I just returned from The Summit in Charleston last week. Like the first one I attended, at Jekyll Island, this gathering had a great mix of speakers, plenty of time to meet and greet, and awesome southern fare. I had a fabulous time and here is why:
1. Location, location, location – this was my first visit to Charleston. Yes, I know, hard to believe. Now I understand why everyone gets that dreamy look in their eyes when talking about Charleston – beautiful, historic, great shopping and restaurants. I can’t wait to go back.
2. Speakers – the speakers were inspired and brought great content with them. I loved hearing the stories of how Amy Smilovic, founder of Tibi, and Tara Guerard started their businesses. It's exciting to see how these fabulous women with southern roots have influence that transcends geography. Plus, they were joined by other presenters with offices in New York, which for southern expats, like me, is a welcome development.
3. Food – no wonder I came back with a few extra lbs. What was planned and how it was presented was about as far from your typical “conference food” as possible. I suspended my meager will power the moment I arrived and loved every bite.
4. Drink - when I began my career in the NYC media world, it was common for people to imbibe at lunch but those martini-soaked days seem almost Mad Men-vintage. It was delightful to have a gorgeous midday cocktail.
5. Firefly – speaking of drinking, a bottle of Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka appeared in our house last summer (college aged son?) but I hesitated. I now know exactly why and how to drink it. Think this may become one of my favorites this summer.
6. Katherine Sandoz – outside of a courthouse, who among us has ever witnessed someone sketching and painting participants in action? I am in awe of Katherine and her unique artistry.
7. Libbie Summers – I bought Sweet & Vicious for a friend who bakes and Libbie graciously autographed my copy. But those pink end pages, those photographs, that originality, and dog treats????!!! Love it all. If I’d been driving back to NY rather than flying, I would have bought a case instead of just one.
8. Old friends/new friends – I loved catching up with some of the people I met at Jekyll and it was equally wonderful to make new friends, too.Jean Daniel noticed me in the hotel lobby, dripping wet, after I got caught in the deluge. She could tell I needed a friend, and she was right there for me throughout the Summit.
9. Color – MaryAnn Bekkedahl, KEEP co-founder and President, joked about how she brought her customary NYC black wardrobe with her (yes, me, too, guilty as charged.) She noted how the room was filled with color, reflecting both a southern style and the impressive creativity of all who came.
10. Family –Being part of The Southern C feels like being part of a family and at The Summit, that family includes Vance, Victor, and Sudy. I would have missed each of them if they hadn't been able to come. Whitney and Cheri have placed friendliness and inclusion at the heart of their strategy and we all benefit from their personal integrity, energy, and fabulous ideas.
Congratulations to Whitney, Cheri and all who made The Summit such a fantastic success!
Mary Dell Harrington is co-founder of Grown and Flown, a parenting blog that looks at parenting kids, 15-25. She is a homesick Texan living in New York who loves to take off for St. Simons Island whenever possible. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.