What Really Came Of The Cincha Travel Belts And Bags From Shark Tank?

The world of travel collided with ABC's "Shark Tank" when entrepreneurs James H. Baker and Ashley M. Sharma pitched their travel belts to the panel of investors. The duo appeared on the reality show on its 14th season, episode 19, which aired on April 7, 2023. Gwyneth Paltrow was a guest star on the episode. Baker and Sharma, who hail from Oakland, California, came up with the idea of a stylish travel belt after finding it difficult to navigate a travel bag and a suitcase. Not everyone has mastered the art of packing light, and even when you do, you still need a personal bag. So Baker and Sharma created a stretchy travel belt that secures one's personal bag to the handle of a suitcase for easy commuting, with the catchphrase: "Secure the bag!" They nixed the idea of a simple bungee cord to do the job because it wasn't secure enough, nor was it stylish. Their standard travel belt currently sells for $39. 

Sharma's father was a pilot, so she not only had personal travel experience, but familial experience as well. The couple decided to create these belts in 2019, and began Cincha out of their apartment. The couple offered a charming sales pitch and was seeking $200,000 for a 15% stake in their brand. The duo got the money they wanted, but on slightly different terms, and Cincha is still a thriving brand.

How did it go for Cincha on 'Shark Tank'?

While making their pitch on "Shark Tank," James H. Baker and Ashley M. Sharma caught the interest of two sharks thanks to the convenience and snazzy design of their Cincha travel belts. They got a few different offers. First, Barbara Corcoran offered them the $200,000, half in a credit line and half in cash up front, for a 33% stake in the company.

Then, Kevin O'Leary jumped in and offered them $200,000 for 20% of the company, but he wanted a royalty deal, claiming that there was no other way to get his capital back. He offered $4 per unit in royalties until he got his capital back, then $0.50 in perpetuity. Baker and Sharma, unsurprisingly, weren't keen on O'Leary's idea, and turned back to Corcoran to counter her offer. They asked her for the same terms, but with a 25% stake in the company. One YouTube user had a theory as to why O'Leary can sometimes make such unappealing offers. "Kevin makes a lot of offers knowing they won't take it but just for the entrepreneurs to get better deals ... this is one such instance," thiruc9345 commented. That's certainly an interesting theory and seems true in this case. Baker and Sharma were able to talk Corcoran into a better deal.

'Shark Tank' has made a huge difference for Cincha

The exposure that Cincha got on "Shark Tank" completely changed the company's sales power. Their bestselling travel belts sold out after the episode aired, and things continue to thrive for James H. Baker and Ashley M. Sharma. Other news sites started talking about Cincha after they appeared on the ABC reality show. BuzzFeed published a list in June 2023 called "17 of the Coolest Products I've Seen on Shark Tank In 2023 So Far," and Cincha made the list. They got a shoutout in Architectural Digest and CNN, both in May 2023. They also landed a spot on The View, as Joy Behar spoke about her favorite summer items under $50.

Cincha expanded their merchandise list following their time on "Shark Tank" too, introducing the Belt Buddy, a detachable case with a travel belt, so travelers can have easier access to essential things like a phone, wallet, or passport without rooting through their large personal bag. The Belt Buddy costs $67.50. In honor of Barbara Corcoran's deal with them, Baker and Sharma also created "The Barb Bundle," which consists of a travel belt, a belt bag, and a stowaway pocket for $99. The bundle sold out after their episode of "Shark Tank" aired.

Why Cincha is thriving

Cincha's travel belts have been met with positivity, in large part thanks to the global exposure of being on "Shark Tank." Part of their ongoing success is that they continually launch new editions of the travel belt and Belt Buddy. They launched an Italian collection on July 5, 2023 with belts saying "La Dolce Vita," and bags and belts in lemon yellow and Mediterranean blue. On Instagram, James H. Baker and Ashley M. Sharma notified followers that this was their most successful launch to date. Clearly, things are going really well for Cincha.

One other detail that makes Cincha so compelling to customers is that the brand also has a mission. In their early years, they donated three meals worth of food for each travel belt sold. In 2021, they came up with the idea of donating 100 airline points for each belt sold to connect separated migrant families. As of July 2023, they have donated one million miles. The brand also has a really charming presence on Instagram, with playful memes relating to their newest launches, and stylish photos of the travel belts and bags in use.

What's next for Cincha?

Cincha is thriving thanks to the hard work of founders James H. Baker and Ashley M. Sharma and the financial clout of Barbara Corcoran. They seem to have nestled into a good market, too. According to the iMarc Group, the global travel bags market was valued at $17.1 billion U.S. in 2022. Travel statistics are up, with more people jet setting around the world, so Baker and Sharma have a compelling product in a hot market. They continue to make new products and expand their brand, adding socks and a hotel pen and notepad set, so they're staying innovative.

While Cincha has received rave reviews, others have criticized the brand. A standard-size travel belt from them costs $39, and some people on Reddit have made the argument that less snazzy belts do the job just as well. On the r/sharktank thread, geotraveling wrote: "No different than that $5 luggage strap I put on my checked luggage to identify it easier." GeneralGlobus wrote that tactical belts do roughly the same thing for less money. However, the appeal to travelers is that Cincha's belts are specifically designed for one purpose, and therefore will likely do a better job of securing travel bags. Plus, the designs are lovely.