One App is Helping People Live and Eat Like Reality Stars: With Dana Escamilla of Taste of Reality

by Yitzi Weiner and Casmin Wisner

“As cameras follow the stars’ day-to-day lives, I realized they’re also giving virtual tours of the places they go and the experiences they have.”
I had the pleasure to interview Dana Escamilla. Dana is president and founder of Taste of Reality in Los Angeles, CA. Taste of Reality is a resource for finding businesses on popular shows like “Real Housewives,” “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” “Love & Hip Hop” and more.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your backstory?

Living in Orange County, California at the time, I noticed a trend amongst my reality TV fan friends, who often chose to eat at restaurants featured in shows like The Hills and Real Housewives of Orange County. As a Real Housewives of Orange County fan myself, I started realizing the cameras were taking fans to more than just restaurants, but to bars, shops, hotels, and even into the doctor’s office. Once the seed was planted, all I could see was the data behind the drama.

As cameras follow the stars’ day-to-day lives, I realized they’re also giving virtual tours of the places they go and the experiences they have. While most people were wrapped up in the storylines, I watched the franchises on BRAVO TV, E! and VH1 expand into more cities, and the database of locations
grow. The idea gnawed at me for a couple years. I finally started what was to become Taste of Reality, a travel website where fans could easily find the various businesses they saw on the their favorite shows.

At the time I was working for a boutique digital agency, project managing website development for several clients and learning all the moving pieces to creating a website. I planned to build the Taste of Reality website through work connections, but I didn’t know the first thing about starting a business. I consulted other business owners for guidance, but the startup got off to a very slow start. My friend and fellow reality TV fan, Troy Turner, later became a partner and brought the creative ideas, a fresh perspective, and a second pair of hands to help with the heavy lifting of data collection. Together we launched Taste of Reality and became a business.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?

The creator of The Hills and Laguna Beach, two paramount reality shows, called a meeting to discuss the idea of turning Taste of Reality into its own reality TV recap show! It was exciting because we grabbed the attention of the people we intended. Even though it hasn’t played out, it worked to re-energize us and think bigger than we initially imagined.

So what does your company do?

Taste of Reality is the only resource for fans to find businesses on popular reality TV franchises like Real Housewives, Southern Charm, Keeping Up With The Kardashians, and Love & Hip Hop. We catalog each of these businesses in an episode with its contact information, a summary of “what drama went down” at each spot, and who was there. Capitalizing on our comprehensive location database, we offer curated tours by city (the Southern Charm Charleston Tour and RHONY Guide to Mexico), we provide listicles (like “6 Best Salons In Atlanta and Hottest Stores for Holiday Shopping”), and we give in-depth business reviews (RHOC star Tamra Judge’s CUT Fitness).

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

There are many small ways to bring goodness to the world. We continue to shine the spotlight on small and independently-owned businesses from a frozen yogurt shop in New Jersey, to a paddle board excursion in Hawaii, to celebrity-owned restaurants, and everything in between. We’re a means of fostering celebrated living through fun experiences and travel inspiration!

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I launched my startup,” and why?

Watch Dana’s five tips: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3N6LV01AOIc

  1. Find the right partners. It takes a village to build a business. No one person can do it alone. You may not need a business partner per se, but it’s important to identify the talents you need to bring your vision to life. For example, if you intend to launch a website or native app, but you aren’t a developer, be sure you have your development partner lined up from the start.
  2. Be clear on your target audience. People either love reality TV, or they love to hate reality TV. We receive positive feedback from fans who
    love it and find it useful, but the site clearly isn’t for everyone, especially the reality TV haters. It’s easy to let the people who don’t get it, or don’t like the idea, distract or deter you. At first, you’re hurt and want to fix it so
    everyone loves you, but you learn that you can’t take it personally. Stay confident in your business and be clear who your audience is.
  3. Keep an open mind. Inspiration can take many forms. You’ll have your own ideas on how things could go or should be. Your partners, mentors, vendors, and loved ones will all have ideas too. Listen to them. Don’t be so limited in your own thinking that you miss a great idea or approach. Just be sure to avoid analysis paralysis or constantly make changes based on the latest input.
  4. Get ready to learn. Launching a business involves many facets, such as hiring employees and vendors, managing finances, discerning legalese, and product development and marketing. You’ll have your area of expertise, but you’ll also be learning so much more. You may feel like you spend more time learning these new areas or researching resources. Fortunately there are many resources and mentors available to help guide along the way.
  5. Step outside your comfort zone. It’s risky to start a business, and it’s a big leap of faith, but the risks don’t stop when you commit to your
    business. There are always moments where you’ll have to step out of your comfort zone to break through. If there’s anything we’ve learned from these reality stars, cast members who play it too safe get cut after a
    season.

I have been blessed with the opportunity to interview and be in touch with some of the biggest names in business, VC funding, sports, and entertainment. Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?

Andy Cohen. He’s a master media maven responsible for defining a generation of reality television on BRAVO TV. His vision for the reality TV genre has had a huge impact on the cultural landscape.

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