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Spotting Opportunity in Everyday Problems: Cincha Travel

Spotting Opportunity in Everyday Problems: Cincha Travel

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Spotting Opportunity in Everyday Problems: Cincha Travel

An entrepreneurial opportunity can be staring you right in the face; you just have to notice it.

It can be the little problem that makes you say, “Someone should really sell a product that solves X.” It doesn’t even have to be a million-dollar idea, just a little gap in the market that you can fill.

For Ash Sharma and James Baker, the founders of Cincha Travel, that solvable problem presented itself at the airport.

Cincha Travel Founders Ash Sharma and James Baker

“We wanted to create something that addressed a need most travelers have – a little gadget that gets you through the hustle and bustle of traveling and secures your personal bag to your luggage, which solves an everyday travel problem,” Sharma said. “We launched in 2019 and knew from experience there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. If the product is the right fit, design and color for one’s lifestyle, and makes life a tiny bit easier, people are usually willing to pay for it.”

Though they had identified a problem in need of solving, their solution wasn’t immediately apparent. Sharma said the pair, who are engaged, spent months sketching out designs and comparing costs to ensure they could sell an appealing, quality product for the right price.

It wasn’t just function – they needed to make a stylish product that appealed to a certain class of buyers.

Their first product was the Travel Belt, which wraps around the handles of a wheeled suitcase and locks a personal bag in place. They soon expanded to offer more products, including Belt Bags, tote bags, luggage connectors, and more.

CC Cincha Ecomm 00001 1 3

Sharma said it wasn’t a smooth rollout from concept to sales, though. They launched in 2019, just before the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic, which tanked the sales of their then-growing business when it shut down much of the travel industry.

Rather than lament the loss of their burgeoning business or move on from their idea, they took the opportunity to refine their business further, focusing on the “less exciting” aspects like their operations and website’s backend.

“We were confident that people would start traveling again and knew we had something special in the Travel Belt,” Sharma said. “Despite the setbacks, we stayed determined and ready to seize the opportunities that lay ahead.”

Unlike many entrepreneurial endeavors, Cincha Travel’s first sale wasn’t to friends or family members. Sharma said the company started running focused ads on Facebook, which drove traffic to their website.

Another key element of their growth was much more analog – word of mouth.

“People would see the Travel Belt on someone at the airport, ask about it, and then order one (for themselves),” Sharma said.

The company received its highest-profile boost from Barbara Corcoran, one of the judges on the popular entrepreneurial show Shark Tank. Sharma and Baker presented Cincha Travel to the judges in 2023, and Corcoran offered $100,000 in cash and the same in credit in exchange for 25% of the company.

Sharma’s advice for others looking to recreate Cincha Travel’s success:

“Just start! Don’t focus on the final result. If you spend too much time hoping, wishing, and dreaming of what the end will look like – for me, it was getting into Vogue one day – then you’ll miss the opportunities right in front of you,” Sharma said. “Start building day by day, order by order, email by email, and one day you’ll realize you’ve created something, and that moment will take you further than you could have dreamed of.”

Her other tip is to remember your community and invest in it.

Cincha Travel is part of the 15 Percent Pledge, a network of retailers that pledge at least 15% of their shelf space to BIPOC-owned businesses, which Sharma said has been an amazing experience for their young company.

For every sale they make, the company donates 100 airline miles to Miles4Migrants, a nonprofit organization that reconnects separated migrant families.

She also labors to stay abreast of industry trends – reading fashion magazines, trade publications, and digital forms to see which way the wind is blowing.

Even with their pandemic-induced focus on their website, Sharma said she and Baker aren’t very tech-savvy, so tools like Shopify have been essential to getting Cincha Travel off the ground and facilitating sales.

While products like the Travel Belt do have their competition – plenty of people will forego a Cincha Travel product in exchange for a dollar store bungee cord – but Sharma and Baker’s product is form as much as function, which is part of the key to their success.

When starting your business, don’t be afraid to consider a similar approach. You don’t need to make a product that appeals to everyone but rather one that appeals to a specific subset of buyers.

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Spotting Opportunity in Everyday Problems: Cincha Travel

Spotting Opportunity in Everyday Problems: Cincha Travel

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