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Alee Pingol

With all the excitement that comes with traveling, not to mention the many lists and things to do, it is no wonder that we don’t really pay attention to the most integral part of the whole exercise…our luggage. For the most part, as long as we can fit everything in and close it, we’re happy. But what happens when this is not the case (pun intended)?

Rushing through an airport terminal to catch a connecting flight, checking the time to make sure you’ll make it … and then disaster strikes. Your luggage breaks, gives up the ghost, becoming a basket case and not worth anything much to speak of.

While this sounds totally surreal, it did actually happen. And because of it, there is now a super brand of completely functional travel luggage on the market that is chic and even matches the budget!

After just such a disaster happened to Jen Rubio (who is co-founder and chief brand officer of Away) whilst she was traveling, she phoned her friend Stephanie Korey (co-founder and CEO of Away) and whilst venting about the broken suitcase, an idea began to take root.

Traveling is a big part of our lives and therefore it is crucial to have luggage that is durable, high-quality, functional, and doesn’t break the bank by costing more than the actual trip you are taking.

These are exactly the kinds of points which Rubio and Korey looked at when they first came up with the idea to start Away. They questioned multiple travelers, asking them what they looked for in travel luggage and how they traveled, and then they combined all of their market research and drew up plans to completely reinvent travel luggage as we know it.

Creating a One-of-a-Kind Travel Brand

Away is not a luggage company, rather it is a travel brand and it is one that has big dreams to provide ways to travel the globe seamlessly in the future. For now, though, it provides travel luggage that is beautifully made, completely functional with four wheels and a hard outer case and a bonus feature of having a detachable 10,000-milliamp-hour lithium-ion battery for charging cell phones. As if this wasn’t catch enough, the best feature of it all is that it’s affordable.

Away has turned what could be thought of as a relatively boring necessity into something that has become a fashionable and trendy travel statement.

What’s more, Korey and Rubio designed and positioned their brand to be more than just a company that sells luggage. They wanted to build a brand that focused on all things travel – including great luggage! And that is exactly what they did.

They have successfully weaved their brand’s story into all things Away and have proffered many new and different ways to make travel interesting and fun. By creating a magazine that showcases stories on travel and adventure, written by people who have lived those experiences, Rubio and Korey have also provided value to their customers and audience. In essence, they have built a lifestyle brand – one that is making waves in the travel industry.

Before their brand even launched, they were creating a media presence of note on Instagram and have gathered together a media following that has been referred to as a “media cult following” by some. They also smartly teamed up with some well-known travel bloggers and Instagrammers very early on and this has helped to grow the company’s visibility on social media.

While they started on Instagram, Away has not limited themselves to just this one social media platform. They can be found on both Facebook and Twitter as well. Using these platforms has provided a way for them to monitor customer queries and complaints and comments.

Going the Direct-to-Consumer Route

Instead of just making a more durable and trendier piece of luggage, Korey and Rubio decided to completely cut out the middle man and take their product directly to the consumer. It is because of this that they are able to offer products that are not only hardy and trendy, but also highly affordable.

Korey, who is a supply chain expert, saw that by cutting out the cost of distribution and avoiding the extra mark ups placed on the items by retailers, they would be able to keep their pricing structure in a range that is affordable to the average consumer.

By going directly to the consumer, they have been able to offer their products at great prices with the added bonus of not having to compromise on the quality of the product. Added to this, they now also have a direct line of communication between the company and their clientele. This allows them to receive the feedback they need to make any improvements that are required.

A Real Passion for Travel

There is no age limit on traveling and since both Rubio and Korey are passionate about traveling, their products are not aimed at a specific age group, but at consumers at large. According to Rubio, “We didn’t get into this because of an obsession with luggage but because of an obsession with travel.”

While a large portion of their sales are done online, they have expanded to include some brick and mortar stores around the U.S. and even in London.

So, what is the goal for Away? Well, according to Korey, they are focusing on becoming the biggest travel brand in the world. And if they keep going the way they are at the moment; they may very well reach that goal!

Rolling (Again … Pun Intended) Things Up

One of the biggest lessons for new start-up companies to take from this example of Away is to find a product that is needed by the majority and then to provide customers with a top notch product at affordable pricing and to make sure that the consumers’ needs are met.

By using digital marketing, sound business principles, providing a basic high-quality product combined with great service and a passion for new ideas, not just the sky but the universe becomes the limit!

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