Travel Startups: Stiletto Escape Founders Tap ‘Wanderlust’ Market

Learn how Shivani Ballesteros and Jana Wallis validated and launched their wanderlust travel startup and why they believe every entrepreneur should learn how to sell.

Wanderlusting, the strong desire for or impulse to wander or travel and explore the world, is big business.

“Direct spending on leisure travel by domestic and international travelers totaled $597 billion in 2012,” according to USTravel.org. Leisure, business and international travel spending continues to prove resilient as “3 out of 4 domestic trips taken are for leisure purposes (77%)” keeping travel among the top 10 industries in 48 states and D.C. in terms of employment.

Entrepreneurs, Shivani Ballesteros and Jana Wallis aim to capitalize on the wanderlust in us all and make planning your next getaway easier with a personalized approach.

Before working at an international law firm in Paris, Ballesteros studied foreign policy at Delhi University. While hiking the Yamunotri trail in India and convincing her girlfriends to jet off to Ibiza, her wanderlust inclinations were met with a common problem. “Women our age … we want to travel with our girlfriends, but planning is a constant obstacle,” Ballesteros explains. Wallis also found herself faced with a similar dilemma as she planned trips to sunbathe on the private beaches of Costa Rica, and weekends getaways to visit friends.

The two San Diego-based entrepreneurs, both avid travelers who sought out adventure, soon realized they could capitalize on their passion and develop a niche offering that could resonate with women like themselves.

Stiletto-Escape-Founders-Shivani-Ballesteros-and-Jana-Wallis

In 2012, the two ‘escape artists’, Ballesteros and Wallis, launched Stiletto Escape, a trip planning and conceirge service for girlfriend getaways. Both founders believed that somewhere between traditional travel agencies and the overwhelming online and social media travel recommendation sites was the need for personalized travel planning services.

While the most widely-used information source to plan leisure trips is the Internet followed by online travel agencies, branded suppliers, and other websites, both women aim to meet the needs of their underserved niche.

Ballesteros and Wallis want to take the guesswork and confusion out of travel planning and help clients narrow their choices when confronted with a myriad of options. From travel booking to accommodations and personalized itineraries, Stiletto Escape envisions planning a client’s vacation from beginning to end.

Their bet and business may soon pay off. According to U.S. Travel Association reports, “Gen Y (those born after 1980) makes up 12 percent of all U.S. leisure travelers and those traveling in this group take and average of 3.9 leisure trips per year. Gen Yers also represent 13 percent of all business travelers and take an average of 4.2 business trips per year.”

“Our customers are busy women who struggle to plan trips because they simply don’t have the time. We provide the solution to that problem, while giving our clients the fantastic vacation they deserve,” said Ballesteros.

Learn how Shivani Ballesteros and Jana Wallis validated and launched their wanderlust travel startup and why they believe every entrepreneur should learn how to sell.

Company: Stiletto Escape
Founders: Shivani Ballesteros, Jana Wallis
Location: San Diego, CA
Industry: Travel and Tourism
Startup Year: 2012
Startup Costs: Undisclosed

How We Got Started

We recognized early on in our friendship that we shared mutual passions for travel, food, and friends; in addition to a desire to have more autonomy in our work lives. We also noticed a common problem women our age were having: we want to travel with our girlfriends, but planning is a constant obstacle.

 

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