Jen Rubio of Away and Sierra Tishgart of Great Jones on Finding Mentors, the First 50 Hires, and Never Giving Up by Inc.com

“Jen Rubio of Away and Sierra Tishgart of Great Jones on Finding Mentors, the First 50 Hires, and Never Giving Up” | Written By: Tim Crino / Inc.com

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Jen Rubio of Away and Sierra Tishgart of Great Jones on Finding Mentors, the First 50 Hires, and Never Giving Up

The two New York founders joined Inc.’s Christine Lagorio-Chafkin onstage at the 2019 Inc. 5000 Conference in Phoenix, AZ to talk about how their companies formed and continue to evolve

By Tim CrinoAssistant managing editor, Inc.@TimCrino
Jen Rubio (left) and Sierra Tishgart.
Caitlin O’Hara/Ash Ponders

Cold-emailing is not dead. In fact, it’s one of the best ways to network and find mentors, according to Jen Rubio, co-founder of New York-based luggage company Away, and Sierra Tishgart, co-founder of Great Jones, a cookware company also based in New York.

The two founders sat down with Inc.’s Christine Lagorio-Chafkin onstage at the 2019 Inc. 5000 conference in Phoenix, AZ, where leaders of some of the fastest growing companies in America are gathering from October 10-12. The two businesswomen talked about the many challenges they’ve faced in building their companies, from finding sources of capital, to building a network, and creating lasting relationships.

Rubio, who is mentoring Tishgart as part of Inc.’s Founders Project, mentioned Instagram DMs and cold-emailing as one of the many ways that aspiring founders have connected with her in the hopes of securing funding or mentorship — two methods that Rubio endorses with a few caveats: “Be clear and be specific.” she says, adding that vague requests to “pick her brain” or for coffee dates are not winning strategies. Tishgart agrees, and stresses the importance of doing some research first and looking to see if there are articles or resources online. “Make sure there is a real purpose behind what you’re asking,” she says.

Both founders also added that while taking a slow and steady approach to building relationships with other founders may not lead to instant funding, it can lead to more meaningful and lasting connections, which are vital to building a company with staying power. Tishgart, a former editor at New York Magazine, noted that when she was a journalist she didn’t feel like she had any mentorship or growth opportunites. Now that she’s a founder, that’s changed, and she cherishes the relationships she’s built with other founders who know what it’s like to build a company and manage a team: ”Getting to have a dialog with someone who has experienced that and can relate to it is wonderful,” she says. 

Relationships within the company are equally important: ”In the early days, what you are focused on each day is making that day successful and making the right decisions. I think the thing that can slip by is your relationships,” says Rubio, noting that, when starting her company, she tended to dedicate her focus to hard business objectives like sales and marketing. But, she notes, ”The first fifty people you bring onboard set the stage for everything.” 

Which brings up another important point: When to let go. Which according to Rubio, is never. ”I don’t think you can ever let go,” she says. “My involvement now is different from when we were at the dining room table inspecting every shell and every zipper. We have to have the best product out there.” Rubio’s unwillingness to compromise on quality will serve Away well as the company branches out into skincare and apparel.

Tishgart echoes Rubio’s sentiment. “I am obsessive about it. Our company does not exist if our products don’t meet the high standards that we have set.”

Published on: Oct 12, 2019


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“Jen Rubio of Away and Sierra Tishgart of Great Jones on Finding Mentors, the First 50 Hires, and Never Giving Up” | Written By: Tim Crino / Inc.com
October 12, 2019 at 09:04AM
VIEW ARTICLE ON Inc.com >> https://www.inc.com/tim-crino/jen-rubio-away-sierra-tishgart-great-jones-2019-inc-5000-conference.html

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