136 West High Street Bellefonte , PA 16823
By Ellen Matis
It’s no secret that Bellefonte is home to some wildly creative people. Now, Bellefonte photographer Lydia Shafer is bringing creative minds together with a “Local Girl Gang.”
Shafer, who opened her photography studio on West High Street in downtown Bellefonte in 2017, said that the studio’s opening was just the first step into cultivating a community of Centre County’s creative women.
“A few years ago I wish I lived in a city for the sole reason of finding a large community of creative business-minded people,” she said. “My Instagram feed would be filled with photos of a creatives meeting up in a trendy restaurant, or a pop-up shop in a cute boutique. I wanted to find people like this who like to think outside the box and live a creative unique life.”
And she found them instead in Bellefonte and the surrounding areas. Tons of them.
Shafer held her first Local Girl Gang meetup at her studio in late February, and almost 50 women working in creative industries or running their own businesses in the Centre County area showed up to network, drink mimosas and eat delicious treats made by local women. They each found out about it through Shafer’s Facebook group, where the girls collaborate with eachother.
“The goal of the Facebook group was to introduce them to each other and start a little Bellefonte girls business networking group. As girls we love to share information. You need your makeup done for an event? I know a girl down the street. You need a cute birthday gift? I have a friend who owns a cute boutique one block over.”
She noted that in Bellefonte alone, there are at least five women-owned businesses just on her studio’s street.
“Initially I thought maybe 10 to 20 local girls would be interested in this private Facebook group. There were two new girls opening business on High Street in Bellefonte, so I was very excited to add my new neighbors to the group,” Shafer said. “Word must have gotten out, because we currently have more than 140 girls in the group. It’s clearly not just Bellefonte girls anymore but everyone is still within Central Pennsylvania.”
The meetup in February was an Instagramer’s dream — and that was totally on purpose. Each business owner that came to the meetup has found most of their success on the social network. Many local girls contributed to the meetup, providing event planning services, treats and more: Elise Events Co., Emily’s Pocketful of Posies, The Cakery, Leslie Felmlee, and Chalk it up With Shianne.
A second “girl gang” event is already planned at Lydia Shafer Photography — and the public is welcome. Willow & Sage, an online fine jewelry boutique based in scenic Happy Valley, is holding a pop-up shop at the studio from 12:30 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, March 9. Private bridal appointments are also available at the studio from 10 a.m. to noon. Register for a private appointment here.
And this is just the first of many events that will be held at the studio.
“Moving forward I am excited to see what comes from the Local Girl Gang. I hope to see lots of collaborations, girls using the Facebook group as a way to ask for advice and really just to support each other. We have already starting throwing around ideas for the next meet-up. So far we know there will be a Margarita bar and a couple of ice-breaker games.”
To join the group, search Local Girl Gang on Facebook.
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