Whitney Long and Cheri Leavy, Southern Coterie Founders

When we meet people who say they love Southern stories involving chefs, community, cocktails, we take notice. Which is exactly what happened when we recently got to know the ladies behind The Southern Coterie, a Southern social network that brings Southerners together to share where they've been -- and where they're going.

Founders Whitney Long and Cheri Leavy are the force behind The Southern Coterie. In the weeks and months to come, we'll be featuring content from The Southern Coterie here on the Daily South, and we'll be teaming up with them for the first Southern Coterie Summit in Jekyll Island (May 1-3). We sat down to have a glass of virtual sweet tea with the best friends and business partners, who you are going to want to get to know.

First, the basics. Whitney is a native of Elba, Alabama and graduate of Auburn University. She's had a career as a freelance writer, scout, and stylist. Whitney and her husband Vic have four children and call St. Simons Island, Georgia home.

Cheri, an eighth-generation Georgia's sea island resident, The University of Mississippi and graduated from The University of Georgia. Along with her husband Vance, the former teacher runs "Bulldawg Illustrated," which covers UGA athletics, as well as a guide to their home of Athens, Guide2Athens.

Together, they run The Southern Coterie.

SL: What are your favorite things about the South?

Whitney: Friendly folks in abundance, well-mannered children, front porch visits, covered dish lunches after church, very sweet tea J, farmers markets, fall Saturdays and my absolute favorite thing is that it is my home!

Cheri: Georgia Bulldog football Saturdays, moss draped Oak trees, the Square in Oxford, antiquing, low country boils at the beach, sweet tea, pretty tablescapes with family treasures, and storytelling amongst family and friends.

SL: How did you come up with the idea for the Southern Coterie?

Whitney: Our husbands grew up together, so we've known each other for a long time. After I had my children I wanted to start on a new creative project and decided on a blog. My husband suggested Cheri and I think about it together.

Cheri: In 2011, we got together for a birthday lunch and decided to start a Southern blog. But there were already a ton of amazing Southern blogs out there, so we knew we had to differentiate ourselves. We like to connect with people, which led to the creation of a social network.

Whitney: We launched as a Tumblr blog in November 2011 and in January 2012 added a weekly newsletter. We realized that people got tripped up over the word "coterie," so we shortened it to "Southern C," because there are so many "C" words that related to being a Southerner -- community, character, cultivation, chefs -- the list goes on and on. In July of 2012 we launched our social network that allows users to interact. We call it the "social network of the South."

SL: How does it work?

Cheri: We call it a "virtual front porch." It's free to register, and when you do you can share content. There are forums to people to ask suggestions and get advice, like 'Where should I have a cocktail when I'm in Charleston?' It's similar to Facebook, but with more of an intellectual dialogue, a place where people can share recipes, the books they are reading, or a meal they just had at a great Southern restaurant.

Whitney: We also share content from Southern bloggers we call our "C-Team," including Natalie Broulette who runs TheSoHo (a blog about being a Southern hostess), Jay Ducate, who writes about Louisiana food on his BiteandBooze, and Kim Holloway, who runs StuffSouthernPeopleLike.

Cheri: We pay tribute to the traditional -- all the things that make the South so special, with a nod to the new. Entertaining is a good example, and we love to talk about using your china and silver but doing it a little different than your grandmother did.

SL: Why A Southern Coterie Summit?

Cheri: We have all this great energy going on happening online, we knew we needed to host an event in-person. So we created a niche conference for Southern C. users and tastemakers from the region.

Whitney: There are some great conferences where people can learn digital skills and network, but many have grown so large that they can be overwhelming. We wanted to create an event where people could learn how to build their online presence and do it in a relaxed environment. We'll have presentations on social media, blogging, branding, and many other topics. And all while in a beautiful setting.


Southern Living is a sponsor of The Southern C. Summit, and will be hosting "Cocktails and Conversation" on Wednesday, May 1. Southern Living editors will also be speaking at the event (including yours truly) -- stay tuned for details. The event is for creative entrepreneurs, seasoned business owners, social media users, bloggers, photographers and artists, among others. Tickets are on sale now (and $10 from every ticket sale goes to Southern Foodways Alliance or Children's Healthcare of Atlanta).

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