Photography by Meredith Mashburn.
A native of Plano, Texas, Jennifer Esty and her husband instantly fell in love with Northwest Arkansas while visiting the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville in 2000. Between the art scene, the endless ways to enjoy the outdoors, and the area’s entrepreneurial spirit, the region was a perfect fit and place to put down roots. From a professional standpoint, Jennifer’s love of her city’s small business scene has long been a guiding factor; after starting her career in the fashion retail industry, she spent more than 10 years working with local small businesses in various capacities. Her professional and personal passions converged when she became part of The Scout Guide Northwest Arkansas team in 2019, and in 2021 she took on the role of editor/owner. Today, Jennifer delights in the creativity, connection, and opportunity to create awareness around local businesses that her job provides while constantly scouting the next new concept, business, or event in the ever-evolving NWA area. The passionate small business advocate, tennis enthusiast, and frequent traveler will launch The Scout Guide Northwest Arkansas, Volume 6 in September 2022.
The Scout Guide: Tell us about your background.
Jennifer Esty: After graduating from Texas Tech in 1994, I spent 12 years in the fashion retail world. During that time, in each of my roles, I learned a lot about people and customer service—something that I recommend everyone do at some point in their life. It teaches you to think on your feet, handle all kinds of personalities, problem solve, and strategize. After that I started working with local businesses in Northwest Arkansas, where we moved in 2000 when my husband decided to finish getting his degree in landscape architecture. I worked for an optometrist, Mertins Eye & Optical, for years and did everything there was to do, including social media and buying. My husband and I started our own business in 2010, a landscape company that was his dream and vision.
TSG: How did you discover The Scout Guide?
JE: I discovered The Scout Guide when our previous editor, Rebekah Lawrence, was launching Volume 1 in 2016. I was still working for Mertins, and I met Rebekah when she came in and talked to us about The Scout Guide and becoming members (they have been featured in all six volumes!). We ran in the same circles, so I got to know her and The Scout Guide more, and when the opportunity arose to be her associate editor I jumped at the chance. I didn’t even have to think about it. The Scout Guide is a combination of everything I love. I get to live out loud and share what I love about Northwest Arkansas while connecting people, creating awareness about, and supporting local small businesses!
The transition to becoming editor was pretty seamless because I had my hands in so much already. I also had a lot of support from Rebekah and from The Scout Guide HQ to set me up for success. Plus, I feel like almost every job I’ve had prepared me for owning The Scout Guide NWA. In my retail years I ran multi-million dollar grossing stores, and I’ve also seen the inner workings of running small businesses. The one thing that they all have in common is the need to exceed the expectations of your client base by making sure that you deliver what you promise.
What I love most about being an editor is the creative aspect. It is so much fun to bring out and showcase the personalities behind all of these amazing businesses. I love to work with clients in our creative meetings and then bring their vision to life. My favorite part is to see the look on our members’ faces when they see the photos taken of them. People can be so camera-shy, but when we show them their photos on the spot during the shoot they always love it! I also think that The Scout Guide does such an incredible job of telling the story of the people behind the businesses. Small local businesses are such a critical part of the success of a community, so it’s good to get to know the people that keep them going. It also helps to build a relationship between the business owner and client that creates loyalty for both.
Behind the scenes of TSG Northwest Arkansas client Amy Keever’s photoshoot. Photography by Meredith Mashburn.
TSG: Can you describe a typical day?
JE: No day is ever the same, and I love that. We are always in some stage of launching the new guide. That said, a typical day is a mix of meeting with new clients and working with existing members on what they’re focusing on and how we can promote them. Right now, we’re hosting a lot of creative meetings and scheduling photoshoots for volume 6.
Today, I took my 14-year-old son to school first thing, as I always do, with coffee in hand and then hit the ground running. I visited with a few clients, and then my photographer, Meredith Mashburn, and I had a couple of creative meetings and a quick photoshoot (for me, actually). I also meet with our interns once a week, and today we planned our social media content for the next couple of weeks and are working on the quarterly content coming up. I’m out and about a lot, so I always try to check my email first thing in the morning, around lunchtime, and then again when I get home at the end of the day so I don’t miss anything.
TSG: What do you love most about your area?
JE: There is always something bubbling up around here! I will say that I’m very excited about the new building concept going up in Bentonville. It’s called Ledger and it’s a bikeable building. There is a huge biking community in Northwest Arkansas, and this building is going to be an amazing compliment to that. Basically, if you work on the 6th floor of Ledger, you can take ramps outside of the building and bike to your office. It’s also going to be housing an impressive art component potentially include an artist residency program. There is always a new concept or business or unique event in this area. It’s exhilarating!
Other reasons I love NWA include our phenomenal art scene, from murals on buildings to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, and if you are an outdoor enthusiast, there are an endless number of trails, rivers, hikes…you name it.
Subway Cave in Sedona.
The Hit List: Jenn’s Favorites
Flower: Ranunculus—soft with so many layers
Meal/cuisine: I’m honestly just a fan of a good breakfast. I’m definitely a savory over sweet person, and there is so much comfort in breakfast dishes.
Drink: I love a gin and soda with lime…it’s so clean.
Movie: I recently watched C’mon C’mon on a flight and loved it! But an all-time favorite is probably Almost Famous.
TV series: I’ve been re-watching Seinfeld lately with my kids and that’s been a lot of fun.
Vacation spot: The desert Southwest has my heart.
Accessory: For Valentine’s Day one year my husband got me a vintage locket and it’s one of my most treasured accessories.
Article of clothing: Well, my friends tell me I should stop buying long cardigans, so….
Time of day: I’m always sad to see the sun go down, but sunsets are my favorite.
Possession: Okay, this is silly, but one of the things that I would grab if the house was on fire is my grandmother’s pickle recipe. I’m not kidding. They’re just not made like that anymore and hers were the best! We make them every summer.
To learn more about Jennifer and The Scout Guide in her area, follow The Scout Guide Northwest Arkansas on Instagram and visit The Scout Guide Northwest Arkansas website. Learn about starting The Scout Guide in your city here.