Personal challenge resulted in Chace Vineski’s first product

Spot Bro(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is another in our series of articles spotlighting Northeast Tennessee’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.)

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

A doctor’s suggestion to lift weights as a way to offset the effects of a congenital chest wall deformity provided the “fuel” behind Chace Vineski’s first product from his A-ha! Innovations start-up.

The name says a great deal about his focus – addressing those A-ha moments when you say, “I wish I had thought of that.” Vineski wants to help bring A-ha ideas to reality.

The Pennsylvania native, who moved to Northeast Tennessee in his early years, was born with something called pectus excavatum, more commonly called a concave chest. Several ribs and the sternum grow abnormally, producing a concave or caved-in appearance in the anterior chest wall. And in many cases, including Vineski’s, the result is lung and heart compression leading to cardiac displacement making the need to have it corrected essential.

“After surgery to correct my concave chest, the doctor said I should workout to help expand my compressed heart and lungs, so I started lifting weights in the eighth grade,” Vineski told us in a recent interview. Though exercise was highly recommended, he also had to be very careful not to cause damage to the chest. That caused him to start reading about bench pressing injuries where he learned about Stafon Johnson’s serious injury when a falling weight bar crushed his neck and larynx.

“That gave me the idea for my first product,” Vineski said. It is named Spot Bro, based on the well-known and frequent question that weightlifters ask: “Can I get a spot?”

The product is described as a weightlifting safety apparatus for bench pressers. Vineski says it works by attaching the barbell directly to the bench press rack, offering protection to users in the event they accidentally drop the barbell or are unable to rack it.

In Johnson’s case, the then football player at the University of Southern California dropped a 275-pound barbell on his throat while performing a bench press during a routine team workout. He underwent seven hours of surgery and was in a hospital for weeks, unable to speak and with a breathing tube in his throat.

Vineski had an A-ha moment and decided to pursue it.

Spot Bro, which comes in both Olympic and standard sizes, allows users to perform all bench press-related exercises without interfering with their repetitions. It can also be used to perform something called pin presses which are exercises that are not possible with just a bench press unit.

“Spot Bro’s greatest attribute is how quick it is to install,” Vineski says. “It also provides protection for up to 1,000 pounds.”

Weighing less than 10 pounds, Spot Bro can be carried in a gym bag and installed in less than 10 seconds.

The device consists of a set of three parts – two stainless steel O-rings, two stainless steel anchor brackets, and two stainless steel chains. The O-rings fit around the ends of the barbell, just inside of where the user would rack the weight plates. They are attached to the chain links which can be adjusted based on the user’s chest size and arm length. Finally, the brackets are placed over the upper lip of the bench press rack to secure the chain links.

Vineski wrote and filed a provisional patent in July 2016 and will file for a full patent this year. He expects to tinker with the design over the next few months,

“I would like to market to the end user,” he says, citing the roughly 70 million weightlifters in the U.S. alone. Current thinking is a price point of $30 to $50 per unit.

Vineski, who has been securing support from John Campbell and the team at AccelNow as well as mentors at Kingsport’s Sync Space and Holston Business Development Center, has been devoting full-time to the product since January as well as conceptualizing other product ideas. He hopes Spot Bro will be the first of a number of fitness offerings.

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