Tasteful indoor plants accent the spacious all-white studio as natural light pours in through east-facing windows. Against a white brick wall hangs a small neon sign that reads, “Girls Girls Girls,” blazing in hot pink letters. Women drink from pink cans of LaCroix with boldly painted lips and finish each other’s sentences. They radiate style, warmth, and confidence.
No, this is not a Sex and the City spinoff. This is GRLS Studio in downtown Tacoma.
Created and managed by Sarah Alisdairi Close, Jaquilyn Shumate, Alexis Sargent, and Lana Alisdairi, GRLS Studio is a multipurpose studio supporting an evolving community of creative entrepreneurs in Tacoma and beyond.
“It started from our individual needs, and when we came together we were so inspired … it kind of grew to this, like, community collective space,” says Sargent.
The concept for GRLS Studio began years ago, but the catalyst was Close and Shumate’s impending 30th birthdays. The two friends had dreamed of a workspace outside of their respective homes and families. After nearly a decade of working from home, both felt a creative change was necessary. And within two months, GRLS Studio opened its doors on Pacific Avenue.
They all use the space for their own businesses: Close, a florist and balloon artist; Shumate, a photographer; Sargent, a freelance writer and marketer; and Alisdairi, owner of an online vintage shop and clothing designer. Now they’re helping others produce high-quality visual content to grow their businesses.
GRLS Studio is also available for rent to bloggers, photographers, real estate agents, and yogis already utilizing the studio. Need someone to take photos of you but don’t have the funds for a full-blown photo shoot? You can book an Insta Session, where one of “the grls” will capture studio images on an iPhone. It’s ideal for those who primarily use Instagram to connect with their audiences.
“It started from our individual needs, and when we came together we were so inspired … it kind of grew to this, like, community collective space.”
Sitting in the almost-painfully too-cool GRLS Studio, it’s easy to forget that you’re still in Tacoma — a city sometimes overshadowed by Seattle and its booming arts and culture scene. So why have four stylish, creative, and business-savvy women chosen to set up shop in Tacoma? Well, why not?
“Tacoma’s a city. We shouldn’t have to drive to Seattle for everything. I think that was a big part of it for us. Like, we shouldn’t feel like we have to go to Seattle to have cool things,” explains Shumate. Everyone enthusiastically agreed.
“We’re not willing to drive as far for a job or spend all our time commuting or living in a bigger house,” adds Alisdairi, commenting on a perceived generational shift in priorities and preferences.
The prevalence of social media and the importance of brand development for business growth are not likely to change anytime soon. GRLS Studio is helping to elevate and distinguish Tacoma creatives, and in the process, hopefully distinguish Tacoma as more than a mere “satellite city.” The studio was recently recognized by Darling Magazine as one of the places to get creative in Tacoma. More than a photography studio, GRLS Studio is building a network of creative collaborators to enrich each other’s work and their communities.
A central aspect of the GRLS Studio mission is developing what they call “an urban tight-knit community.” While the studio carries a strong message for female empowerment, it’s not exclusive to women. As a result, it has quickly developed into much more than a studio workspace, hosting a variety of events to inspire and connect like-minded individuals and build the creative community they want.
“Just coming together as women, helping each other out, having a space, supporting each other — that’s what our space is for us,” says Close.
Following an incredibly successful grand opening party, the studio hosted a Galentine’s Day and Midsummer Market with local, independent vendors. There are plans for future markets, but for now, you can join the monthly book club or occasional yoga session.
The women of GRLS Studio hope to dispel the catty and toxic relationships that can develop between women amid high pressure and intense competition. Instead, they aim to encourage and support other female creatives in business and life. These ladies prove that entrepreneurship, motherhood, and personal creative fulfillment are not mutually exclusive. Everyone is welcome to join the mission. Will you join them and become #oneofthegrls?