So long scrubs; Chattanooga startup to sell germ-resistant 'performance apparel' for those in medical profession
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Learn more about Aegle Gear at www.facebook.com/Aeglegear.
George Brown isn't impressed by the design of the "scrubs" worn on the job by nurses, doctors and other health-care workers.
"They've taken bed sheets, and they've sewn it into pajamas," said Brown, the founder of Aegle Gear, a Chattanooga startup company that aims to change all that.
"Nurses are just like athletes," Brown said. "They perform under stress."
So Brown has designed a line of what he calls "health care performance apparel" with such features as an extended neckline so a stethoscope will lay flat, articulated knees so pants don't droop when the wearer stoops, and a dedicated cell phone pocket.
What really sets Aegle (pronounced aye-glah) Gear apart, Brown said, is an antimicrobial fabric that kills 99.9 percent of pathogens.
Traditional scrubs, he said, can spread disease and cause hospital-associated infections — a multi-billion-dollar problem. Some nurses even keep an extra washer and dryer in the garage, Brown said, so they can change clothes there and keep their dirty scrubs away from their families.
While there are other brands of antimicrobial scrubs on the market, Aegle Gear's zinc-impregnated fabric will ward off pathogens for 100 washings, Brown said, more than competitors' 25 to 50 washings.
Even with Aegle Gear's extra features, Brown says the apparel will only cost about 25 percent more than traditional scrubs, or about $80 for an outfit.
Brown has high hopes for Aegle Gear's growth, since he says the U.S. retail market for medical scrubs is about $2 billion, and the number of U.S. health-care workers is expected to grow from 14 million now to 18 million in 2020.
The startup company has a team with a deep background in the athletic gear and health care industries.
Brown worked for years in sales and marketing for Adidas, the giant German athletic shoe and apparel maker. Until 2012, he was president of Meditract, a health care contract management software system based in New Jersey.
Aegle Gear's team includes Boston resident Uli Becker, a native of Germany who's the former CEO of the athletic shoemaker Reebok, which is owned by Adidas.
Becker has ties to Chattanooga, since he grew up in Hamm, Germany, Chattanooga's sister city. He also was an exchange student who stayed on Lookout Mountain with Roger and Joy Gulick. Becker has a brother who attended Covenant College.
Help with Aegle Gear's branding and logo came from Peter Moore, the former CEO of Adidas, who also worked at Nike where he was the artist behind that brand's iconic "Jumpman" logo of Michael Jordan slam-dunking a basketball.
Aegle takes a cue from Nike, which — before it became the world's biggest brand of athletic shoes — was best known as Nike, the Greek goddess of victory.
"Aegle is the goddess of radiant health and beauty," Brown said.
Hopes to raise $1.5 million
Another partner is Chattanooga's Keith Helton, M.D., the CEO of the One to One Personal Physician Network that's headquartered in the historic Volunteer Building downtown. Helton, a former executive at Erlanger Health System, will arrange for a test of Aegle Gear's antimicrobial features at a Chattanooga area hospital.
"A group of nurses will be given two sets of the scrubs," said Audrey Mosley, a One to One project manager who's helping Aegle Gear develop its corporate strategy. "We'll be surveying them for their feedback and hopefully doing some sort of clinical trial."
Aegle Gear hopes to raise about $1.5 million, Brown said, so it can have two years' inventory of clothing manufactured that it would sell on its yet-to-be-developed E-commerce website.
Eventually, Brown would like to have Aegle Gear's apparel cut and sewn in Chattanooga — ideally in the downtown area.
Brown only moved to Chattanooga a few years ago, but he likes it better than other places he's lived, including Boulder, Colo., and Sanibel Island, Fla.
Brown, who traveled around the country to photograph Grateful Dead concerts as a hobby, lives in a townhome downtown near the Walnut Street pedestrian bridge, where he and his wife walk just about every night.
"Chattanooga is my favorite place to be," Brown said. "Hell or high water, this company is staying here."