Travel Wallet Review

Call me biased because I just love Sseko and what they stand for, but this has got to be my favorite wallet of all-time. When I first discovered Sseko, my good friend Jessica and I had been traveling as we took a short-term contracted job as inventory specialists for hospitals in the Pacific Northwest. I had just started Sister House (at that time known as "Sister Shop") with my younger sister, Carly, and since my day job had me traveling for weeks at a time, I had a good amount of free time after work each day and on the weekends to scope out fair trade stores in whatever town we were working in. Luckily my friend Jess was so supportive and interested in this idea of creating a handmade/ fair-trade movement in Southern Nevada, she accompanied me to all of these indie shops & cafes. This coffee shop treasure hunt of sorts led us to a huge discovery one Sunday morning in Tri-Cities, Washington. We stumbled upon (thanks to Google) a big, open coffee shop that sells Stumptown (fair-trade) coffee, a small collection of fair-trade notebooks and jewelry, and surprisingly, they exist as a not-for-profit. Yes, an NFP serving different community initiatives on a local level. Our minds were blown because THIS is the dream. All this greatness rolled into one- coffee lovers! Fair-trade advocates! Community supporters! We were so impressed. This coffee house that was a major game changer for Sister House Collective. The coffee shop is called Sharehouse and it inspired us to get started on our dreams almost instantaneously. 

That morning we bought some brass bangles with different women's names on them and read the story on the tag about the impact the beautiful little bracelets made. Sseko. I had never heard of it before so after I paid for my coffee and new "Susan" bangle, I looked up the company to do some research. That day I sent them an email and after many email corespondents, a few visits while in Portland over the next months, and now many bangles and wallets sold- we are still major supporters of the Sseko impact that is being made in Ethiopia and Uganda. We just love their business model and their amazing products.

The travel wallet naturally caught my attention because of the name. I love to travel and I also don't like carrying a purse all of the time. When I saw this wallet, I thought that it might just be perfect because of the TWELVE card slots and unassuming clutch-style design. It has big pockets on either side for cash and receipts which is fitting for me because I like some sense of order in my wallet!

One of my main issues with finding a wallet has always been the change pocket- too small or even so large that I sometimes fill it with so many coins, it could be considered a weapon it becomes so heavy! The design of the zipper in this travel wallet is ideal. The pocket is large but flat, making coins distribute equally so there is not a big lopsided weight of quarters, ever. And when I travel, my passport fits perfectly snug in that coin pocket. Hidden and unassuming; it is sleek and classy. 

Now, my personal favorite design element of this wallet is the pen loop. A pen loop in a wallet is brilliant. I am often a list maker/ note taker; and having a pen handy has helped me tremendously over the past year as I've used this wallet.

Until the Tiko Tote came out this past Spring, I hadn't been using a purse either. The wallet made for a nice little clutch where my phone and chapstick fit in the zipper. Now I use my tote with my wallet but when I want to run into the grocery store, I don't lug my whole bag. I almost always just snag my wallet and run in with it under my arm or in my hand. 

The design elements of the wallet make it an easy recommendation but what makes this wallet even more special is the opportunity it provides to Ethiopian farmers & leather workers. Below is an excerpt from Sseko's partner page that tells more about the impact being made in Ethiopia:

"Our partner organization employs 29 women and subsidizes education for the female employees. The materials used in our Ethiopian bag line are sourced locally and help support the Ethiopian economy.

READ THE STORIES BEHIND THESE BEAUTIFUL BAGS AND WALLETS.

Yemisrach got married and had a child at a young age and, like many young women in Ethiopia, was forced to drop out of school. When her baby turned three she sought out work to support her family. She has been working for our partner organization for 3 years and likes her job because it gives her time with her family. "We only work here from 8am to 5pm so I can spend enough time with family." Yemisrach has dreams to start a business with her friends.

Kelele graduated from a technical school skilled in leather sewing and decided to work for our partner organization because of the higher paying wage. She enjoys her working environment and says, "it's a joyful environment and we have the freedom to be creative". Kelele takes pride in her work and continually wants to improve her craftsmanship. "I want people to know that our products are really good and are made from pure, high quality leather."

Frehiowt studied accounting and has dreams to start her own business. She enjoys the freedom that comes with her job and says, "Unlike other factories we work here from 8am to 5 pm, so I have got time to be with my family. I also like the work environment." Her message to all of us is, "I want everyone to know that we Ethiopians have hope and we are hard workers and we will change our history."

So in short, I could have just told you straight: the travel wallet is incredible for so many different reasons, but what I really want is for you to experience the magic yourself. I've said before and I say it often; a thing is a thing. Material objects are just what they are- materials. But when you invest in something that tells a story, something that was made well with love and care, it's different than just buying the latest, greatest (fill in the blank). When an item makes a positive impact on it's maker, that thing is more than just a thing. It is a story of hope. It is freedom from exploitation. It is changing the conversation to, "what can the world do for me?" to, "what can I do in the world?" 

Original post July 27, 2016

Ashley Ayala