"The things we are trying to do, we've never done before," says Jen Rubio. "It would be irresponsible for us to not look for answers elsewhere."
It makes sense: At just three years old, the company she co-founded and leads is growing past 300 employees and aiming for $300 million in revenue in 2019. As a first-time entrepreneur, fresh challenges pop up for Rubio almost daily. That's why, when necessary, she and her team plumb their networks for guidance.
Last holiday season, Away produced a pair of TV commercials for a splashy national ad campaign. But, after viewing the final versions, Rubio found them lackluster. She'd envisioned dreamy and evocative travel footage--but because of a tight shooting schedule, the spots were filmed entirely in a New York City studio. "Because we were under short timelines," Rubio says, "we ended up getting the second or third best of everything"--from directors to actors to locations. And, she thought, it showed.
So she phoned someone she turns to frequently for matters of design and style: actor Rashida Jones, whose sharp eye had first impressed Rubio when the two had collaborated on a suitcase collection for Away. According to Rubio, Jones watched the spots and set her straight: "You know it's not right. That's why you're asking me."
"It was a big lesson for the company: Just because we'd like invested time and money into something, if we don't feel like it's on-brand, it's like not worth doing."
Sunk costs be damned, Rubio scrapped the campaign.
"Sometimes you need a perspective from someone with zero skin in the game," Rubio reflects. "With some of my friends and mentors--like Rashida--it feels like they're just looking out for me. And giving me an honest answer."
For financial advice, Rubio says she turns to Sallie Krawcheck, the co-founder and chief executive of investing firm Ellevest. When it comes to the challenges associated with being a successful female entrepreneur, she texts Whitney Wolfe Herd, who runs the dating app Bumble. For branding and scaling challenges, she reaches out to Musa Tariq, a former chief brand officer of Ford and veteran of Apple and Nike. He is currently heading global marketing at Airbnb Experiences.
Rubio's strategy isn't just a personal one: It's rubbed off on other Away employees and departments. Currently eyeing expansion into China, Away staffers have met with employees who spearheaded the recent Chinese expansions of Lululemon and Allbirds to learn what worked for them--and spot potential hurdles.
"I realize what I've done over the past decade or so is build an amazing network of people who are really good at specific things," Rubio says. "I kind of think of it as having a personal board of directors I can go to for advice."