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Stores and Stories: How two successful consumer startups find their customers

The founders of Framebridge and Away share the latest from the digital-native commerce world.

Framebridge founder Susan Tynan and Away co-founder Jen Rubio
Framebridge founder Susan Tynan and Away co-founder Jen Rubio
Keith MacDonald for Vox Media
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Let’s say you want to build a consumer brand from scratch in 2018. How do you find consumers?

That’s what we asked the founders of two successful consumer brands today at the Code Commerce conference. One answer won’t surprise you. Another might.

Instagram Stories have become very important for Framebridge, the custom framing startup, says CEO Susan Tynan. She says her company now spends 40 percent of its Facebook marketing budget on the format.

That makes sense, given both the visual appeal of Framebridge’s products — look at my cool poster! — and the importance that Facebook itself has placed on the Stories format.

But for a counterintuitive take, talk to Jen Rubio, co-founder of Away, the suitcase company known for its stylish carryons. Rubio likes Instagram Stories, too — people who like stylish suitcases like taking pictures of their stylish suitcases in cool places — but she’s also a big fan of retail stores.

Away now operates five of its own stores, and while the company makes money on its own — it helps that there’s lots of vacant storefronts and therefore retail square footage is getting much cheaper — Rubio thinks of them primarily as a marketing channel. “We like to think of them as profitable billboards,” she said.

Rubio says that’s not just because people will walk by the store and see/try the suitcases — she wants people to promote the stores to their friends on social media. She says she now also measures her design team’s performance based on the Instagram posts the stores generate.

Watch the full interview here:

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