During a conversation with a colleague about the shortcomings of available luggage options, Steph Korey struck upon the idea of creating affordable, durable suitcase products. She and the aforementioned colleague, Jen Rubio, had backgrounds in sourcing, manufacturing, and distributing consumer goods. Korey had also just finished business school at Columbia University. The combined forces of knowledge and experience allowed the two to launch the luggage line Away three months later.
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Steph Korey began by interviewing eight hundred people about their luggage use from the process of packing through collecting their bags at their destination. The study group revealed two factors that caused the most grievance: weight and failure of wheels and zippers. An unsuspected complaint gave Korey an idea for innovation when the group members mentioned they wished they could charge their phones while traveling. This comprehensive customer insight contributed to quick success.
Flying to Asia to meet with two industrial designers, Steph Korey developed a product and put the prototypes through rigorous durability testing. The team created strong zippers, sturdy wheels, a lightweight metal shell, and a dependable battery-powered charging dock. The designers chose a metal used in fighter jet manufacture for the shell. They developed a storage battery that holds enough power to charge a smartphone five times via a USB port built into the luggage shell.
Although the Away line of suitcases is luxury-level, Korey kept the prices affordable by offering sales only online, eliminating retail sales mark-ups. Depending on the size, prices range from $225 to $295.
The first seed round raised $2.5 million, giving Korey and Rubio enough to launch. Opening for business in time for the 2015 holiday season, the business saw a profitable first year. The partners have plans to expand the line into related travel products.