Start Peninsula judges pick fitness, coffee and heated floor concepts as winners

Three startups will get $5,000 each and help growing their businesses after winning this year’s virtual Start Peninsula contest on Nov. 4.

Of 10 finalists, the winners selected by a panel of judges were Chair One Fitness, Hottrok and Wave Coffee Brewer.

Alexis Perkins, a Zumba instructor for 11 years and former lead instructor for Fuzion Fitness that aired a TV program in Hampton Roads, pitched Chair One Fitness, a chair-based dance fitness program. She told judges her eyes opened after a couple of the chair-based exercise videos she posted online garnered hundreds of thousands of views. One on YouTube garnered more than 597,000 views — many more views than her typical fitness videos.

“So, we know that the fitness industry is really good about getting people excited to work out but they forgot an entire demographic — they forgot all the people who can’t stand so well,” Perkins said.

Chair One Fitness offers on-demand workout videos, virtual classes with a live instructor or in-person classes. A large part of the business is its instructor training program. Perkins said she started developing chair choreography nine years ago because of demand. Instructors can use their certifications to teach through Chair One or at churches or other facilities. Instructors can become members for access to ongoing education, choreography and other resources.

Start Peninsula helps encourage entrepreneurs to keep going, particularly when they validate their business ideas, she said.

“It gives you a little bit more confidence to keep pushing,” Perkins said. “All entrepreneurs, they need a lot of grit.”

Rodger Bennett, a professional tile setter, and Celeste Vaughn pitched Hottrok, which is a panel system installed beneath tiles for heated floors. They said their substrate product comes in a grid pattern with a predictable flat surface to make it easier for contractors to install floor heating. He said the material readily accepts warm wire and has both thermal and acoustic insulating properties.

The co-founders plan to work with custom builders initially and Hottrok could even help grow the market for heated flooring, they said.

“Electric radiant heat is the way of the future,” Bennett told the judges.

Inventor Peter Van Davelaar in Norfolk pitched Wave Coffee Brewer, a brewing system made for K-cups that sits atop a mug in the microwave. He developed the product as a portable solution for traveling in recreational vehicles or for easy storage and saving counter space, like in an apartment or dorm room. He plans to sell the system online at WaveTravelBrewer.com.

“It’s nice to get positive feedback on an invention that I’ve been working on,” Van Davelaar said. “It’s nice to have some indication that I’m not going in the wrong direction.”

The winners also received a six month community membership to Launchpad, the Greater Williamsburg Business Incubator, according to a news release.

Start Peninsula, which began in 2012, was hosted by Williamsburg, James City County and York County in partnership with the cities of Hampton, Newport News and Poquoson. The event is

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Meadows says ‘we’re not going to control the pandemic’ in heated interview

As coronavirus cases spike across the country, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said in a heated interview Sunday that the administration won’t be able to “control the pandemic.”

Speaking with CNN’s “State of the Union,” Meadows was pressed on the administration’s attitude toward Covid-19 as cases reached a record high this weekend, hospitalizations climb, and more than 225,000 people have died. He was also pushed about Vice President Mike Pence’s decision to continue campaigning even after four of his aides tested positive for the virus.

“We’re not going to control the pandemic, we are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigations,” Meadows said, adding “it is a contagious virus just like the flu.”

Trump has long compared Covid-19 to the flu, which experts have resoundingly rejected as both inaccurate and “morally reprehensible.”

Meadows later told CNN that the administration is “making efforts to contain” coronavirus but that what is important is “to make sure people don’t die from this.”

“When we look at the number of cases increasing what we have to do is make sure we fight it with therapeutics and vaccines, take proper mitigation factors in terms of social distancing and masks when we can,” Meadows said. “And when we look at this, we’re going to defeat it because we’re Americans.”

He defended Pence’s decision to stay on the trail, saying the vice president is “essential personnel” so he doesn’t need to quarantine.

The president, who also contracted the virus earlier this month along with first lady Melania Trump and more than 20 others close to him, has continued to say the U.S. is “rounding the corner” in the pandemic, even though key statistics are on the rise.

Meadows was also pressed on the lack of mask-wearing at the president’s rallies, where attendees are frequently seen tightly packed together without face coverings.

“We don’t mandate masks because we offer them out,” Meadows said. “We live in a free society.”

After host Jake Tapper pushed back, Meadows responded, “You’re not wearing one right now, Jake.”

“There’s literally nobody in this room,” Tapper responded. “There is literally not one person in this studio.”

The exchange was emblematic of the contentious nature of the interview, where both men shouted over each other at different points.

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., criticized Meadows later on Sunday.

“They are admitting defeat,” the Democratic vice presidential nominee told reporters in Detroit. “This is the greatest failure of any Presidential administration in the history of America … again they’re suggesting to the American people that this is like the flu when we have known from the beginning and they have known since January, that it’s five times more deadly than the flu.”

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