Liberal Arts Student Wins Grand Prize at Fox’s Entrepreneurial Contest
By: Nick Santangelo
Over 130 students participated in the Fox School of Business’ 22nd annual Innovative Idea Competition this year, many of them business students from Fox. But senior economics major Zimri Hinshaw’s Bucha Leather Company beat them all out for the right to have his idea germinated in Fox’s innovation and entrepreneurship institute, the 1810 Accelerator. In winning, Hinshaw became the second College of Liberal Arts student to succeed in the entrepreneurial competition in as many years.
“Just because I'm a CLA student doesn't mean I'm not a businessperson,” says Hinshaw. “A part of my identity is I am very much a businessperson, and I think that, as a CLA economics major, the difference is you think about the impact, the social impact. You think about the policy impact. You think about social welfare. You think about environmental impact. I think that I have all the business skills that Fox School of Business students have, and more, because I've plunged into this world, and I've learned these skills myself but also through a lot of my courses.”
Originally dubbed the Vegan Leather Company, Bucha Leather is a form of extremely durable bio leather created from the thick, gelatinous protein that forms when kombucha is brewed.
Hinshaw dries and treats the leather himself in a lab set up in his dorm room. During the process, he’s discovered a number of exciting possibilities and is currently in talks with Temple microbiologists to explore editing the leather’s genetics with CRISPR.
You can be a businessperson with a liberal arts background
Soon, he’ll also be able to move the lab out of his dorm room and into a new commercial space in Ritter Hall’s Co-op Cafe thanks to Temple’s Office of Sustainability. Hinshaw says it’s just the latest of many opportunities for growing his idea made possible by Temple. In addition to the Innovative Idea Competition and the 1810 Accelerator, Hinshaw has also relied on Temple’s Blackstone Launchpad to mentor him for the past year. But it’s the sustainability aspect is that’s particularly near and dear to him.
“Sustainability is a core value of Bucha Leather with the company’s goal being to provide a high-quality, environmentally friendly alternative to animal leather in the fashion industry,” he explains. “Bucha Leather is on the cutting edge of this new trend. The innovation is supported by partnerships with Temple’s College of Liberal Arts and Fox Business School students who have backgrounds in environmental policy and ethical business practices.”
Hinshaw’s obsession with sustainability might just be as strong as his obsession with success. His days are rigidly planned out on daily to-do lists that help him meet his strategic objectives. A focused, driven Hinshaw says it’s all worth it to see his idea succeed. Of course, not every idea does—the young entrepreneur estimates that Bucha Leather is his sixth or seventh venture.
“I don't believe in failure. I believe in progress,” he says. “I believe if you don't succeed, that isn't a failure, but a learning opportunity to take the next project to the next level.”
The number of figurative and literal steps Hinshaw’s taken to reach his current level of success have been myriad. Because his mother is in the Air Force, Hinshaw was born in Alaska but has also lived in Texas and Japan.
I don't believe in failure. I believe in progress.
As a military high school student who spoke Japanese, he was a prime candidate for Temple Japan, which offered him a scholarship while he was in high school. Hinshaw says Temple was “such an easy choice” that he didn’t even consider any other schools. Eventually, he transferred to the main campus here in Philadelphia, which he calls “one of the best universities in the United States.”
Hinshaw sounds like he couldn’t be happier with both his decision to attend Temple Japan and to transfer to the main campus. Here in Philly, he was able to land an internship in Center City, and he'll soon be visiting Farmshelf's vertical farms in New York City, coordinated by Tender Greens founder Erik Oberholtzer, CLA '91, to pick his brain over lunch and visit his company’s vertical farm.
Studying at the College of Liberal Arts has helped, too.
“The thing about the College of Liberal Arts is it makes you think critically and also makes you think about the impact of your decisions.”
Hopefully, Hinshaw’s impact on the world—and on the business world—will be felt for years to come.