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Where Luxury and Affordable Intersect: Steph Korey

There are many different paths to success and many people will find their own way, oftentimes by accident. As the founder of Away, a global lifestyle brand, Steph Korey could easily have claimed that her arrival to success was all about luck, but that would be selling her story short. In fact, before Away received its valuation of over $1 billion, it was just an idea that she had in the back of her mind.

Early Beginnings For Steph Korey

Steph Korey attended Brown University where she graduated with her B.A. in International Relations. Upon graduating, Korey would begin attending Columbia Business School where she would also graduate with her MBA.

It was during this time period that Korey received a chance phone call from Jen Rubio, a friend, and former colleague at Warby Parker. Rubio had a background in brand marketing and the two had been keeping in touch. On this occasion, Rubio had been calling because her luggage broke and she was stuck at the airport.

Korey and Rubio talked for a while about how frustrating luggage can be before asking themselves the question as to why there wasn’t a more durable, affordable, and accessible line of luggage on the market? At the time, Korey says, “Jen didn’t know whether to shell out a lot of money for high-quality luggage or to buy something else cheap that wouldn’t last.

Upon ending their conversation, the two kept picking at their question. Why couldn’t they bring this affordable premium product to the market?

Bringing Products to the Marketplace

Rather than sitting on their hands while allowing the idea to cool, Steph and Jen leap into the research and development phase of their project. Soon they were interviewing more than 800 people about their travel habits, concerns, and history. Korey said during an interview, “We wanted to map out the whole experience to figure out the pain points.”

During their research, Steph and Jen came to discover that many of the top concerns regarding the acquisition of new luggage revolved around weight, price, and a lack of features fit for modern technology. This would lead Korey and her team to add stronger wheels, better zippers, and even a USB charging port into the shell itself.

To keep prices affordable with this slew of amazing features, Korey and Rubio would opt to sell their products online so as to avoid excess costs and overhead.

Upon graduating from Columbia, Korey would travel to Asia where she would meet with industrial designers while working with manufacturers. Korey says of her product, “Every one of our materials has gone through extensive durability testing.”

Korey and Rubio would earn more than $2.5 million in their initial seed round before launching for the 2015 holiday season.