The First Timers Club is the sports team alternative for people who want to make new friends

The First Timers Club is the sports team alternative for people who want to make new friends
  • PublishedApril 15, 2024

It’s a warm Friday evening in Naarm/Melbourne at a Cameroonian restaurant and the conversation is free flowing among a group of women around a long outdoor table.

A passer-by might never guess that most of them have only just met. 

Penelope Jordan made a booking for the “random group of people”.

The founder of “First Timers Club”, Penelope says it’s a way to try new things – in this case Cameroonian cuisine – and meet new people.

It’s “really blown up”, she says, showing there’s a demand for this kind of connection.

“Everyone says join a sports team — which is great — but sometimes you don’t want to join a sports team,” Penelope says.

“This is the sports team, it’s just not a sport”.

An origin story 

Ms Jordan says the club was “born” a few years ago with two friends who “were tired of doing social activities that were getting coffees or going out for drinks”.

Instead, the group wanted activity and adventure – but also didn’t want to burn too much money.

“We did a free salsa dancing class, free tai chi, we did group dating once,” Ms Jordan says.

Last December she had returned to Melbourne from six months study overseas and “was realising that it’s really hard to meet new people”.

She also really wanted spontaneity because she was a little bored with the “routine of Melbourne.”

“I just put on my [personal] Instagram, ‘me and my friend have started this club called the First Timers Club. Is anyone keen to join?’ and we had maybe 60 of my followers … saying ‘yes we’re keen’. So, I put them all in an inbox and we just started inviting people to things,” Penelope says.

The first gathering began with a catch up in a park.

“We had a whiteboard, and we brainstormed a list of things that we wanted to do,” she says.

A Korean barbecue dinner and an eighties themed fitness class followed.

A private message group on Instagram, became a WhatsApp group with people adding each other. By late January, the club had its own — more formal — Instagram account.

“Once we got on Instagram, people found out about it organically,” she says.

“It’s just kept growing because everyone was so excited by the idea.”

‘Fun cohort of people’

“Every time I go to something,” says Penelope, “I’m really nervous beforehand because I just have this moment of ‘what am I doing?'”.

She says there’s a fear that no-one will turn up, or that only one other person will attend and be desperately underwhelmed by her company.

“I think as an adult, making a new friend is the most embarrassing thing.”

The shifting attendance of people at dance classes, swims and comedy gigs “surprises [her] every time”.

The club’s attendees are mainly women in their twenties and thirties, which, Ms Jordan says, is a time of life that often involves a lot of transience.

“It’s this really fun cohort of people who are just wanting to give it a go … or know what it’s like moving to a new place and having to meet new people, and so they’re willing to [turn up],” she says.

The future for First Timers

The group continues to gain momentum.

Penelope says someone recently messaged her to say they were thinking about moving to Melbourne and took coming across the first timers club on Instagram as their sign to do it.

She admits the pressure of that does make her “a little bit scared”.

And, while she’s happy for people to follow along online she’s keen for it to be “in person” for the most part.

“We want it to be like a community,” she says.

It’s a community with potential to expand, Penelope says, with multiple attendees, including people who have recently moved to Melbourne from Tasmania and Kenya, saying how valuable a  similar social club could be in their own town or city.

She also thinks the idea could translate well into retirement villages and aged care homes.


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