In June 2023, Emily Drew started up the Flagler Girls Club not knowing what it would amount to. The idea was similar to something other women had done in major cities, but it was largely untested in places like Flagler County. At face value, the idea of an all-ages, child and pet-friendly, free social club must’ve seemed like a no-brainer. But as any local organizer could confirm, it’s rarely that easy.
As it would turn out, Drew was on to something. The idea resonated just as she’d hoped, and now it’s an increasingly popular destination for women of all ages to get outside, try something new, and meet new people. It also provides a way to support local businesses; the club visits local coffee shops and cafes regularly in their events.
Organizing the Flagler Girls Club is a labor of love for Drew. It’s something she has had to carve out time for alongside being a wife and mother of two as well as a professional photographer. In this interview, Drew speaks about how the Flagler Girls Club came to be, what women can expect by coming to an event, and what the reaction so far has meant to her.
Chris Gollon: What inspired you to start up the Flagler Girls Club?
Emily Drew: “Flagler Girls Club was started somewhat selfishly because I felt like I was going through a period of time where I was really craving friendship. Moving here and going from a big city and having every resource to make friends, to a smaller town where there wasn’t really an outlet for young females that I knew and have the same interests as me. I wanted to find something like that here, and after researching and trying to find it and looking at bigger cities, I found a group in Jacksonville that was similar to Flagler Girls Club and I was like, ‘That is so cool, I wish we had that here!’ Their group is purely just female walking. I really want to find a group of walking, and like…let’s go do fun picnics. Let’s go get coffee together. Like, let’s just make friends together.
“So it started in a group chat. I texted my friends and I said, ‘Do you guys think this idea is silly? Will people be receptive to this here? Or is it just a thought that I should put away?’ And they were like, ‘No, I think it’s a great idea!’ So in June, I started the Instagram for Flagler Girls Club. For a while our group was really small and then it just started growing, growing and growing. And in moments where I was really questioning what I was doing, I saw what was happening around me and women making friends, and the beauty of that. I think what started with a selfish thought of ‘I want friends’ has turned into watching others make friends and just women supporting women.”
CG: Was getting it off the ground more or less challenging than you anticipated?
ED: “I think the original hype of like, ‘Hey, this is Flagler Girls Club, this is what we are, this is the community’ and you know, the sisterhood as we walk into fun events…the hype was there and people loved it. And then we kind of hit this wall where I was like, ‘How do I get people to find out about us?’ I really had to utilize Instagram, TikTok, Facebook groups, every social media outlet that I could think of. In the last few months we hit 1,000 followers on Instagram, and it’s just been growing since then. People are just telling their friends about us and it’s just been blossoming since then!”
CG: Do you head up the club yourself or do you have people that you collaborate on it with?
ED: “It is all me currently. I would like to eventually get others to be more hands on but it is a big task. It’s like a free job that I love doing. It’s not a paid gig and I don’t ever want it to be a paid club or anything like that. It will always be free unless we’re doing paid events with local businesses. But no, it’s just me. I do all the social media, all the posting. And we do get a lot of businesses that reach out to us to collaborate, which is really nice. So I work really closely with local businesses now.”
CG: I know you touched on it a bit earlier, but what sorts of events does the club do?
ED: “During the summer we do sunrise yoga. For right now we’re doing mid-morning yoga monthly. For February we’re hosting a big Galentine’s Day party. We’re doing a bar class at the new yoga studio in European Village, we hosted plant terrarium building workshops. We’ve done beach picnics. And in March we have, like, a jewelry charms making thing. Coffee and charms. We do all sorts of things!”
CG: Aside from the obvious of being a girl, are there any requirements to attend an event?
ED: “No, just a willingness and a desire really. There’s no pressure. We like to keep it open invite, and all are welcome. All ages, all females. If you’re looking to come make friends in a community, that’s the only thing that’s really needed to come hang out.”
CG: What are some of the places you go, and how long does the typical event go on for?
ED: “If we’re doing a walk, we’ll usually do like a 45 minute walk. We’ll walk across the Flagler bridge or Betty Steflik and then we’ll usually do an open invite coffee day after. We frequent Yes Coffee Co. a lot. Sip and Surf. I like to do polls so that everyone feels included in where we’re going and the walking trails that we’re doing. And then for events, our Galentine’s is going to be one big girl party. We have about 100 women going so it’s going to be raging all night! Yoga, is usually an hour, and then lots of girls will link up and then go out after together, even if there’s nothing set in stone. It’s just from the friendships that they’re building within the group.”
CG: What has the response you’ve gotten so far meant to you?
ED: “This one’s gonna make me cry! [Laughs] It’s just so much to me. Circling back to times where I felt discouraged, because it is a lot of work on top of photography and kids and marriage and life. It is a lot of work to set aside something that has no profit except for emotional profit. It’s the joy of seeing other women, or getting a text message from someone saying, ‘Hey, I just want to let you know that me and so-and-so are hanging out later and I wouldn’t have met her without this’ or we’ll go on a walk and there’s a new girl and she’ll message me after saying, ‘I had a really great time and I really needed this’. It’s really meant everything to me. It’s really showed me that there was a need for this community within Flagler County.”
CG: What would you say to someone who’s apprehensive about checking out a club where they may not know anyone?
ED: “I would reassure them that it is normal to feel nervous to show up somewhere you don’t know anyone. I’d say about 90% of women who come to Flagler Girls Club and who keep coming back started as someone showing up alone. And it’s scary, but we’re there for you. You can always reach out to us so that we know that you’re coming, and we will make sure that we take every step to make you feel comfortable and welcome and that you hopefully have a great time with us.”
CG: How do you hope to see the club evolve over the next few years of being around?
ED: “I know for this year it’s for Flagler Girls Club to start giving back to our community as well. To start partnering up with local nonprofits, and really becoming a part of the bigger scheme of things. Where we’re at now is so much more than I thought we would be last year. I had no idea that it could grow into a group of so many women coming out and showing up. But I would say that’s my biggest goal right now, to just give back. To do good.”