OwlSpark | Rice University Startup Accelerator | TeamWise: Cinch
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TeamWise: Cinch

If you’ve ever needed a solution to planning a party for a large group of people, Cinch has got you covered. Comprised of four friends—including a pair of fiancees and a pair of siblings, Cinch aims to become a one-stop-shop for planning and coordinating bachelor and bachelorette parties. The four founders, Liana Gonzalez-Schulenberg, a Texas A&M University alumni, Molly Berkemeier, a Texas A&M University Ph.D. candidate, Anika Harvey, a Loyola Marymount University alumni, and Alex Harvey, a Rice University MBA candidate have a diverse array of education backgrounds and a passion for making party planning easier. The team’s dynamic is that of a close-knit family, and they believe that it makes their meetings more productive, despite the typical advice of not working with family. Meetings with Cinch can flow fluidly from work to life and back to work without anybody noticing the shift in topic.

We’ve had a lot of people come in and say how difficult it is to run a business with people you’re related to...but I think that we get so many more positives out of the experience.

With their online solution, party planners can organize itineraries, budgets, and communication. Users are presented with recommendations for restaurants that seat large groups of people, and can book hotels in one stop. Without the hassle of spending hours on other travel and group booking sites, users can shave hours and stress off of the planning process. In order to avoid drama and make the party planning process fair, Cinch allows every member of the party to input their budgets and ideas before final plans are made. When conducting customer discovery, the founders realized that the little details were often overlooked and sometimes resulted in ruined friendships, and ruined parties. The founders realized the need for bachelor and bachelorette parties will never go away, and for men and women in their mid-twenties to mid-thirties, these types of parties are a frequent occurrence that do not get easier over time.

For Cinch, the most exciting part of the summer has been the ability to network and meet people in the Houston entrepreneurial community. For a group that is mostly based out of College Station, finding contacts in Houston was their number one priority. Not knowing many people in the Houston area did not slow Cinch down, however, as they finished the summer with more than 100 interviews. They also credit the Lilie space and OwlSpark program as great resources to find people who can help, and to find snacks to fuel their progress. On the other end of the spectrum, Cinch also acknowledges their biggest challenge of the summer as their early pivot. Initially, the founders saw this as a “cataclysmic shift” that seemed detrimental to their progress. Despite their seemingly earth-shattering pivot, Cinch credits the pivot to the fact that they ultimately strengthened their idea.

When we shifted it felt like a failure. We felt like we knew where we were, we knew the next step, and now we had nothing.

OwlSpark has provided Cinch with the opportunity to grow and understand what goes into a business on a more complex level. Alex and Anika were the only two members of the team that came in with a business background and knew the basics of entrepreneurship. Liana and Molly, however, joke that they had no idea what a value proposition was on Day One. For Cinch, the most valuable thing they’ve gained from OwlSpark is an understanding of entrepreneurial process: the ability to think critically and shape something tangible has allowed for them to gain confidence in their abilities. One year from today, Cinch plans to have a working platform designed for five cities. They hope to have customers that like and trust Cinch, and who want to come back time and time again.

The process of being able to come in with an unbaked idea and being pushed to format that into something real is a learning experience in and of itself.

Over the past 12 weeks, Cinch as grown as a team and as a company. With a wireframe up and running, countless customer validations, and a neverending market opportunity, we can’t wait to see how far they can go in the future. Maybe one day we can plan #bayoustartupsummer from their one-stop-shop, but for now, Class 6 has ended and will be back—in a cinch!

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