A Bells & Becks woman is someone you know even without truly knowing her. She’s smart, savvy, put-together, accomplished—and doing it all with flair. These are the women we know, admire, and design with in mind. Featuring some of their stories here feels like the best way to celebrate all they’ve accomplished (plus, how they’re doing it with joy and great style).We hope they inspire you as much as they inspire us.
There’s a particular type of synchronicity that comes when friends build businesses. A shorthand of sorts, plus a deep trust that’s been developed over years (or decades) of having each other’s back, offering support during hard times and celebrating the wins.
Cheri Leavy and Whitney Long were friends and media experts before joining forces to create The Southern C, a networking and business group with original roots in the South that have since grown to extend across the country. (The “C” stands for coterie, a nod to their DNA-deep belief that people with similar drive and ambition will go further when joined together.)
The business currently includes a virtual membership with digital learning sessions and an active community eager to offer up advice and insights on sundry topics, as well as in-person conferences (“summits” in TSC parlance) that have developed a near cult following. Here, a conversation around what they’re most proud of, the team they’ve built around the business, and how a great pair of shoes builds confidence.
How do you describe what you do?
Cheri: I am a connector, cheerleader, and marketing consultant for fellow entrepreneurs. I love to help others tell their story! I enjoy strategizing sales and business growth. I am the co-founder of The Southern Coterie and The Southern C Summit. I also own a media company with my husband and we publish guide2athens and Bulldawg Illustrated serving University of Georgia alumni and fans and the Athens, Georgia community. I also consult with our family’s publishing company with support for our bi-monthly publication in the Golden Isles, Coastal Illustrated.
Whitney: In my personal life: I am a believer, wife to the best husband/my best friend and thankful mama to four amazing young adults! In my professional life: I am co-founder of The Southern Coterie and The Southern C Summit (best job ever!) and founder of The Benjamin Society. I also do editorial freelance work as a content creator and stylist.
Official recognition and awards are nice, but the general, or more quiet, wins sometimes feel the most significant. What part of your work are you most proud of?
Whitney: The fact that Cheri and I have been doing this since 2013 means so much to us and brings us great joy, as we have served hundreds of female creative entrepreneurs through our website, membership, and events like TSC Summit, TSC Retreats and TSC Workshops. We love to celebrate the wins of our community, which consists of female creatives and entrepreneurs from around the country in various stages of growth and industries.
We were one of the early offerings out there for continuing education for female entrepreneurs and laughingly say we are like proud grandmothers encouraging and cheering on from the sidelines. When someone in our community wins, we feel like we are winning, too!
We have been blessed to follow along as these businesses and brands grow—we are often there from the beginning—and it’s just incredible to see what our community is up to. We love spotlighting them in our monthly #ispytscsummit alums newsletter where we get to blow their horns for them. While they are maybe a little more quiet about their “wins,” we are there to celebrate their successes!
What advice would you give your younger self?
Cheri: I think our view on “failure” changes as we get older, and we realize that failures are mere missteps and bumps in the road where the most growth and learning happens. It should not be tied to our self-worth because it is inevitable. If you aren’t failing then you aren’t taking enough risks.
We believe in the idea that if you want something done, ask a busy woman—what are some of your best tricks or hacks for working through a busy schedule and keeping lots of balls in the air?
Whitney: Staying flexible and waking up knowing that the day will most likely not go the way you planned seems to help me. This is an attitude I’ve only adopted in the last several years as my four kids got older and we found ourselves all over the place. But it truly helps me as I then don’t get frustrated when things pop up—as they certainly will!
There is the saying “life is what happens while you are making other plans,” and I find that to be pretty accurate. If I set my expectations to “go with the flow” (harder said than done for this type-A personality) I tend to manage my to-do list better, which makes me a happier person at the end of the day.
What is your go-to outfit and why?
Cheri: I love to throw on a dress with good accessories and fab statement shoes. It’s an easy way to look put-together.
What is the thing about your wardrobe that gives you the most joy?
Whitney: The fact that much of what I wear, day in and day out, are TSC Summit alum brands. It runs the gamut, from skincare and makeup to clothing, jewelry, shoes, and even pajamas. It’s just the neatest way to support our community!
How does wearing a great pair of shoes make you feel?
Cheri: Wearing a great shoe literally gives me a pep in my step!
Whitney: It makes me feel well put-together and confident in putting my best foot forward!
Cheri’s Shoe Lightning Round
Flats or heels?
Both! I am not tall so love some height! But I live at the beach (St. Simons Island, Georgia) and UGA football games (Athens, Georgia) so flats come in to play a lot.
Brights or neutrals?
Both! I love an unexpected pop of color in my shoes but also love a nude or black, too.
Trends or classics?
Both! You can find me in the most current shoe trend, but I also have my go-to timeless classics. Shoes are my favorite part of my wardrobe!
Whitney’s Shoe Lightning Round
Flats or heels?
I love a good heel, but a fun flat is perfect for my daily lifestyle!
Brights or Neutrals?
While I like a touch of whimsy in a shoe, I tend to go more with neutrals. I like pattern in my clothing so this balances it out.
Trends or Classics?
Hmmm… how about a classic with a trendy twist? Best of both worlds!
(B&B Note: Those are Whitney's new Luna pumps at her home - we couldn't describe them better ourselves!)