By: Nick Santangelo

When Zimri Hinshaw, CLA ‘20, beat out a group of mostly business majors to win the Fox School of Business’ 2019 Innovative Idea Competition, the College of Liberal Arts (CLA) couldn’t wait to see what was next for the young entrepreneur’s sustainable leather company. Recently, the former CLA Economics major and current Bucha Leather CEO secured a pair of $250,000 investments to fuel his participation in the IndieBio Accelerator.

A Dogged Pursuit

In addition to grinding away at the business, Hinshaw also credits his persistence in the face of failure with helping Bucha Leather achieve these successes. The CLA grad applied for countless accelerators and grants to mixed results, but he didn’t give up. When Temple alumnus Nicholas Valeriano, FOX ‘12, who became Hinshaw’s mentor after judging him in the Innovative Idea Competition, pushed him to apply for IndieBio, Hinshaw thought it was a long shot. He took the shot anyway.

“It takes a certain kind of person to look repeated challenges in the face and still push forward,” says Hinshaw. “We were up for the task, and we gave it our all.”

Doing so meant leveraging a relationship Bucha had formed with Cohere through supplying the creative agency with prototype pillows made from sustainable leather in exchange for marketing content. Showing that Bucha used a mere $12,500 to iterate on an experimental prototype until it became a product that secured the partnership with Cohere was a compelling argument for SOSV to bring Bucha into its IndieBio Accelerator. Dogged networking by Hinshaw sealed the deal.

“I used all my networks to find out as much as I could about IndieBio, as much as I could about everyone who worked at IndieBio,” he explains. “I knew people's full names. I knew what ventures they'd been a part of previously. I knew every detail that I thought would be important for the interview process and I practiced the pitch and interviews many, many, many times. I ran any documents they asked for through my entire network at Temple University.

“That much effort and this being a real product in an up and coming industry that’s a hot market to be in right now, the timing and our effort and professionalism shone through and got us the investment and got us into the program.”

No off Days

Every day Bucha has spent in the New York City accelerator since February has been intense for Hinshaw. SOSV’s expectations include weekly material changes to the product and/or business development and investment progress. 

Accomplishing as much has required Hinshaw to put in a ton of hours, but he remains excited and happy, approaching each day with a smile.

It’s not hard to see how Bucha participating in one of the world’s top accelerator programs has kept Hinshaw’s spirits high. The experience has gotten him access to much-needed equipment, dozens of potential future investors and even media coverage from TechCrunch.

Flush with its most recent $250,000 investment from the Genesis Consortium, Bucha is now well-positioned to expand a team that has hovered around five or six contributors and “scale enough to make a difference in this space,” explains Hinshaw.

Ready for Anything

The CLA alumnus credits his education with helping prepare him to make it all possible.

“People want to put you in a box as a liberal arts student,” says Hinshaw. “Don't let them. ‘You're a liberal arts student, you're not a business person.’ No, that's wrong. ‘You're a liberal arts student, you're not an amazing artist.’ No, that's wrong. 

“You're a liberal arts student, which means you have a broad perspective on anything, and you can do anything, but it's up to you to look at the opportunities in front of you, to capitalize on those opportunities, to put yourself where you want to be. CLA allows you to choose. It doesn't pigeonhole you into one thing, but it's up to you to take that background and focus yourself towards where you want to be, because you can be anywhere in the world doing whatever job you want to do, especially with a degree like Economics.”

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