Denver startups create exercise equipment

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DENVER — If you like to hit the hard court, you know one of the most mundane jobs is shagging all of those errant balls.

“I’m an avid tennis player and picking up tennis balls at classes was sort of a nightmare,” Barbara Askenazi said.

She wanted to turn that nightmare into a dream. She did it by inventing the Ball Buddy.

“The Ball Buddy is a piece of equipment for the tennis court that collects all of the scattered balls from the tennis court and brings them into an upper basket,” Askenazi said.

She used to be lawyer, but with five years of work, she got the Ball Buddy rolling and is now an entrepreneur.

Askenazi shares a similar story with James Ball and Anthony Varella, the inventors of Fit AFX.

“When we say we’ve put our sweat and blood into this, we’ve given like plasma,” Varella said. “We’ve done side jobs all of this stuff to fund this.”

Varella is talking about an innovative workout bench. It’s flat (like most workout benches) on one side, but it rotates and is arched on the other side.

The arch keeps shoulders stable and engages the core, according to the fitness fanatics turned entrepreneurs.

“This is going to help with the upper and lower part of the spine and giving more of a bending and twisting motion,” Ball said.

Ball, Varella and Askenazi are all part of Denver’s entrepreneur and startup scene, one of the 10 best into the country, according to the annual Kauffman Report.

They also all received help from best-selling author and incubator, Dennis Shaver.

“Entrepreneurship is key because the future is about innovation, creativity and creating jobs and opportunities for people,” Shaver said.

Startups account for nearly 5,000 jobs in downtown Denver, according to the Downtown Denver Partnership. And now they account for some new exercise equipment, too.

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