Part of the fun of traveling is collecting souvenirs from the places you visit – but the more you travel, the more stuff you end up with. That’s precisely what happened to Kenny Azama, owner and founder of Kenny realized that there had to be a better way to commemorate his trips abroad than to collect lots of big and expensive things that he would never look at again.
So he started collecting keychains from every country he visited. But as small as they were, even the keychains started to pile up. He then started brainstorming ways on how to keep all of his travel memories on just one keychain. After a lot of tinkering and experimenting, the Wanderchain was born..
“I would buy things like handmade mugs, shot glasses, paintings, and magnets to commemorate all of my travels. But they would eventually just end up sitting in a box in my attic.”
Looking around at his boxes of souvenirs, he decided there had to be a better way to commemorate his adventures around the world. So he started crafting small engraved tokens for every country he’s been to and now he helps other travelers do the same to keep their memories abroad in one place.
Commemorating Travels and Giving Back
Kenny realized that there had to be a better way to commemorate his trips abroad than to collect lots of big and expensive things that he would never look at again.
So he started collecting keychains from every country he visited. But as small as they were, even the keychains started to pile up. He then started brainstorming ways on how to keep all of his travel memories on just one keychain. After a lot of tinkering and experimenting, the Wanderchain was born.
The Wanderchain is essentially a keychain version of a passport. But instead of collecting stamps, customers collect engraved tokens for every country, US state, or US National Park they’ve been to. These engraved tokens slide onto the Wanderchain as easily as keys slide onto on a keyring.
It’s unique, it’s portable, it uses eco-friendly materials, and it’s much less expensive than buying souvenirs while traveling.
And then there’s the charitable aspect of The Wander Club. “Traveling is incredible and I’ve been fortunate enough to see and experience many amazing things in my life”, Kenny says. “But on the other side of the spectrum, I have also witnessed lots of poverty and hunger in the places that I’ve visited and that’s really stuck with me. One of the main reasons why I started The Wander Club in the first place was to give back to a world that’s given me so much.”
With that intention, Kenny decided to make giving back a core pillar of his company and with the help of his customers, is making a massive difference for many children around the world.
For every order placed, The Wander Club donates a meal to an orphan abroad with the help of their non-profit partner, Rice Bowls.
To date, The Wander Club has served over 75,000 meals.
“This is 100% a community effort,” Kenny explains. “Every time a customer flips through their tokens, they can feel good about knowing that they helped make a difference in the life of a child. That child has a better chance of staying healthy and fulfilling their potential!”
Kenny advises all companies to bake some social good into their business model. “It not only helps make the world a better place, but an added bonus is that it helps with sales too. Customers who are on the fence about purchasing may just place their order knowing that they have a hand in doing some good.”
Finding Success in the Digital Space
The Wander Club launched in December 2018...out of Kenny’s bedroom. For months, Kenny would work all day and all night from his room, hand-making each and every token and Wanderchain. While tiring, he loved the whole crafting process.
Business picked up quickly and after just a few months, Kenny was able to hire two full-time employees and move into an office space in Los Angeles. It’s been off to the races ever since, with no signs of slowing down.
“All credit goes to my right-hand man and good friend, Brandon Heredia. He was serendipitously my first hire and I couldn’t have built this without him. He cares so much about the company and the community and he works tirelessly on fulfillment, social media, and photography to make sure we continue to grow. My #1 tip for any new entrepreneur is to find yourself a “Brandon”...someone who truly cares about the mission of the company and whose strengths fill in for your weaknesses. Special shout-out to Karissa Kaneshiro too for being such a light for our team and for working insanely hard to make our customers happy.”
Another piece of advice Kenny has for budding entrepreneurs is to not let fear slow you down. “I lost a lot of time, lessons, and money because of fear,” Kenny laments. “My advice would be: don’t be afraid to fail and instead be good at failing fast. I’m not a perfectionist but I became one before I launched,” he recalls. “I was scared to put myself out there. I could have launched six months sooner and made a bigger impact for the company and for the non-profit we support.”
What's Next for The Wander Club?
While the goal is to keep the company small and flexible, The Wander Club plans to add a few new products to the rotation and to eventually expand into volunteer trips abroad that the community can participate in.
“My dream is to create adventurous and philanthropic experiences abroad for ~10-15 people at a time. Volunteer work, exciting activities, and wonder inducing workshops will be baked into the itineraries with the goal of making these trips not only fun, but focused around fulfillment and personal growth.”
As for his own travels, Kenny believes the travel bug is one he’s going to have for the rest of his life. He recently wrapped up a month-long campervan trip where he visited his 49th US state as part of his personal challenge of seeing all 50 states before he turns 30. All that remains is Alaska. “I’ve dreamed about Alaska since I was a kid,” he recalls. "They call it the last frontier and it truly is for my U.S. journey.”
One thing is for sure: his Wanderchain is going to be a heavy one!