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'NWA Newbies' work to build community among newcomers in Northwest Arkansas

Grace Anderson and Riley Smith started an Instagram account last year to share their favorite local places with friends. Now, it has grown into much more than that.

ARKANSAS, USA — New people are moving to Northwest Arkansas daily, and getting plugged into a new community can be challenging.

That’s why two Bentonville women teamed up to help newcomers feel at home.

On Instagram, they’re known as the NWA Newbies.

Grace Anderson and Riley Smith started the account last year to share their favorite local places with friends.

“Grace and I always had friends and family asking us, ‘Hey, we're coming in town for a weekend, what do we need to do?’” Smith said.

Since their first post in May of last year, they say it’s grown into much more than that.

“A lot of people started saying, ‘All of your content’s really great, but I want to know how to make friends here,’ because everybody was a new grad, or just started their new job or had moved here from another state and knew nobody,” Smith said.

That’s when Anderson and Smith decided to plan an NWA Newbies event to help their followers connect and make friends.

They say around 150 people showed up for the first event, and now they’ve hosted eight total.

“And it's only gotten bigger, every single event has gotten significantly bigger and bigger over time,” Anderson said.

Since then, the Newbies have gained thousands of followers, partnerships with local small businesses, and many new friends.

“The first surprise was we got the opportunity to help people build community,” Smith said. “And then secondly, we built a community for ourselves too.”

Looking ahead, Anderson and Smith say they want to continue to use their platform to support small businesses and connect people in their community.

"Even though we call ourselves ‘newbies,’ we want it to be a platform for everyone to connect because it’s really hard to make friends, especially in your 20s and 30s, it’s challenging,” Anderson said.

Anderson and Smith say in addition to the eight events, they have held 20 giveaways for small businesses, and their calendar for the next year is already filling up.

“We want to keep that momentum going and really just be open to where it takes us,” Smith said.

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