Thank you to WNC Business for the feature in their inaugural magazine.
In late 2021, Summer Stipe left the nonprofit sector to follow her dreams of creating a unique business that fills a niche while celebrating her experience and her passion. Juniper is a business that curates and crafts intentional vacations and staycations in and around the Western North Carolina region.
As a Hendersonville native, she said she knows the region intimately and wants to share all the things that make it wonderful.
Formerly the Executive Director of the Henderson County Education Foundation, Stipe is also familiar with the economy, the schools, and the community – things her clients say they are interested in knowing about.
At first, Juniper’s focus was centered around providing curated experiences for people visiting from out of town. Stipe found that clients driving around the area for the first time particularly found value in Juniper’s offering of itineraries highlighting local restaurants, shops, trails, breweries, and waterfalls with directions, playlists, and estimates of drive times between stops.
As the business started to get rolling, founder Stipe was surprised at a couple of the twists and turns that occurred. Not only were out-of-towners interested in this service, but locals found Juniper to be helpful in planning a staycation or a mini-vacation, whether in their hometown or to a neighboring town that they had never visited before.
“There are so many great communities within an hour-and-a-half’s drive that locals rarely take the time to visit,” Stipe said. “They are seeing towns they’ve never seen before.”
Another surprising category of clients includes businesses recruiting out-of-town talent. Many large industries source their staff from other areas of the country. When a business flies someone in from another state, that candidate is not only interviewing the business; they are interviewing the area that they may potentially be moving to, as well.
Juniper offers businesses the opportunity to thoughtfully introduce their job candidates to WNC, hoping they will fall in love with both the company and the area. Candidates as well as their spouses and family members can arrive in Asheville and find an itinerary that showcases the region’s attractions and local eateries while including time for their interviews and tours of their potential new place of employment.
One such client has provided Juniper’s services to about 20 candidates and has since seen an 80 percent increase in employment acceptance. Their candidates reported feeling more at ease during the whole process with having another touchpoint outside of the hiring company and felt that the employer was truly invested in them and their experience.
Stipe has realized that her idea of offering local travel itineraries can encompass a lot more than just planning a long weekend for travelers.
Juniper also now offers curated experiences for parents of kids attending area summer camps. Stipe is also planning a subscription service for locals – a year of custom-planned date nights – to be launched as the holiday season approaches.
Stipe’s advice for anyone starting a new business is to take advantage of resources that are available. “Run an idea by friends, test it out on family members, and gather and really hear feedback from these trusted individuals,” she said. “We have Mountain BizWorks, the Western Women’s Business Center, the Small Business Centers at local colleges, and more right at your fingertips. If you use the resources and build your community, your chances of success will only increase.”