LONDON, United Kingdom — “Being an entrepreneur nowadays is about taking advantage of all the opportunities that you have in front of you,” says Jen Rubio, who co-founded the direct-to-consumer luxury travel brand, Away, in 2015. With her fellow founder and Warby Parker alumna, Stephanie Korey, the pair achieved $12 million in sales in the first 12 months of business.
Since its launch, Away has raised over $81 million in venture capital funds and the co-founders were named in Forbes 30 Under 30 lists in 2016 — Rubio for marketing and advertising and Korey for retail and e-commerce.
Now, Away’s chief brand officer is sharing her five top tips for entrepreneurial success.
If you are interested in learning brand funding and development, launch strategies, growth management and product innovation from Jen Rubio, click here to discover her BoF Education course.
Listen to your customers
Before we even created our first product, we interviewed over 800 people to decide what that product would look like. Over time, we've continued to gather feedback and to make changes, to our business and our product, based on what our customers are saying. Now, that same feedback is informing our strategies for the future. It never ends.
Listening to customer feedback and innovating is also not owned by one person or team, it's embedded in the DNA of our company and every single person is responsible for making that happen.
Find your passion
My path to success certainly wasn't linear but know that every step serves the purpose in getting you to where you want to go. It's really important that you are passionate about what you're doing because things get hard and that passion is what will take you through. Even if it doesn't feel like your job right now is directly related to what you want to be doing, focus on excelling at it and look for opportunities within your current role.
However, one of the hardest things as a founder and entrepreneur is learning how to let go. As your team gets bigger, you're not going to be able be on every project in every meeting, so hiring people that you trust is really important. You should empower your team to bring their own vision to the table.
Do your homework
You don't want to waste energy by spreading yourself too thin or trying to get in touch with the wrong people. So, whether it's press, editors, investors or people you want to hire for your team, take time to do your homework. Make sure that they are the right people you need to be talking to and personalise and tailor your pitch or interview from there.
You should also keep your industry knowledge up-to-date at all times by reading relevant materials and publications. But don’t forget to also read outside the fashion sector, especially when searching for innovative ideas and best practice. What’s more, you should research start-ups and established brands where you would like to intern/work, to understand their culture and work practices.
Build your network
This journey is not easy, but you can turn to the entrepreneurial community who's always willing to help. It takes a lot of hard work, but with determination, you can definitely get there. Foster relationships with a range of mentors within the creative industries. You can always ask them for feedback on your DTC brand ideas. You should also nurture your network to include people you would like to learn from and collaborate with in the future.
You should also focus on building your network as a business, not just as an individual. If you cultivate online and offline spaces and events to develop a community, this will increase brand engagement and awareness. Feedback received from consumers will help optimise the brand offer.
Keep asking questions
To truly create the perfect product, we had to ask questions that gave us more information about how people act when they were travelling. What were their pain points? What do they do when they land? What happens when they get to the hotel room? It was these questions that really drove us to the insights that would create our first product.
Always be asking why. Knowing why you're doing every single thing that you do gives your team and business a purpose. Whether it's big things like going to a new market, or launching a new product, or little day-to-day things like taking a meeting, make sure you know why you're doing it. It will help guide your decisions and make sure everyone is on the same page.