Dynamic Duo: Away

March 30, 2017

All it took was a piece of luggage breaking to inspire Jen Rubio and Steph Korey to find a way to change the luggage industry. The duo, who met working at Warby Parker, started Away in 2016 and their collection of suitcases have quickly become the go-to for chic, simple and easy travel. (Did we mention that the carry-on bags include a portable battery charger so you never have to fight for an outlet at your gate? Genius!) We sat down with Jen and Steph at their SoHo offices to talk travel, style and career advice. Now, book a trip and get packing!

How did you meet?

Steph: we met on our very first day of work at Warby Parker. We were both 24 at the time and the company only consisted of about fifteen people. Jen had been hired as the company’s first Head of Social Media, and I eventually became Head of Supply Chain. We always worked on different parts of the business, and I think that’s why we became such close friends so quickly. We could always rely on each other to run out for a coffee to vent about whatever was going on in our respective work worlds.

What inspired you to start Away?

Jen: A couple years ago, I was at the airport and had a piece of fairly expensive luggage fall apart while I was traveling. When I got home, I asked around for recommendations to replace it, and no one could suggest a better option. Everything was either well made, but way too expensive, or affordable and poor quality. It was crazy.

I called Steph to vent about it and we ended up talking for hours. At the time she was at Columbia getting her MBA, and we both had the idea that maybe the luggage industry was something that needed a shakeup, similarly to what Neil and Dave had done with the glasses industry at Warby Parker when we worked there. We started looking into it, and the rest is history.

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What sets Away apart from other brands?

Steph: We like to say that Away luggage has everything you need, and nothing you don’t. When we were designing our bags, we surveyed hundreds of travelers to figure out what would really make the experience easier for them. Most people just wanted something lightweight and durable with four wheels and lots of room to pack your stuff, so that’s what we made. And we also heard from a ton of people who were like, “I know you can’t do anything about this, but I hate that my phone always dies when I’m on the road.” So we added a slim, portable battery to our carry-on bags to help with that. We make thoughtful luggage, not smart luggage.

Describe the Away philosophy in three words:

Jen & Steph: Exploration, access, and ease

Running a business together is like…

Jen: My brain is complete.

Steph: The inmates are running the asylum.

Best advice you’ve ever received:

Jen: Have a co-founder! Not only does Steph excel at the things I find challenging (and vice versa), but it’s so much better to have a buddy while you go through the crazy ups and downs of founding a startup.

Steph: Hire slow, fire fast. We’d rather have a few openings and take time to hire the right people than end up with someone who wasn’t a great fit for our team or their role.

One thing Jen taught me about style:

Steph: Sometimes it’s okay to pay too much for something you really, really love. I can tend to be practical and come up with reasons to not to get something that seems frivolous, but Jen’s really good about not denying herself things and experiences she finds inspiring.

One thing Steph taught me about style:

Jen: Having a uniform makes it way easier to get ready in the morning, and you always look great. It also makes things way easier when packing. Steph wears a version of the same thing every day, and she always looks chic.

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The one thing you always make room for in your luggage:

Jen: A few pairs of shoes. Once, I only brought heels to the beach and it was not fun.

Steph: A bathing suit. You never know when you’re going to need it.

Your three carry-on essentials:

Jen: Sleeping mask, noise canceling headphones, and a big blanket scarf. I like to feel like I’m in my own cocoon on the plane.

Steph: A change of clothes (just in case), an iPad, and moisturizing face masks. I use transit time as an opportunity for DIY spa treatments.

Dream travel destination:

Jen: Cape Town, South Africa. It’s my one of my favorite places on the planet and I try to go at least once a year. You can’t beat the wine, food, beaches, and people (and those are all the most important things when you’re on vacation).

Steph: Harbour Island, Bahamas. My fiance and I love it so much that it’s where we decided to have our wedding in a couple months. I can’t wait to be there surrounded by friends and family.

Who would play the two of you in a movie?

Jen: Chrissy Teigen—if anyone’s playing me in a movie, it’d have to be someone with the same dry sense of humor.

Steph: Anne Hathaway!


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