In honor of our co-founders Hillary Kerr and Katherine Power’s latest book, The Career Code: Must-Know Rules for a Strategic, Stylish, and Self-Made Career ($13), we’re running an interview series featuring 17 questions (to parallel the book’s 17 chapters) about the work lives of inspirational female leaders who are at the top of their fields. Last round, we tapped venture capitalist Michelle McHargue. Next up, Away co-founders Jen Rubio and Stephanie Korey, who are disrupting the luxury luggage market.
Prior to November 2015, our concept of quality luggage was pretty rudimentary. If a suitcase had a built-in lock, it was good. Add simple spinning wheels and a hard shell, and it was the Rolls-Royce of baggage, fetching hundreds of dollars. For such a basic offering, that just doesn’t seem to add up, thought Jen Rubio and Steph Korey.
It was this lightbulb realization that catalyzed them to found one of America’s coolest new startups, Away, a smart luggage company that’s disrupting the travel market. Rubio and Korey, both alumni of eyewear e-tailer Warby Parker, couldn’t believe how behind the luggage industry was. “We saw a gap in the market for … a travel brand that speaks to and understands the way people truly travel today,” the duo told Forbes after winning a coveted spot on the publication’s 30 Under 30 list.
It turns out they weren’t the only ones who thought smart luggage was a good idea. Rubio and Korey quickly caught the attention of venture capitalists and raised $2.5 million in seed funding before the brand launched in 2015, followed by an additional $8.5 million in a Series A round. Not bad for two friends who have yet to celebrate their 30th birthday.
Fast-forward 10 months—that’s right, Away hasn’t even existed for a year—and there are few frequent flyers who don’t know about the cult luggage brand. Rubio and Korey are quickly changing the definition of luxury luggage. Boasting a built-in battery to charge devices on the go, quiet Japanese Hinomoto wheels, luxe silk lining, and a removable laundry bag, the luggage is priced from $225.
We caught hold of the dynamic duo to find out how they navigate success, structure their workdays, and lean into the challenges ahead. Don’t miss Korey’s tips for entry-level employees or Rubio’s ultimate career advice—they’ll transform the way you deal with nerves.
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