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.

Everyone could find the time to take a vacation, but no one was able to invest the hours after work or on the weekends to actually piece together the trips we all wanted to take. We were inspired to start Stiletto Escape one day after sitting around a table with our girlfriends struggling to piece together our next vacation.

With our extensive travel experience and diverse backgrounds, we identified a missed opportunity in the travel market; somewhere between traditional travel agents and endless social media recommendations was the need for personalized service with a “local” type of destination expertise.

The turning point for us occurred when we tested our business idea with a focus group of over 50 women. Results of the focus group indicated that women were actually interested in this concept and needed it! After detailed conversations, hours of research, and a couple of “Okay, can we really do this?” considerations, Stiletto Escape was born!


After detailed conversations, hours of research, and a couple of “Okay, can we really do this?” moments, Stiletto Escape was born!


Source: Courtesy Photo (stilettoescape.com)
Source: Courtesy Photo (stilettoescape.com)

Best Success Story

After some great features by San Diego Tidbits and Chic CEO, including mention in a Forbes.com Top 10 list, we received our first organic sales leads; our first potential clients that couldn’t be traced to our friends or family. That was when we really knew that we had an idea that resonated with people, and the ability to grow it into full-time business.

Some of our most treasured successes are thank you letters and emails from clients describing how we made their trip a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience. That’s what keeps us going.


Biggest Startup Challenge

Creating and implementing a targeted marketing strategy has been a bit of a hurdle for us. We know our demographic, how she allocates her time and spends her money, but reaching her without a tangible “product” to sell has been a challenge.

We received great advice from Felena Hanson, founder of the Hera Hub (a coworking space in San Diego for female entrepreneurs) in regards to avoiding “the land grab” and marketing to any and everyone.

Finding our target audience, speaking to her in a language she relates to, and explaining why Stiletto Escape is something she needs, is a constant learning process for us.


#1 Tip for Entrepreneurs

Learn how to sell.

Everything revolves around the “sale” especially when you’re starting a business. You have to sell your brand to potential clients, affiliates, partners, and your target market.

Especially with a service-based business, we have to sell who we are to potential clients: everything, from how we look, where we eat, and how we like to travel, is part of the Stiletto Escape brand and can factor into a sale.

Connect with Stiletto Escape on Twitter.

This interview has been edited and condensed.


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