Emma Bates greets us at Away’s Soho brick and mortar; a space resembling the design of the brand itself–modern, sleek, sophisticated. As the store prepares to open its doors for the day, Bates as the Head of Global Marketing at Away, shows us around as we capture her in this natural habitat of Away’s classic allure.
Born in Singapore, raised in the United Kingdom, it takes a modern traveler to know one, and for Bates, traveling has always been in her blood, it’s just been a world she’s adapted to. “My love of travel was instilled at a very young age by my parents, and I’ve been fortunate to grow up traveling to destinations all over the world, with no plans to stop anytime soon,” shares Bates.
Having moved to NYC with a marketing and consulting background, Bates was organically introduced to the company’s co-founder, Jen Rubio, through a mutual friend before she was hired to head up Away’s first London pop-up. From there, Bates joined the team full time, committed to the ethos of the company, and to its solutions to some of the biggest qualms travelers (including herself) face when it comes to luggage.
Her perspective as both an avid traveler and an experienced marketing representative, permitted rapid growth in her role, as she used her authentic voice to vet out a brand she not only worked for, but truly believed in. “It’s easy to get swept up with what others are doing, but if you stay true to your unique voice, it usually won’t steer you wrong,” shares Bates on some key advice around authenticity.
We spent a morning with Bates to learn a little more about this authenticity, how it’s reflected in the brand and where her current role has her jetting to next.
How would you describe your travel schedule?
Constant! Most of my family is based in the U.K. and I still try to make it home for regular visits and holidays, so that alone means I’m flying back and forth quite a bit. On top of that, I love doing weekend trips with my friends whether that’s upstate, to LA, or to Tulum. My sister also recently got married in Cape Town so I just got back from an extended trip there, which was incredible—all of that is in 2018 alone. And of course Away takes me to plenty of places for various projects and activations—a few of my favorite work trips have included Sweden, Sri Lanka, and Paris.
What position were you seeking when you first moved to NYC?
Prior to Away, I’ve held positions in social media marketing, blogging, community management, as well as brand marketing from various internships, jobs, and consulting positions. I was quite open to a range of roles, but Away has really tied in my passion for travel with my skills in brand marketing unlike any role I’ve had before.
Your position at Away seemed to organically fall into place – can you tell us about this as well as what attracted you to the company?
I initially discovered Away through Instagram and quickly noticed that the brand was talking about travel in a completely different way from other brands in the industry—and once I bought my first suitcase, I realized that it was an incredible product clearly designed by people who loved to travel. It solved real travel problems (a laundry bag to separate your dirty clothes from the clean ones, a sleek and simple design that looks great with whatever I’m wearing, and the built-in removable charger so my phone never dies, for example). Then just by chance, I was introduced to Away’s co-founder, Jen Rubio, through a mutual friend. I was hired to head up Away’s first London pop-up store, so it was just kind of the perfect fit.
How would you describe the company in three words?
Thoughtful (our products solve real travel problems), accessible (we have a unique point of view, but it’s one that feels as familiar as a close friend), and customer obsessed (our direct-to-consumer model means that we’re thinking about them at every step of the way, from creation to distribution).
How have you shared your style and story to influence the company’s image?
Away is all about designing objects and experiences that make traveling more seamless and inspiring people to do it more often, and my own perspective on lifestyle and travel is very much in line with that approach. So it’s very true to who I am, it’s never been about trying to influence people in any particular direction—I actually think that’s why it legitimately resonates. At Away, we share real travel stories that are meant to inspire, and I think my own personal experiences only add to the broad range of stories represented through Away’s unique voice.
What does a typical week day look like for you? What about on the weekend?
I try to get up and do some sort of workout in the morning, then head back home to make myself some breakfast while I check emails and Slack, and catch up on the day’s news. Once I’m at work, no two days look the same, but they’re usually filled with meetings about new and ongoing projects, and collaborating with colleagues. On the weekends (if I’m not traveling), I’ll wind down by catching up with friends over dinner or spend time decorating the apartment that I just moved into on the Lower East Side.
What would be something you do to ground yourself after a hectic day?
I try to workout as often as possible (usually by doing some sort of class), which is a great way for me to de-stress. I also religiously stick to one hour a day where I absolutely cannot look at Slack or email. Taking time to disconnect (even if just briefly) is so important in preventing burnout and grounding yourself after a hectic day.
Do you have a favorite place in the city that you frequent?
I love the Williamsburg Bridge—it’s at the end of my street and my best friend lives at the other end of it in Williamsburg. I walk or run across it multiple times a week and find it very relaxing after a stressful day. The walk coming back across to the city is weirdly grounding.
Who do you consider as your role model or motivation?
I’m really motivated by all of the talented and driven people that I work with at Away, but particularly by our co-founders, Jen Rubio and Steph Korey. Their vision to make travel more seamless drives what we do every single day, but they’re doing it in a way that’s challenging industry norms and paving the way for future female entrepreneurs—and they’re doing it without any sort of playbook to follow. And they’ve accomplished all of this before even turning 30. Talk about motivating!
What’s some of the greatest advice you’ve ever received? What about the greatest advice you’ve ever given?
A piece of advice that I always like to give is to be authentic and don’t compare yourself to others in the industry, something that’s especially true for brands or individuals that live primarily in the digital space. It’s easy to get swept up with what others are doing, but if you stay true to your unique voice, it usually won’t steer you wrong.
Photography by Michael Marmora