Your Name: Shivani Ballesteros & Jana Wallis

Business Name: Stiletto Escape, a personalized travel planning and concierge service

Type of Business: Travel

Business Location: San Diego, California, United States

Twitter @stilettoescape

Reason for starting
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. Over time we noticed a common problem: we wanted to travel with our girlfriends, but the planning was a constant obstacle. 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 fantastic vacations we all wanted. 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. Extensive conversations, hours of research, and a couple “ok, can we really do this?” exclamations, and Stiletto Escape was born!

How do you define success?
Changing the way women travel. Enabling women to escape their routine and have a few days of fun, excitement, and laughter surrounded by the friends they love.

Biggest Success
Being mentioned in a Chic CEO article on as a top ten gift to give a female entrepreneur. The female entrepreneur is a busy, smart, strong woman, and we love to help her save time while being able to take a much deserved vacation.

What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
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 of the Hera Hub regarding 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.

Who is your most important role model?
Gilt Groupe co-founders Alexis Maybank and Alexandra Wilkis Wilson. They were visionaries in recognizing a hole in a market that was personal to them. They took a risk and pursued a new idea, even when people said they couldn’t or shouldn’t do it. And most importantly, they remained true to themselves and to each other.