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Serena Guen: The Mark Zuckerberg of Publishing

Traveling around the world might sound like a fun experience, yet reality does not always meet our expectations. Truth is, people often feel lost after arriving in a new city. What to do? Where to go? And what to see? These questions overwhelm tourists, both amateur and expert, and Serena Guen – named one of the 25 Most Influential Londoners Under 25 – felt the same way. Her first experience living abroad, to quote the young businesswoman, “was horrible.” So, she decided to do something about it. First, she created guides for Paris and other cities she visited. Then, six months later, she founded SUITCASE, a multimedia fashion and travel magazine, to share her knowledge and ease the trips of not only her friends, but also other people around the world.

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When Guen decided to launch the magazine, she was a third-year student at New York University. “The process was one of the most intense periods of my life – partially because I was still at university and had this monstrous workload,” she shared. “I learned very quickly that if I was time efficient then I could do it all but I did have to cut out quite a few things like going out on the weekends and sleep.” Yet as if balancing one degree and work was not enough, she pushed to double major in French and liberal studies. “I suppose it was in some ways the mentality of ‘What’s stopping me?’ and also asking why,” Guen commented.

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Although SUITCASE was initially planned as an online-only publication, the young entrepreneur refused to rely on the popular claim that print media is dead and to carry out her own research. A series of polls conducted by Guen demonstrated that 97% of the people prefer to read print magazines, so she posed her favorite question – why? Why is print media losing its popularity if people still favor hard copies over digital? Examining the success of print magazines and their target audience, Guen concluded that “there was still a market for a more luxury style publication that people could hold on to, collect and wouldn’t go out of date.”

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While the print aspect of the magazine remains central to the brand, SUITCASE is a multi-media publication catering the needs and desires of various people. In fact, just today the project underwent its grand digital relaunch to improve the user experience. Guen plans to publish excellent city guides and exciting video content. “We aim to be a 360 travel brand that can help you at every step of your journey,” Guen explained.

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Just five years ago, the world’s youngest magazine proprietor had to hide behind the screen to avoid customers’ prejudice due to her youth. Today, Bloomberg calls her the “Mark Zuckerberg of publishing.” She is a committee member of the UNICEF Next Generation London TEAM and the recipient of the Women of the Future Award for media. Despite all difficulties, disappointments, and lack of initial support, the twenty-five-year-old keeps going without a halt. “There are always people who are going to tell you ‘no’ or ‘you can’t do this,’” Guen pointed out. “Instead of being disheartened try to find out why you are getting negative feedback and then either use it to improve your business or just file it in the back of your mind. Surround yourself with people who believe in your idea and can offer their support, expertise and help. Onwards and upwards!”

That being said, Guen advises to prioritize.

“Between the long hours, sweat blood and tears, it’s very easy to lose perspective and focus. Set goals and celebrate them when you achieve them. Also make sure you think about what’s important to you in the grand scheme of things – where your work sits in relation to your daily life, family and friends. You may be stressing about a deadline and the world may seem to be collapsing on you from all sides but your grandfather only turns 100 once.”

Photo Credits: SUITCASE Magazine