Cheri LeavyCheri Leavy and her team run Bulldawg Illustrated, a print and web publication for UGA football fans, and guide2athens, an instructional magazine and website with updates on Athens culture and events.

In 2011 Cheri and her friend Whitney Long started The Southern Coterie, or The Southern C, a blog and community which they affectionately call “the South’s front porch for entrepreneurs and creatives.” By using both print and online platforms, the businesses have overlapping audiences in the Southeast and beyond.

Teacher, Editor, Entrepreneur

Cheri Leavy came to Athens by way of Oxford, MS and her hometown of St. Simons, where she met her husband Vance. She graduated from UGA, and started her career as a high school creative writing English teacher. Her first taste of a print product came from instructing a class that produced a regular literary magazine.

After years teaching her students to edit and format their work, Cheri started working for Vance’s family newspaper, Brunswick News Publishing. She was hired as editor for one of their publications, Coastal Illustrated.

Her experience editing Coastal Illustrated encircled her love for education with her interests in art, design, and writing. Her position allowed her to collaborate among contributors and across industries. While Cheri was working with Coastal Illustrated, her husband Vance had the idea of creating a Georgia football publication, and their first enterprise, Bulldawg Illustrated, was born.

Serving the Art, Business, and Sports Communities

Given her publishing experience and pride for her alma mater, Cheri was drawn to the concept of Bulldawg Illustrated, but her gut told her that the project needed a fan element to succeed. She and Vance decided to split the work according to their strengths, with Vance doing the sports reporting and Cheri handling the social promotion. The couple has now run Bulldawg Illustrated for 13 years, with guide2athens added to the schedule for the last six.

The more Cheri and Vance got to know the Athens entrepreneur community, the more certain they became that the town needed a platform to show off its businesses. guide2athens began as a glossy booklet featuring local enterprises, and the trademark “little black books” ended up in hotels, shops, and in wedding guest bags. The UGA School of Law distributes guide2athens to its students, and Athens’ vast Caterpillar plant recently placed an order for its new employees. guide2athens has since expanded to include a growing online community.

Cheri wanted to offer all of the passionate business owners, makers, and doers the opportunity to connect, collaborate, and create, so she worked with cofounder Whitney Long to create The Southern Coterie. Cheri had a clear vision for the organization:

Southern Living and Garden & Gun are great publications that do such an incredible job capturing the lifestyle of the South, but I have a passion for the entrepreneurial spirit found in our region. I felt there was a need to bring together the business owners, bloggers, jewelers, designers — all the creative makers and doers of the South for education and inspiration. That’s what the Southern Coterie Summit is: a chance to connect, learn from each other, and hear from experts. Our digital network is an extension of that effort.”

Putting the Pieces Together

Cheri is serious about one thing: her #1 strength is her ability to connect people. She compares her social ability to that of having a mental Rolodex. The minute someone tells her what they’re up to, she’s thinking of whom they should connect with in town, and does her best to push them in the right direction.

The Southern C Summit—a sold out marketing conference in Charleston—is an extension of her connection-facilitating prowess. Cheri knows how to look at the whole picture of a small business, and helps owners to holistically review their approach to branding, sales, and social media. She loves digging into businesses and hearing who their audience is, who they want their audience to be, and helping to reach those audiences.