Gwen Bell’s Best of 2009: Startup

December 22 Startup. Whbat’s a business that you found this year that you love? Who thought it up? What makes it special?

Hands-down, easy-peasy question: Braithwaite Wallets. This is a company that makes wallets like no other, and that’s nice, but it’s nothing compared to what followed after I bought their wallet: After I made an investment in their good, they made an investment, too–in me.

They made a big donation to ShelterBox for my Ironman efforts, and followed up by posting about ShelterBox and telling all of their customer base how proud they were to have me as a customer.

Connor Fertser , Braithwaite’s founder and a designer, designed the wallet that I bought, the Vagabond. It’s an incredible piece of work and has served me well, and although I was thrilled when I got it in the mail, I was to find out even more amazing things as my relationship with Braithwaite went on.

First, those of us who were first-generation adopters of their wallets walk around knowing our wallets are backed a lifetime guarantee. That guarantee covers loss and theft. This guarantee was created because Connor’s brother-in-law had his wallet stolen, and Connor couldn’t stand the bereft look Steve gave him when he had to tell Connor he’d lost a prototype to a Braithwaite wallet.

Second, when the production of the wallets hit a snag, Connor let us know about it in the Braithwaite blog. He encouraged us to ask questions, and promised total transparency. This is a word that’s bandied about a lot in bigger companies and rarely taken for its true meaning. Connor used this method because he couldn’t stand the idea of keeping us, his first customers, in the dark when things went awry, even if it only meant a few weeks’ difference in delivery.

Third, when I ordered the wallet I got immediate confirmation by e-mail and then a really nice letter in the mail telling me which number wallet I’d received and how proud Connor was to have me as his customer.

Fourth and finally, the packaging of the thing was gorgeous. It came in a serious black linen box, numbered and signed, and lined in black tissue paper. I went a little weak at the knees when I opened mine.

I’m away and don’t have access to the box to shoot photos, but I wish I did. And yes, yes, I’m aware that the whole “best packaging” thing happened a few days ago. Sorry.

Anyway. Go buy a wallet from Braithwaite. You won’t be sorry, either at the heart that Connor has put into his company or his work, and you won’t regret feeling like a rockstar just because you ordered a wallet.

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