Members of the health care industry who wear traditional scrubs now have another option, thanks to new Chattanooga startup Aegle Gear.
The co-founders are longtime friends and colleagues George Brown and Uli Becker, who is the former CEO of Reebok. They met 25 years ago while working for sports apparel giant Adidas.
Brown also spent years working in the health care industry.
"We want to do something that's purposeful, that makes a difference, that helps people. If you look at the health care industry, it's one of the largest ... The actions of these health care workers matter. We think we can be doing some great things with developing better uniforms."
Source: George Brown
"Current offerings [of scrubs] in many cases are no better than bedsheets sewn into pajamas," Brown said. "For an industry that focuses on excellence and quality, uniforms have become an afterthought."
Drawing on their experiences in designing gear to help athletes perform in an array of environments while maintaining comfort and style, the duo is now focusing on health care.
The duo spent about two years studying what was already available for health care workers, and they developed a proprietary fabric to improve the form and function of the clothing.
The design is ergonomic and offers many of the functions found in popular exercise apparel. And the garments last for at least 100 washes, Brown said.
"From a design perspective, we build garments that work with the wearer," Brown said.
They set out to build a durable antimicrobial fabric designed to withstand the daily rigors of the health care worker.
The rip-stop stretch fabric is treated with a hypoallergenic antimicrobial agent. The fabric includes a fluid repellent barrier that is built to be comfortable and easy to maintain.
All these features are aimed at eliminating pathogens and ultimately preventing the spread of disease.
Aegle was the Greek goddess of health.
The federal government hasn't officially approved that the garments prevent the spread of disease-causing microorganisms, but Brown said he hopes that comes in January.
"One could only imagine a garment that's been tested to eliminate pathogens would protect the wearer," he said.
So far, there's about $1 million invested in the business, and the duo will seek future investment for marketing and additional inventory.
Aegle Gear products are available through their website, AegleGear.com, and the company also sells directly to health care institutions.
"We are excited to provide uniforms for our neonatal ICU nurses and our neuro ICU nurses, where we ultimately expect the best experience for our patients," Erlanger Health System Chief Nursing Officer Jan Keys said in a prepared statement.
In pitching to hospital higher-ups, company leaders highlight the potential for disease-spreading prevention.
Infections are major concerns for hospital CEOs, because not only do they cost the facility money, they can also hurt an institution's reputation, Brown said.
There's also a chance to build a hospital's brand through the scrubs, which could have logos on them, he said.
And the co-founders are also focusing on both patient and employee satisfaction.
"Patient satisfaction can be improved by making a nurse happier," Brown said.
Although the price points are higher than traditional scrubs, Brown said his company's products will outlast what's currently offered. And if hospitals invest in the products and give them to employees—instead of having them buy their own—that plays back into the "happy nurse, happy patient" idea, he also said.