It was during her hunt for a new suitcase that Jen Rubio and her friend (now co-founder) Steph Korey realized the disparity in the luggage industry. The options were either cheap and poorly made or unnecessarily expensive—there was no middle ground. “I started asking friends for recommendations on where to buy luggage and no one seemed to have any strong recommendations—most didn’t even know anything about the luggage they owned,” says Rubio.
In an effort to better understand the needs of modern-day jet-setters, the pair interviewed approximately 800 people about their travel complaints. The process ultimately inspired the list of features for their debut product, “The Carry-On”. The innovative travel companion includes a built-in laundry bag, a removable battery to charge any USB device, and a compression pad to maximize space. “We created a product that would address real travel problems—whether that was a lack of space, a dead phone upon arrival, or having nowhere to place dirty clothes at the end of a trip.”
Rubio was aware that in order to stand out from other luggage brands, Away needed to make a special type of connection with its customers. Through its aesthetically appealing social media content and avid promotion by influencers, the newly established brand was able to break through on the digital market. “We’ve never thought of Away as a ‘smart’ luggage brand; we’re a travel brand, and we create thoughtfully designed products to transform the travel experience.”
The first Carry-On model shipped in February 2016, and ultimately went on to sell 55,000 units before the year’s end, proving that Away had successfully joined the travel narrative. “We’ve made a point from the beginning to tell a broader narrative around travel, and to create content and storytelling around what you can do with our products and where you can go with them,” says Rubio. The brand’s desire to create excitement around travel was further realized through airport pop-ups, and by publishing its own book and travel magazine.
After announcing a Series D investment of $100 million, Away intends to roll out 50 new stores worldwide over the next three years, in addition to their current seven. With plans to expand globally, including a brand presence in Asia and the introduction of a slew of new products, Korey and Rubio keep true to their intention of being a travel company, not just a luggage brand.
“What we’ve been able to accomplish in over three years has surpassed my wildest expectations. We started with a single product and today, Away has become a global travel brand that hadn’t existed before.”
The luck in Rubio and Korey’s partnership, combined with their relentless passion for innovation, has made Away prosper in ways beyond Rubio’s imagination. Currently standing at $1.4 billion, and with eyes on expanding its product lines in markets such as wellness, skincare, and apparel, it’s safe to say it’s only the beginning for the brand.
As for Jen Rubio, she looks forward to making Away available to customers wherever they are as she continues to build a relationship with her consumers, setting an example for those wishing to follow in her footsteps. “Like all things at Away, we’ll continue to listen to our community and let their insights inform how each of these categories comes to life.”