TRAVERSE CITY — Alycia Pollotta learned to shoot as a U.S. Marine.

It stayed with her through a bachelor’s in communication and the master’s program at Michigan State University, through a move up north and through two and a half years working odd jobs and figuring out what, exactly, she wanted to do.

And it became that.

Pollotta explored her new area and visited different gun clubs, finding a noticeable lack of female instructors and women involved in shooting.

She found herself dwelling on it.

“For someone who likes to shoot and looking into gun clubs, it seemed like a climate more for men and their wives, instead of men and women,” Pollotta said. “I’ve never really been good at taking a backseat.

“And I didn’t have a husband.”

So she got to work.

Pollotta reached out to friend and fellow marine Candise Vogel and her husband Matt, who leads shooting and firearms safety classes at Oak Tree Gun Club in California.

He offered tips on training and certification, and offered advice on how to go about forming an LLC and starting a business.

It gave Pollotta the confidence and know-how to start Like a Lady Firearms Training.

Candise was hesitant about the idea at first, but the need proved surprising.

“I was completely wrong and she knew I was wrong,” Candise said with a laugh. “You can’t buy a gun, take a certification class and be a safe owner. It’s not like riding a bike — if you’re not practicing and not maintaining, you’re not going to retain that.”

Pollotta’s been teaching women-attended classes in basic handgun and self-defense pistol shooting at the Cedar Rod and Gun Club and other local ranges since last fall.

Like A Lady also offers concealed pistol license classes, group events and private sessions.

“I wanted to spearhead an environment where women could be more comfortable,” said the veteran, who spent five years on active duty. “And I’m not saying all are, but a lot of women are more comfortable with a female instructor.”

And, as it turns out, they were.

Pollotta typically works seven days a week — she meets for private classes during the week and on Sundays, and meets up for practices and CPL classes most other days.

“If I have the audience and the students looking for it, I’ll make myself available,” she said.

She did for Meg Zammit, a local realtor who sought out a one-on-one class last month.

Zammit’s aim was becoming more comfortable shooting and building knowledge on the mechanical side of firearms.

“I grew up with uncles and grandpas who taught me to target shoot, but I’d never used a handgun and found them really intimidating,” Zammit said. “I didn’t feel comfortable knowing all the pieces, operating one.”

The classes, while welcoming women, are open to men as well. Pollotta goes through basic safety, mechanics, stances and proper firearms care at her average one-on-one class, but instruction can vary depending on student ability level and what they’re looking to learn.

“She’s not just sitting there clicking through a PowerPoint — she’s giving advice, real life applications,” Zammit said. “She really goes beyond the mechanics.”

“It ranges from basic, never ever shot ever, to more experienced shooters,” Pollotta added.

Zammit took a concealed pistol license course under Pollotta this spring, joining a group of about eight other women of different careers, ages and experience levels.

The mix proves similar in Pollotta’s recently started chapter of A Girl and A Gun, a national shooting league open to women of any age and ability level.

Pollotta’s is just the second chapter in Michigan.

Nationally, the gun club’s grown to host all-ladies competition squads and compete in nationwide championships, and aims to make women more comfortable taking classes and handling firearms.

It’s what drew Zammit in.

A Facebook post about the shooting league piqued her interest, and she found herself browsing Like A Lady’s page.

It proved good timing — staying safe had been on her mind.

“I feel fortunate that we live in an area that’s incredibly safe. However, I also work in an industry where I’m alone a lot of the time, especially in rural areas and with people I don’t know well,” Zammit said. “It felt like a natural fit.”

Pollotta’s friendly, energetic personality helps a student feel at ease, Zammit added. The instructor always pauses to answer questions and happily passes along information or repeats a lesson.

“You’re in a setting that’s welcoming and warm — the complete opposite of intimidating,” she said. “She’s just incredibly open and approachable. She wouldn’t make you feel bad not knowing something.”

And, Zammit added, that’s important.

“A lot of women are in the position of going to a class or pursuing a CPL because of an assault in the past. And if they were, it might be difficult for them to trust and feel safe learning to protect themselves,” she said. “(Pollotta) makes it a lot more accessible to people who might feel less comfortable with a man.”

Like a Lady’s next CPL class is open for enrollment and runs April 27 at the Greilick Outdoor Recreation & Education Center, 4754 Scout Camp Road, Traverse City. She’s wrapping up her summer calendar of classes and events next week.

Contact Pollotta at 231-944-0095 or for more information.