Start Peninsula 2018

Start Peninsula Returns to City of Newport News for Annual Event


Start Peninsula is pleased to announce that it will return for the seventh annual event in Newport News. Start Peninsula will be held Nov. 2-4, 2018 at the Applied Research Center, 12050 Jefferson Avenue, across from Jefferson Lab and adjacent to Tech Center. Start Peninsula has been held annually in different Peninsula localities since 2012.

Start Peninsula is a weekend-long event to stimulate entrepreneurial growth in the local community by connecting early stage businesses to validation, opportunities and resources. Start Peninsula combines a pitch competition with business education and a celebration of our local entrepreneurial ecosystem. Dozens of entrepreneurs connect with business leaders and mentors during this exciting event that showcases early stage businesses.

“We are excited to welcome the Start Peninsula event to the Applied Research Center. Start Peninsula helps grow the entrepreneurial ecosystem on the Peninsula and we are delighted to welcome early stage businesses to pitch at this year’s event,” said Florence Kingston, Director of Development for the City of Newport News.

Early stage businesses are invited to apply to pitch at Start Peninsula. If a business is invited to pitch at Start Peninsula, they must pay a fee of $75 before Oct. 1 or $100 after. Thirty businesses will be invited to pitch on Friday, Nov. 2 and three winners will be selected on Sunday, Nov. 3. Winners will receive $5,000 to fuel their business growth and free access to local resources.

In 2017, Start Peninsula was hosted by the Greater Williamsburg region at the Stryker Center in the City of Williamsburg. The winners included MadSkills, Affordify and Muddy Marley’s Dog Wash. Since 2012, an average of 27 businesses have pitched their ideas each year during the event.

Experienced business professionals are invited to sign up to participate in the event as mentors by applying online. Mentors should have experience in marketing, sales, technology, finance, risk management, law, human resources or business ownership.

Start Peninsula 2018 is hosted by the City of Newport News, in partnership with the Cities of Hampton, Williamsburg and Poquoson, and the Counties of James City & York. For more information about Start Peninsula please visit our website, Facebook page or their FAQ page.

View the official press release by clicking here.

Media Contact:
Sam Workman


Three startups get $22,500 at Williamsburg pitch competition

A job platform for military spouses, a college budgeting tool and a self-serve dog wash beat 18 other startups in a competition to collectively take away $22,500 in funds.

Erica McMannes took the coveted first place prize of $10,000 for her military spouse job platform, MadSkills.

But it took a whole weekend of pitches and refining her business and ideas to take the top spot.

Start Peninsula is a pitch competition focused on helping Peninsula startups get off the ground. And although every competitor vies for a place in the top three at the end, the weekend-long event provides resources, keynote speakers and mentors to help refine business ideas and create a productive weekend for every pitcher – regardless of whether they get funds.

The event rotates between Williamsburg, Newport News and Hampton. This is its sixth year and second time in Williamsburg at the Stryker Center.

Read the full article here.

Start Peninsula weekend nurtures ideas to launch businesses

MadSkills, a business that connects employers with virtual military spouse talent, landed the first-place $10,000 prize at the sixth annual Start Peninsula business idea contest at the Stryker Center in Williamsburg Sunday night.

Active-duty Army spouse Erica McMannes, 36, of York County, said she started MadSkills with partner Liza Rodewald just before moving to the region about 15 months ago. McMannes had moved nine times in 15 years and knew what it was like to struggle to find a job or start and stop again, she said.

MadSkills has a community of about 2,200 military spouses and acts as a job board for employers to recruit specific virtual talent at, she said. The business already connected 60 spouses with virtual jobs, she said. Additionally, McMannes told the panel of judges the business also can recruit and manage a virtual team for employers.

Read the full article here.

Hampton VA News Release

START Peninsula gets state grant to extend entrepreneurial education, training

Aug. 28, 2017 – Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced that START Peninsula, a regional program to foster entrepreneurship, will receive $20,695 in state Building Entrepreneurial Economies grants.


START Peninsula began in 2012 as an informal entrepreneurial start­up event held in the fall and produced by the Peninsula Technology Incubator. The now-annual event helps start-up businesses and entrepreneurs refine their pitches and compete for prizes that include cash as well as business counseling, office space and other assistance. It is funded by the cities of Hampton, Newport News, Poquoson, Williamsburg and the counties of James City and York.


The state grant will go toward year-round educational programming to help people refine their businesses aspirations, both small businesses and entrepreneurs. According to the grant application, the goal is to “create greater public awareness of the peninsula’s entrepreneurial community network and the infrastructure available to cultivate and support nascent and early-stage entrepreneurs.”


“Targeted public sector grants, partnered with private sector investments, can be incredibly helpful in bolstering an enhanced entrepreneurial ecosystem in Virginia,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Todd Haymore. Six other programs statewide also received grants.


The three new programs will include:

  • Y-START, a program that would work through the Peninsula school systems to create entrepreneurial clubs and a business competition between schools.
  • How to Start a Business – Eight Simple Lessons, will incorporate face-to-face contact with visiting entrepreneurs, offer online content, and facilitate project and problem-solving discussions. It intended to help encourage the development of success business ideas and will be used as a lead up to the START Peninsula event.
  • Build a Successful Startup Business is an eight-week course intended to support all the participants of START, regardless of receiving a prize at the competition, as well as for those who are already in business, to provide them with continued support and direction on executing a successful business venture. It will be provided as follow-up training after the START Peninsula event.


Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce will run the youth program, and Thomas Nelson Community College will provide the adult training. This year’s START Peninsula event will be Nov. 3-5 at the Stryker Center in Williamsburg. For more information, go to


Success Builder Sessions are available at three locations on the Peninsula to help businesses learn the secrets of how to create and deliver presentations crucial to business development. These sessions are perfect for any entrepreneur at any stage of their business. A successful presentation is often a critical moment for any business and a great performance helps entrepreneurs win over investors, clients and customers to interact with their business. Success Builder merges presentation and marketing skills with professional coaching and lots of practice to help businesses make a clear and concise presentation that wins the hearts and minds of its audience.

Building on the success of Pitch Perfect and Start Peninsula last year, Success Builder Sessions are right for any business professional, regardless of the stage of development. Success Builder is a series of three modules in which entrepreneurs learn how to make a successful presentation for sales or a pitch for investment.  The cost for each session is just $10 and is free to those who previously pitched a business idea at Start Peninsula. Couragio Consulting, a worldwide business and individual consulting firm, provides the Success Builder training and will help entrepreneurs master their presentation skills.

Each 2-hour session provides participants a better understanding of powerful communication strategies including how to effectively engage an audience, what tools to use to keep them engaged and the difference in pitching to investors vs presenting for sales. Presentations take place from March through July 2017 and are held from 6:00 to 8:00 pm on the Peninsula at the following dates and locations:

Module 1 – “Setting Yourself Up for Success” 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Launchpad
4345 New Town Ave, Suite 200
Williamsburg, VA 23188

Module 2 – “Developing and Using the Right Tools” 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017 and June 12, 2017

Peninsula Chamber of Commerce
21 Enterprise Parkway, Suite 100
Hampton, VA 23666

Module 3 – “Showtime! Making the Ask and Generating Sales”

Wednesday, April 26, 2017 and Monday July 17, 2017

Brittingham Midtown Community Center
570 McLawhorne Drive
Newport News, VA 23601

To register, you may call (757) 565-4373 or go to: for more information.

Registration information for individual sessions may also be found at:

Module1 – Williamsburg:

Module 2 – Hampton:

Module 3 – Newport News:

The hardest part about starting a business is…

Notice the title says “starting” a business, not running a business. The hardest part about starting a business is, naming your business. There are many different things to consider when coming up with an name and once you decide on something, you’re married to your name. It’s much easier to get it right the first time versus changing it 6 months down the road. The more mature your business becomes, the more expensive and time consuming it will be to change its name.

Keys steps to consider when naming your business:

A descriptive name versus a creative or made up name: Burger King versus Wendy’s? In it’s name people can quickly understand that Burger King specializes in burgers. When Wendy’s first entered the scene, what was a Wendy? After a consistent branding message, today everyone knows Wendy’s is also famous for their burgers. The key is that it takes time and a consistent branding message. Look at some of the most known companies that have made up names; Twitter, Yahoo, Google, Ikea or even Kinko’s.

Things to consider:

  • What your plans are for the business? Local, National, International…
  • Will you have a marketing budget to establish the brand?
  • Can it be confused with other businesses?

Branding yourself versus a business: Most businesses start with one or two people in the business. If you have no plans to be larger than a single person enterprise, it’s okay to be Tim’s Tire Repair. If you plan to become a multi-million dollar company that will disrupt an entire industry forever, the name should be larger than yourself. That too becomes part of your marketing message! Do you reference your business as an “I” or a “we” when creating your marketing materials. It matters and it must be consistent.

Things to consider:

  • Ask yourself, who will be the future face of the company?
  • Do you have more than one partner?
  • Consider being all inclusive to represent each founder

Length of the name: The longer the name, more real estate is required on the web, on business cards and other marketing material. If you’re thinking you can transition your business into an acronym, spell it out before it’s too late!

Don’t try to be too clever: A clever name may sound like a good idea at the time. Ask yourself and others if it makes sense, is it easy to spell and pronounce?  

Is the URL available (and across the other social media platforms)? If it is, you might be onto something!

Things to consider:

  • .com domains are still King
  • You can use other domains but others may discount your business as being a “new” business that hasn’t passed the test of time

If you’re able to get a domain name and a social media presence without any conflict, then you can look to Trademark.  It’s better to spend $15 on a URL first than spend the money on the trademark process without passing the URL test.

It’s a painful process but try to have fun with it. We hope this helps you along your journey!

Start Peninsula Winners Announced

Three teams of entrepreneurs in the Hampton Roads area are now steps closer to launching their businesses. Dozens of teams presented a 90 second pitch on Friday night and 10 were selected over the weekend to deliver a 5 minute pitch on Sunday evening. Three teams were then crowned as the 2016 Start Peninsula winners from last weekend’s competition! Unmanned Aerial Propulsion Systems, designers of a quiet and safe drone with no exposed spinning propellers, won first place and $10,000. Harper (Oso Bear), an artificial intelligence and interactive learning toy that helps children tell their own stories, won second place and $7500 while AnswersNOW, a web-based mobile service to help parents of autistic children, won third place and $5000. All three winners also received free membership in a Peninsula business incubator for a period of 90 days. Each winner has the choice to select either the Hampton University Business Incubator or the Peninsula Technology Incubator in Hampton or the Launchpad or Ignition Center in Williamsburg.


Twenty-nine new business ideas were pitched by inventors, students, designers, programmers, and engineers on Friday night with participants describing their business idea in 90 seconds. The goal was to define the idea or concept by explaining the product, service, or value proposition in a short duration of time while exciting the audience and judges about the idea’s potential. Ten semi-finalists including website developers, service providers, and product designers were named by the judges to develop their businesses over the weekend. Semi-finalists formed teams with attendees and mentors and worked with programmers, marketing experts, financial planners, attorneys and others to transform their ideas into executable business plans. “Shark Tank” style presentations on Sunday night were scored on Business Model, Customer Validation, Execution and Design with winners given an important boost for their businesses.


Entrepreneurs can look forward to another opportunity to present business ideas and develop a business plan at the sixth annual Start Peninsula that will be hosted in Williamsburg in November 2017.

Welcome to Start Peninsula 2016!

Stay tuned for more news as we near the event!