After starting SUITCASE Magazine at age 22 from her dorm at New York University, Serena Guen has taken her travel devoted readers from every corner of the globe on transformative adventures of animal safaris in Africa, arctic expeditions in the North Pole, and sun-drenched beaches of Southeast Asia.
Through a quarterly print magazine, daily updated website, a weekly newsletter, and experiential events, not to mention breathtaking imagery, Guen created SUITCASE with one goal in mind: to change the way people see the world by providing readers with thoughtful, informed recommendations and encouraging more mindful travel.
Since launching the award-winning magazine, Guen has been named in Forbes’ 2017 30 under 30, as well as one of 25 under 25 most influential Londoners by the Evening Standard. In 2018, she won a Woman of the Future Award for media and the Great British Entrepreneur of the Year Award.
We sat down with Guen to learn about the road ahead for the publication and what the SUITCASE team is doing to further their mission in light of the “new normal” in travel.
You started SUITCASE Magazine out of your dorm at New York University. Where did that inspiration come from?
Travel has always been so important to me but I didn’t feel like there was a website or source that represented the world as accurately or beautifully as I knew it was. I set about creating something that was both practical and beautiful – a resource but also something that people could return to time and time again for inspiration.
What has been your biggest hardship as an entrepreneur and how did you overcome it?
Not having any experience in the industry that I’m working in OR a background in business meant that the learning curve was and still is incredibly steep. As a result, I’ve had to work incredibly hard but the most important thing I’ve learned is to surround myself with talented and intelligent people who can help me and from whom I can learn.
Recently coronavirus has been a massive shock to the system, the short-term impact on the travel industry has been devastating. Fortunately, we’ve got a new CEO Jane McFadzean who is extremely experienced in the travel industry and is helping us navigate this storm! We’re changing our outlook on travel to become more holistic – it’s all about the journey (even from home) and not just the endpoint!
Why do you believe conscious and sustainable travel is important now more than ever?
Yes and I’m hoping that people will think a lot more before traveling and ask themselves the following questions – why am I going on this trip? What do I want to get out of it? Where can I spend money that will have the most impact?
How are you and your team are handling the new normal with COVID-19?
When Jane (our new CEO) first joined she said that we have to think about this time as a gift and use it wisely. Usually, we’re running at 100mph so we really need to pause and think about why we’re doing what we’re doing and how we can do it better.
The ultimate goal of the publication is to bridge cultures and connect people. Now, in the age of COVID-19, how is SUITCASE working to still achieve that mission? And how do you think COVID-19 will effect that mission (and travel) once it “ends”?
100% the difference in our mission between pre-and-post COVID has only slightly shifted – we want to bridge cultures across the world but we’ve developed more ways of looking at this mission. With travel, the trip itself is only a tiny part of that journey – there is a whole period of research and preparation which for many people is the real joy, so we’re looking to bring the world to people at home.
As someone who has indeed traveled near and far, to every corner of the world, in your personal opinion, how and why do you think this pandemic will change travel as we know it today?
Travel will become more difficult and as a result, I hope to make people more thoughtful about it. However, it is also an incredibly economically challenging period for many people so local travel will become the mainstream – that can mean anything from exploring your neighborhood with new eyes to doing a road trip to somewhere a few hours away.
What’s next for you and SUITCASE? Any changes or new goals for the publication in the near future?
We’re hoping to bring the world to our readers in many new forms – just a few worth mentioning now: we’re constantly adding new, fun products to our shop, a new podcast called The Upgrade, and our Freedom Issue which will be launching at the end of the summer, hopefully harking a new wave of free movement and travel in the world.