"Black Southern Belle's 2016 Tastemaker Summit Charlotte"

Every now and then you meet someone with whom you immediately clique.  Such was the case when I finally met the woman behind Black Southern Belle.  It seems like just yesterday that I received an email in my inbox from Michiel.  She had just launched her blog/website and was looking to feature black, southern women who were creative entrepreneurs.  Glad to help, I submitted my first post to the new blog and it was featured on May 11th of last year.  You wouldn't believe the growth of Black Southern Belle (BSB) since then.   When we finally met face-to-face last year, I think we could've talked for hours.  I absolutely loved her desire to create a place where BSBs could find a hub to support other black women in the south through using their services and/or reading about their life and achievements.

Shortly after launching BSB, she created the Black Southern Belle Collective.  Her vision for this arm of her brand is to create a curated network of diverse Southern-based vendors who are interested in investing and supporting each other’s business success and providing unique opportunities for the Black Southern Belle consumer. How awesome is that?!?  The development of the collective was the impetus for the Tastemaker Summit she recently hosted locally.

Photo courtesy of Denise Benson Photography
NOTE: How awesome is this program by Suite Paper?
I'll be honest, I was excited about this event from the very start.  I knew if Michiel had anything to do with it, it would be absolutely fabulous...I was right! 
Photo courtesy of Denise Benson Photography

The event took place at my design pal, Danielle McKim's TUFT (Today’s Unique Furniture Trends) location.  The stage was beautifully set for what was sure to be an event to remember.
Photo courtesy of Michelle Flowers Photo
If you're local and you haven't checked out Tuft, you need to.  Danielle's storefront offers beautiful furnishings, art and accessories.
Photo courtesy of Denise Benson Photography
There was so much pretty, it was almost hard to take it all in. From the swag bags we received upon entering to the amazing programs and souvenir books.  It was all just perfect!

Photo courtesy of Denise Benson Photography
The place was a buzz when attendees began to arrive likely because so many of us were already friends, followers and fans of one another on social media.  Meeting and chatting in person was icing on the cake.

Photo courtesy of Denise Benson Photography
Photo courtesy of Michelle Flowers Photo

Photo courtesy of Denise Benson Photography
Speaking of cake...The food was artfully prepared by Gravy Waltz and
let's just say I had my share of delectable delights.
Photo courtesy of Michelle Flowers Photo

Photo courtesy of Denise Benson Photography

Michiel opened things up by sharing her story with us and welcoming everyone to this inaugural event.  I was fortunate to be one of the distinguished panelists for the day along side LaVonndra Johnson, Founder of Elle VJ and Dainty James and Mary Guerry, Sales Manager for Charleston Visitors Bureau.  We kicked things off by discussing the importance of partnering with brands and business to build your own.
Photo courtesy of Denise Benson Photography

I loved sharing my journey with the group. The attendees were so engaged and so very supportive.
Photo courtesy of Denise Benson Photography
The opening panel was followed by Stephanie Gibbs who gave us the low down on creating amazing floral arrangements.  Let's just say I left with a page full of notes and a shopping list for what I need to make my own arrangements that I can only hope will be half as beautiful as hers.

Photo courtesy of Denise Benson Photography
Photo courtesy of Denise Benson Photography
Photo courtesy of Denise Benson Photography
Photo courtesy of Denise Benson Photography
Next up was my friend Jill McKenzie of Steve McKenzie's in Atlanta.  I actually met Jill a couple of years ago at the Design Blogger's Conference.  She's an excellent resource for designers and apparently an expert on setting a beautiful table. She shared with us four seasonal looks that were simple, unique and absolutely beautiful. 

Photo courtesy of Denise Benson Photography
Photo courtesy of Denise Benson Photography

Thanks to Jill I spent the following day combing the aisles of local thrift and resale shops looking for great pieces to add to my seasonal tablescapes.

Photo courtesy of Michelle Flowers Photo

LaShawnda Beacoats, Editor in Chief and my connection with Pride Magazine, was up next to moderate the second panel of the day.  This group, which included my friend Jennifer of Pure and Simple Organizing, shared with us the value of PR and media in building your own personal brand.
Photo courtesy of Denise Benson Photography
Photo courtesy of Denise Benson Photography
(L to R: LaVonndra Johnson, Founder of Elle VJ and Dainty James, Leah Knepper  Associate Vice President, French/West/Vaughan and Jennifer Burnham, Owner, Pure and Simple Organizing)
The final panel of the day focused on adding a storefront to your brand.  These inspirational guru's (L to R Nicole Clayton, Owner, The Cloth Mill at Eno River, Ariene Bethea, Owner, Dressing Rooms Interiors and Jill Mckenzie, Co-owner, Steve Mckenzie’s  Not Pictured: Danielle McKim) shared the good, bad and the ugly as it relates to taking on a retail or event space. 
Photo courtesy of Denise Benson Photography
In addition to the dynamic speakers and workshops, the opportunity to connect with so many other black southern belles was priceless.

Photo courtesy of Michelle Flowers Photo

Photo courtesy of Michelle Flowers Photo

Photo courtesy of Michelle Flowers Photo

Courtesy of AMB Party Booths

If I could do the entire day over again, I would.  That's just how amazing it was.  Oh, did I mention it was my 40th birthday? I can't think of a better way I could've spent it.  There is nothing like encouraging and being encouraged by others.  There was definitely a sense that we are all in this together and that's a great feeling to have. 

Before I sign off, I'd be remiss if I didn't shout out the person responsible for making it all happen.  I have a feeling the half has not been told.  I'm so proud of what Michiel is doing and all that she's accomplished in such a short time.  I'm amazed by the fact that she's so very willing to not just to promote herself but also to promote others. 

You know, we BSBs get a bad wrap sometimes.  We're often presumed to be snobby, stuck-up, unapproachable, etc. (Not true by the way.)  Sure, we may be a little prissy (ok a lot prissy), and we may like nice things, but we also have HUGE hearts and Michiel is a shining example of that if I've ever seen it. 

#BSBproud
Photo courtesy of Michelle Flowers Photo

Be sure to check out www.blacksouthernbelle.com
Until next time...

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