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Serena Guen, founder of Suitcase magazine

This week we speak to Serena Guen, founder of Suitcase magazine.

Multi-national Serena founded the award-winning SUITCASE remotely while in her third year at NYU. Her accolades include being named as Forbes 30 under 30 in 2017, 25 under 25 most influential Londoners by the Evening Standard, winning a Woman of the Future Award for media and Natwest's Entrepreneur of the Year Award. She is also one of the co-founders of the #CookForSyria movement and cookbooks which generated global awareness for the Syrian crisis and raised over £1m for Unicef.

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Serena Guen

Can you tell us what Suitcase represents?

I really wanted to create a platform for travel content that was visual, exciting, accurate and easy to consume. I was inspired by National Geographic and Monocle and wanted to create a go-to for travellers in our generation.

The world of print media is changing so much. What would be your advice for someone looking to get into it, or even start their own magazine?

Print is a fantastic medium – we can only spend so long at our screens and there's a reason why book sales increased massively during coronavirus, however as a starting point, digital is much easier and cheaper to make mistakes! I'd suggest fine-tuning your message and deciding which platform would make sense for where you want to reach your audience (are they Gen-Z? If so, then maybe a TikTok account might be a good place to start). Once you've built your audience to a critical mass on one platform (say over 5,000 followers) then you can start to trial new things with them – maybe it's a newsletter or a newspaper or even a podcast. The best thing you can do is to keep talking to your audience and ask them!

What inspired you to be an entrepreneur?

I come from a family of entrepreneurs – my father, mother, brother and grandmother all started their own businesses, which were all very different to one another. We are all go-getters and if we think we can do it better ourselves, we'll at least give it a go! I think the thing that gave me the confidence was that I wasn't afraid of failing – perhaps it was because I was so young and naive!

And what things still inspire you now?

I like the ‘How I Built This podcast’ but in my job I am lucky enough to also interview and meet interesting people such as Damian Bradfield, the co-founder of Wetransfer, Tim Brown, co-founder of Allbirds and Rosh Mahtani, founder of Alighieri. In terms of leadership and team relations, I am very inspired by the Dalai Lama and his book the Art of Happiness. He teaches that everyone's goal in life is to be happy and once you acknowledge that you become a lot more forgiving of people.

You recently set up a creative agency, have you got anything else in the pipeline?

We recently launched our winter issue and have a new season of our podcast, The Upgrade, coming out now. My poor team has been recording in cupboards or under desks during lockdown to make this happen! what sets suitcase apart from other travel magazines? and how has it had to adapt to this current lack of travel?  Our team cares so much about the quality of the content and recommendations. This year has been undoubtedly tough but has taught us that travel is so much more than the physical act of going from one place to another – it is as much about experiencing cultures and immersing yourself in them at home whether that's through reading, languages or cooking.

When things go back to normal, where will be the first place you travel to?

This year has generated a newfound love of travelling in the UK that I think might stick. I'm excited to visit New Hall Mains, a super cute boutique in the Highlands of Scotland. I'm also really looking forward to finally visiting Sao Lourenco do Barrocal – it's been on my radar since it opened and I'm going to make that a reality very soon!

How would you describe your personal jewelry style and what piece can you not live without?

I am quite minimal with my jewellery, unless I go out and then I love a statement earring! I couldn’t travel without my wedding ring and engagement ring! I also have a charm necklace that my brother and father gave me. I originally had one that I'd collected the charms for years, but I lost it surfing. They very kindly bought me a new chain and have been buying charms for the past few years.

Do you have a mantra? If you could get something engraved on our Confidence necklace, what would it be?

It's not so much as a mantra but the idea that if you make a tiny change every day it adds up – say you make a 1% difference every day for a year. That would be a 365% difference by the end of it! If I had to get it engraved I would write something like: Tiny Steps or Find Your Spirit.

Thanks for speaking with Kimai Serena!

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