pickles that come with every order. Adding this to my favorite places list.
We trekked through the rain to the historic American Theater on King Street where the Summit was held.
First up: Amy Smilovik, the owner and creative director of tibi. She preached doing what you are passionate about and forgetting the things you aren’t focused on. In fact, Amy recently had a serious medical scare, and as she went into surgery, she told us that she was thinking about her family, her kids, and whether culottes would be in style next year. That was when she realized she was truly in the right business.
Next up was Tara Guerard, founder and President of Tara Guerard Soiree. Tara was a hoot from Camden, South Carolina, and is the cream of the crop when it comes to wedding planners. She emphasized that entrepreneurs often don’t charge what they’re worth, and often don’t know the exact amount of money they need to bring in to pay their bills. Her best advice? “Marry a good man, hire a good bookkeeper, and hire a good nanny (that’s not too cute).”
Next was Maryann Bekkadahl, co-founder and President of Keep. Maryann was a no-nonsense gal from outside the South, but she had great advice for us on how to market ourselves and make money using social media. Granted many of her tips didn’t apply to my particular blog (they were geared towards interior design and fashion blogs), but they were definitely immediately applicable and clear-cut tips. That being said, here’s a minor disclaimer: Blogging (and everything that goes along with it) has turned into an immensely time-consuming hobby for me, and these partnerships and affiliate links help me pay for it. I would never start recommending things I didn’t whole heartedly love and/or believe in, and I hope that is obvious to y’all. *Stepping down off my soapbox now.*
Side note: Keep is pretty dang cool. I’d never even heard of it, but it’s basically a Pinterest for products and is fairly addictive. Consider yourself warned.
After a break to freshen up and rest a bit at Bunny’s house, there was a cocktail hour complete with the best restaurants in Charleston and cocktails at High Wire Distillery.
THE GLASS ONION – ROAST NC DUCK AND ANDOUILLIE GUMBO
AND BITE-SIZE STRAWBERRY CAKE WITH ALMOND BUTTERCREAM
CHARLESTON GRILL – CHARRED OCTOPUS SALAD WITH CHERRY TOMATOES, CAPERS AND PERSILLADE.
CIRCA 1886 – BBQ CRAB SALAD
BUTCHER & BEE – PITA WITH WARM CHICKPEAS, HARISSA AND SPRING VEGETABLE SALAD
HUSK RESTAURANT – SLOW COOKED HERITAGE PORK TERRINE WITH PRESERVED TOMATO AND SPRING VEGETABLES
THE FARMBAR – COMPOST COOKIES
I missed a couple of other tables, but everything was delicious! We had a great time mixing and mingling, getting to know other attendees, and chatting with the presenters, including two lovely ladies from Southern Living. It was so great to meet Erin Shaw Street (Senior Editor) and Whitney Wright (Deputy Food Director), not to mention exciting for this Southern girl who was raised reading Southern Living. I also spotted the work of a new Instagram friend, @blackswampco, in the High Wire Distillery gift shop! Designer/maker at Black Swamp Company, Katie recycles wood shavings made during the furniture making process in her and her husband’s wood shop. Such a creative reuse of materials! There are a couple bracelets that will hopefully soon be on their way to SoWeGa. :)
Thursday was a jam-packed day full of speakers, cocktails, and Thomasville love. First up was an inspiring panel on building your brand, which included Robert Prioleau (Blue Ion), Caroline Nuttall (Charlie), and Sully Sullivan (Photographer).
Next Thursday morning was Christopher Lester from Emma on email marketing. This session was not only extremely entertaining, it was super informative when it came to email marketing. I’m curious: how many of y’all would rather get an email from a business as opposed to any other form of marketing? Apparently, it’s still one of the most effective ways to spread the word about your company, if done well. I loved this session! Most interesting tidbit: American’s now have an average attention span of 8 seconds. A goldfish has an attention span of 9 seconds.
For snack time, there was a “Spotlight on Thomasville, Georgia!” Presented by Fontaine Maury, along with Schermer Pecans, Sweet Grass Dairy, Blackberry Patch, and the Thomasville Center for the Arts. The room was styled by Nan Myers of Firefly. Naturally, there were plenty of Thomasville Townies to go around. :)
It was pretty great to see everyone enjoying all our local goods. We’re pretty spoiled down here, y’all!
Next up, Hanna Seabrook of Gadabout moderated a panel discussion on standing out as a brand. The panel included Hanna herself, Libbie Summers of Salted & Styled, Liza Graves of Style Blueprint, and Chassity Evans of Look Linger Love. I loved hearing from big-time bloggers and the stories of how they began and grew (Hanna filed for an LLC in her dorm room!).
I left this session for lunch feeling really inspired! And speaking of lunch, we went directly next door for moo shu from Fish (where we ate), appetizers from Big T’s Coastal Provisions, and cocktails from Peachy Magazine and Firefly Vodka Tea. It was divine without making you feel gluttonous. Until you ate dessert that is, which was provided by Goo Goo Cluster.
Back to the afternoon session, we heard from Jamie Meares, the owner and designer behind Furbish Studio and blogger behind I Suwannee. She was crazy honest and open and it was so refreshing to hear the story behind her business. Hint: she started it after being laid off from a 9-to-5 and is now extremely successful. Also interesting: she doesn’t pay for traditional advertising, and never has. Blogs are her main source of referrals and traffic.
The final session of the Summit was a panel on pitching your brand, featuring Erin Shaw Street (Southern Living), Caitlin Moran (Glitter Guide), and Katie Armour (Matchbook) and moderated by Libba Osbourne and Jackie Thomson (Leapfrog PR Co).
And THEN…. I WON! I won a cooking class for two at Charleston Cooks! with Matt and Ted Lee (aka The Lee Brothers) that very night! Needless to say, I was STOKED, seeing as I absolutely adore the Lee Brothers and love their food even more. I’ve posted on their Charleston Okra Soup before, and was thrilled to get to try it Thursday night – made by them! I took my sweet host Bunny along for the ride, and it was awesome. We got to try their pickled blue crab salad hors d’oeuvre that they served at the James Beard Awards in NYC the very next night! It was amazing, by the way. We also sampled the aforementioned Charleston Okra Soup, Shrimp Supreme, Asparagus with Grapefruit, and Huguenot Torte, all from their newest Charleston Kitchen cookbook. I’ll try to cook my way through the rest of these soon so I can have them all on the blog. An aside: I went complete fan girl/geeked out on them, bought a second copy of Charleston Kitchen so they could sign it, and generally made a slight fool of myself. I am still giddy with excitement.
Friday we headed out to the final event – brunch at Le Creuset headquarters! Let me just tell you, headquarters is FAB. AND I got to go fan girl again and meet Carrie from Callie’s Charleston Biscuits, watch her make her famous biscuits, eat them, buy her cookbook (and got her to sign it) and ask her approximately 45 questions re: biscuits. It was pretty sweet! Professional BBQ’er Jimmy Hagood of Food for the Southern Soul was also in the test kitchen, making BBQ waffle cones. You heard me.
After a shrimp ‘n grits brunch, attendees got treated to a build-your-own-corsage bar, hosted by Athens gals Beauty Everyday. It was, indeed, beautiful!
And with that, we toasted our bloody mary’s to a successful Southern C Summit!
I’ll drink to that.