Fancy a private lunch on the Great Wall of China? Or a private picnic in Gagliano del Capo, Italy? How about a children’s birthday surprise with balloons upon check-in at the Hôtel de Crillon in Paris? Or last-minute access to a fashion show in London?
These are just a few of the services and “one-of-a-kind and off-the-map experiences” that Ask Laura offers its member clients. (The company did not disclose the cost of membership.)
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Founded in 2018 by Laura Szleper, Ask Laura creates “tailor-made” experiences for members that are highly personalized and “proactive.” Here, Szleper shares insights about the business and how it differentiates itself in the market.
WWD: What was the impetus behind launching “Ask Laura”?
Laura Szleper: The main reason was the fact that I could clearly see a lack of proactivity and personalization in the luxury concierge and travel market. That’s why I have decided to create exactly that as a service. I started building everything backward by first building up a network of people within the luxury travel and hotel industry, the ideas and the experiences. That way, at Ask Laura we already have answers and solutions for questions and problems that do not exist.
We do not consider ourselves as a concierge service, we consider Ask Laura to be a private members club that focuses on unique experiences.
WWD: What do you offer clients?
L.S.: The main idea behind what we offer our clients, is luxury travel, but it is so much more than that. What defines Ask Laura, is a genuine passion for immersive travel experiences. At Ask Laura, we all live to explore and see the world — many of our members have experienced access-all-areas, ultra-luxury lifestyles yet find themselves lacking in truly memorable experiences.
We want to show them the most unique local experiences wherever they go. But on the other hand, Ask Laura’s services stretch far beyond travel. I get to know every person in a member’s inner-circle, from their wife or husband to their PA. Many of our members entrust me and the team to deliver in the most precious areas of their lives, such as finding the perfect gift for their child.
Members can also expect to have their boundaries pushed. I really believe it is important for their own personal growth to try new things, so I am not afraid of challenging them.
WWD: How has your own experience informed your business model?
L.S.: I started at Quintessentially [the members-only concierge service] and was part of the sales team. The team was very small and I was able to learn from all the different parts of the business. I grew into a very senior position and traveled all around the world to understand the service.
I also created a role within the company that didn’t exist and improved whatever I thought could be improved. It was an amazing position and experience but at the end of the day, I really felt that there was a lack in the market for an actual proactive and personalized service. That is why Ask Laura’s business model is focused on exactly that.
WWD: How would you describe your clients? What are they looking for with your services? What are their expectations?
L.S.: Our members are mainly from Western Europe. That is because myself and the team are all from Europe, and in order to get to our level of personalization and proactivity, we must know the culture. The further away you go, the more different the culture is. Additionally, they want to have the opportunity to have access to a lifestyle that is fueled by their desires and passions.
Members have seen everything and get invited to everything. We love to constantly surprise them by finding that little thing they haven’t thought of.
WWD: Are their generational differences between the demands of clients? Meaning, do Millennials seek out different experiences than other generational cohorts? Why?
L.S.: The average age of our members is 45 to 60. Even though that’s the age, the demand is dependent on many other factors. Every member has a unique independent profile being a correlation of education, lifestyle, job, family, location, time of year, etc.
The reason they choose us instead of a classic concierge is the fact that we consider their profiles and explore their wishes and lifestyle needs and thanks to that we can adapt the service perfectly to their lifestyle. We are the ones creating opportunities, and demand based on everything we know about them.