Jerra Nalley has a simple mission for Leisurlist: “Everything to eat, see and do in Northwest Arkansas.”
So far, Nalley has been successful with a website that gets about 1,000 users a week and those who visit the site, tend to stay for a bit.
“They usually spend 1:41 per visit,” Nalley says. “That’s really good. It means they are on the site, and looking around and the longer they stay, the better. But that’s something we want to keep growing.”
That’s not bad for a website that started as an e-mail Nalley put together when she worked for Walmart.
“Our whole job was why you should at work at Walmart and why you should come to Northwest Arkansas,” Nalley says of her previous job working with corporate recruiters. “My job was to help those recruiters tell that story and I started sending out a weekly e-mail with some links on things to do and things that highlighted the region.”
The e-mail was a hit.
“It started getting forwarded around,” Nalley says. “And more people started to see it and more people started forwarding it and that led to more people and it started to bring together all the top things to do.”
One might think that recruiting people to work at the world’s largest company and has more than 2.3 million employees might be easy but that isn’t quite the case.
“The area had been sold to families,” Nalley says. “That Northwest Arkansas was this great place to raise a family and it is but that doesn’t help getting young professionals, who aren’t married and don’t have children. That might something that could appeal to them in the future but that’s not now and it was trying to get them interested and why they should come and visit.”
Young professionals are typically defined as those between 25 and 44 with graduate degrees and working in a white-collar job.
Nalley, 30 and with a Master’s in Business Administration, fits rights in and that made her a natural.
“We’re still relatively new but we’ve found a lot of success so far,” she says. “It is a small team, three full-time, including myself, and we have two interns, so the immediate goal is expanding the team and then looking at other areas of the country to expand into.”
Nalley said the next market would need to have a good amount of young professionals and have a metro population of 500,000 to two million but also be underserved with a lack of online resources to keep people informed.
Nalley said market research into where’s next is ongoing.
Getting to Northwest Arkansas
While Nalley is a native Arkansan, born and bred in Benton who knows to get the strawberry shortcake at Bald Knob’s Bulldog Restaurant, she didn’t move to Northwest Arkansas until she was 18, and a freshman at the University of Arkansas.
“I came home for one summer, but have been here ever since,” she says with a laugh and added going to Arkansas was an easy choice.
“My dad went to school here,” Nalley says. “My mom went to school here. My brother went to school here. I wanted to go to school here.”
While the college choice was easy, a major wasn’t.
“I was going to be an information systems major,” Nalley says. “I was looking for something more creative. I wanted to go into marketing and didn’t realize it then.”
That changed though.
“I was in the college of business and they require you to take these different classes,” she says. “So I went into one of my marketing classes and realized that’s where I wanted to be and I was able to declare marketing.”
She was also able to escape the gravitational pull of law school as well.
“My dad’s a lawyer, my brother’s a lawyer. They have a firm together in Benton,” Nalley says. “And when I was in high school I helped at his office. “I was a like a legal aide and helped with the paperwork and delivering things to the courthouse. I knew then, it wasn’t for me.”
North by Northwest
In the decade plus Nalley has been in Northwest Arkansas, the area has seen some remarkable changes from the addition of a minor-league baseball team to the opening of a world-class art museum, along with rapid population growth and a growing reputation as one of the best places to live in America.
“Honestly, Crystal Bridges is up there,” Nalley says when asked her favorite thing to do. “But riding my bike on the Razorback Greenway, I mean, I just rode from Lowell to the Pinnacle area and seeing the landscape and seeing the towns on a bike is really quite something. You get a completely different perspective and you can stop. Go to Black Apple Crossing and get a cider or hit a taqueria and get a taco. You just can’t beat it.”
Unless it is pizza.
“I’ve never had a bad meal at Wood Stone,” Nalley says of the craft pizza restaurant. “My favorite food is Italian and pizza and they just opened a second location that’s near the house.”
So while Nalley is an evangelist for Northwest Arkansas, she’s also on the road and telling people about her home state.
“When I travel, whether it is the Uber driver or at the Airbnb, they ask me about Arkansas,” Nalley says. “The best thing about Arkansas is the people. You will not find better people. So supportive. So helpful. No matter where you are in the state, so many people are always there to help you.”
That’s a plus when trying to grow a business that is about getting people together.
“That’s really the goal of Leisurlist,” Nalley says. “We really want to facilitate those connections.”
And that’s not a bad goal to have.