Stephanie Korey and Jennifer Rubio
Founders of “Away”
“Necessity is the mother of invention!”, and it was this necessity that inspired Jennifer Rubio to co-found “Away” luggage, which is described on their website as “the perfect suitcase” which has “everything you need away—and nothing you don’t”.
It all started when one day, Jennifer Rubio’s luggage broke, and she couldn’t find a replacement that was accessible and easy to use, and at the same time, not too expensive.
And in 2015, Stephanie Korey and Jennifer Rubio founded together “Away” as a luggage brand to provide the kind of suitcases Jennifer was looking for, and it expanded later to include other travel products that would make travel easy and simple for anyone.
Stephanie and Jennifer both met for the first time in 2011 when they started working in “Warby Parker”, the American retailer of prescription glasses and sunglasses, based in New York City, on the same day.
Jennifer left Warby Parker in 2013 and moved to London where she became the Head of Innovation at “All Saints”, the British fashion retailer, while Stephanie left in 2014 to go to Columbia Business School.
It was when Jennifer was in Zurich Airport that she her luggage broke and everything inside it fell out. She describes her search for a suitable luggage at Zurich Airport as “most terrible luggage shopping experience”, as she couldn’t find one that was both of high quality and affordable price, and it was when she was talking to her friend, Stephanie, that they both came up with the idea to enter the travel and luggage market.
So, they introduced “Away” luggage in 2015, and two years after that, they have had hundreds of thousands of happy customers, a team of more than 100 members, and tens of millions in revenue.
At the beginning, Stephanie and Jennifer had the advantage of their own backgrounds that helped them rely on each other and minimize any external spendings, as Jennifer’s background is in branding and creative, while Stephanie’s is in product, supply chain, and operations; so, between the two of them, they had many things covered. One of the first things they invested in in was an industrial designer to create the first product, and then they invested in the branding of the product itself.
When “Away” was first launched, there weren’t any products. So, they got the idea to have people talking about the product before it ever saw the light. To do this, Jennifer thought of launching a book first.
“The Places We Return To” was a beautiful hardcover book which included interviews with 40 people from the creative community, such as: writers, artists, and photographers, in different fields, such as: food and fashion.
The idea was not to pay the contributors, but to give them the gift of a suitcase. And in November 2015, the book was sold with a gift card that was redeemable for a suitcase in February, 2016.
This idea became very popular, and people got really excited about it as they started to talk about and discuss the book, and then the luggage, on social media and among their different social circles.
Stephanie and Jennifer made 1,200 books, all of which were sold out, including the suitcase gift card. In their first year, they exceeded 12 million dollars in sales.
One of the many things that made “Away” stand out in the travel field was their marketing and customer relationship.
Storytelling is the core of Away’s marketing; they think of the different stories related to their field and feed it to the press and social media, stories that attracts the attention of people and gets them to talk about and discuss them.
Moreover, they worked hard on personalizing their products to meet the needs and styles of different travellers. One of the things they did in this regard was to partner with a few hand-lettering artists, each of which came up with a custom alphabet for “Away”. These custom alphabets were later put on the website, and customers were given the option to pick their style, and have artists hand-paint their initials on the suitcase.
Jennifer Rubio was among the Forbes Magazine’s 30 under 30 list for “Marketing and Advertising” in 2015, while Stephanie Korey was among their 30 under 30 list for “Retail and E-Commerce” in 2016. Additionally, they were both recognized as winners of the “Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year 2018 New York Award”.
Written by Yasmine Mokhtar