How Brit Chandler Opened Lancaster’s First All-Inclusive Creative Studio Space
In an old, converted tobacco warehouse on Liberty Street, Britt Chandler sits on a velvet rose-colored chair, one of the many beautiful accessories she’s collected for her new photography and event studio, At Sovereign. A longtime entrepreneur, the space isn’t just a career move for Britt — it’s also a state of mind.
At Sovereign is a fully equipped studio that photographers, bloggers, influencers and other creatives can rent for shoots and events. Since opening in November 2018, it’s been home to wedding cocktail receptions, baby showers, stylized bridal shoots and has quickly become a mecca for local photographers. The space features furniture and accessories spanning from mid-century modern to Victorian, supplying a versatile look and feel for any businesses’ needs.
Before the studio, Britt owned a business called Brand Strategy Co., a consulting and management agency that offered everything from branding to strategy to photography. Though she worked with individuals and organizations from all around the country, she saw a market gap back in the spring of 2018, and decided to take the leap.
After hosting a workshop on stylized photography, one attendee approached her saying they’d pay just to have props to use for projects, and a seed was planted. “I always had a dream for a furnished studio,” Britt said. “And I worked out of another coworking space for three years and I loved it, but I also loved hoarding for whatever reason a lot of cocktail glasses and random things,” a skill that proved essential to At Sovereign’s framework.
Britt knew that she already had what she needed to begin the process of building the studio, given that she’d had an eclectic collection of items in her own garage that she’d gathered over the years. Between glass and homeware alone, she says her space was all about bursting at the seams. After she was introduced to a bridal rental business in Richmond that had a similar business model, Britt was sold. That studio had color-coordinated accessories lining their walls, and she knew that she could create something similar.
It was at that point that she started looking for venues. “When I found the space, I wasn’t really looking for the space. I had a rough outline of a business plan for this photo studio business I’d been dreaming about. But I thought, ‘there’s too much going,’ she said. But it didn’t take long for the right space to show up. That October, she took one look at Sovereign’s now home, and fell in love. She pitched the business plan to an investor the next week, and by November 1st, she had the keys in hand.
Even more serendipitously, the business’ name came to Britt in a dream. She wasn’t even sure what the word “sovereign” meant at first, but when she looked it up, it was perfect. “The one definition I saw of sovereign was: not ruled by anyone. Not ruled by any entity. It was my life’s motto,” she said. The timing was perfect, too. It was during the same year that Britt went through a breakup, during which she was told she was “too independent,” something that she wanted to lean into even more in the aftermath.
That’s a current theme of my life: Don’t tell me what to do. Don’t tell me no. I’m going to do what I want to do and I’m going to do it my way.
Piece by piece, Britt built At Sovereign with a little sweat, a lot of time, and a steady vision. She acquired rare finds to fill the studio with things she loves and hopes others will too. And yes, it does include color-coordinated shelves filled with everything from her beloved glassware to throw pillows and just about anything else you’d need to stage a room. Despite the meticulous setup, Britt did mention that she wants clients to feel at ease when they’re at the studio. “When a client comes into the space, they can move everything around, rearrange it however they’d like to get the shot they need,” she said.
“At Sovereign is result of me figuring out what I’m capable of. It’s a physical manifestation of that independence,” Britt said, and it couldn’t be more true. Her vision is a reality, and while it’s opened a new chapter for Britt, At Sovereign has also become a creative asset to downtown Lancaster and beyond
By: Allison Rohland