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The End of Scrubs: An Interview with George Brown & Uli Becker

May 11, 2019

Long-time friends and colleagues, George Brown and Uli Becker (former CEO of Reebok) met 25 years ago while working for sports apparel giant, Adidas. Now as co-founders of Aegle Gear, they are raising the bar to meet the demands of the modern healthcare worker. 

Drawing upon their experience of designing gear to help athletes perform in a myriad of environments while maintaining comfort and style, the duo is now focusing on healthcare, hoping to outfit those that care for others with gear that matters.

Can you both describe your backgrounds?

George: My first entrepreneurial effort was a surf shop I opened on Sanibel Island, that business later grew to include a sporting goods store and several outdoor stores. I have always been interested in gear even back to my days as a hockey and lacrosse player.  After selling my various successful retail businesses– I pursued a job with Adidas where I met my business partner Uli Becker. I wanted to be part of Adidas as I always believed it to be the original sports brand. After a successful tenure at Adidas I was given the opportunity to sell for a healthcare startup company– eventually, I became the President of that company. While working in healthcare I observed many situations that caught the eyes of the administrators, particularly when it came to compliance and risk. Those risk and compliance concerns left me looking for solutions that would help the healthcare professional perform at their best. I retired in 2014 and moved to Chattanooga where Aegle Gear is based.

Uli: I’m a lifelong sports addict with decades worked in the corporate sports world in product, marketing, branding, sales, and GM executive functions. Then I wanted to figure out the entrepreneurial side of the world. After working on making big bigger, I started to work with startups to figure out how to make small bigger. I’ve learned a lot and can now contribute my experience to helping to grow Aegle Gear.


How did Aegle Gear get started?

George: Aegle Gear started no differently than any other business – it was an idea based on a need. I began thinking, “What’s next?” and then I looked at my career where 2/3 had been spent in the athletic industry and the other third had been in healthcare. I tried to find a commonality that would interest me and draw on both portions of my career. It struck me that in both fields uniforms are crucial. In sport, the uniforms were cutting edge, with millions of dollars spent testing and refining everything to enhance performance and protection. But if you look at the uniforms in healthcare they are uninspiring and most look like pajamas made from simple fabrics. I knew we could do better and so Uli and I and set out to build the finest healthcare apparel available, calling upon our athletic backgrounds with the mission to design gear that would help such an important workforce as they save lives.



“Healthcare professionals deserve a uniform that helps them to compete every single day to save lives.”

George Brown
Founder & CEO, Aegle Gear



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Why the healthcare industry?

Advancement in healthcare apparel is much needed. At Aegle Gear,  we believe healthcare professionals deserve world-class gear. There is much evidence to show that the market will be growing for years to come. The healthcare industry employs 1-in-8 workers in the US. It is a massive audience that has been using uniforms that have been virtually unchanged for over 35 years. Additionally, it is a dedicated workforce that often stays with the same employer for their entire career, we felt it was important to build a brand dedicated to the needs of these important workers.

How do you draw the connection between healthcare occupations and athletes?

When you compare professional athletes to the healthcare professional there are so many similarities. They work as a team, and a head surgeon might lead her staff similarly to how a quarterback may lead their team. Often both work under stressful situations, such as variable climates that can be very cold or very hot. Both are required to manipulate their bodies in various positions in order to complete their jobs. Both can be very rough on their uniforms, whether it be staining the fabric or stressing the fabric – inferior fabrics will not hold up. Additionally, uniforms identify who you are, in both verticals they must look good while being comfortable.

What makes Aegle Gear different from traditional scrubs?

While designing Aegle Gear we first focused on the fabric, we wanted a textile that could be long-lasting and comfortable. In addition to this, the fabric needed to be antimicrobial to assist in protecting against the transmission of disease where nearly 100,000 people die in US hospitals from an infection transmitted in the hospital. We tested our fabric thru 100 industrial washes (about 2 years of regular use) while still removing 99.99% of contaminants. Additionally, we added a liquid-resistant coating (Durable Water Repellency) to help repel those “oops” moments that every healthcare worker encounters at one time or another where body fluids would normally be absorbed by their scrubs. All the while the fabric is breathable, durable & protective. Beyond the fabric, when building our collection, we started with a base layer in order to control the climate and support muscles, easing the suffering of long periods of standing. Our designs followed the rule in sporting goods where form follows function, adding articulation in the stress areas is one simple feature that enhances comfort during exaggerated movement. Not all features were inspired by sports such as the raised collar on our men’s and women’s tops, the collar works to protect the wearer from germs carried on stethoscopes that are commonly kept around the neck. We build our products with an abundance of pockets so that the healthcare worker can carry all the tools they need to perform their tasks, our pockets include an ORG system to properly organize these items. Traditional and even many designer scrubs are simple with a focus on color while simply covering the body of the healthcare worker so they look uniform, while not considering their protection or utility.

What were some of the biggest design challenges you faced?

We spent about 18 months building our fabric, I (George) wanted only the best in performance and protection, so it had to meet stringent testing. We also introduced a higher price point to this industry that has largely only known commodity priced scrubs, and it will take time to earn the trust and respect of healthcare workers for them to feel the value of great scrubs. If our reviews and repeat customers are an indicator of this success we are well on our way.

What makes Aegle Gear different from traditional scrubs?

I (Uli) view traditional scrubs as a commodity. Aegle Gear wants to provide professional gear for the professional healthcare worker. Just as an athlete wants to wear functional gear to perform at their best, we want to take scrubs from a body-covering to performance gear. While designing Aegle Gear we first focused on the fabric, and we wanted a textile that could be long-lasting and comfortable. In addition to this, the fabric needed to be antimicrobial to assist in protecting against the transmission of disease where nearly 100,000 people die in US hospitals from an infection transmitted in the hospital.

We tested our fabric thru 100 industrial washes (about two years of regular use) while still removing 99.99% of contaminants. Additionally, we added a liquid-resistant coating (Durable Water Repellency)  to help repel those “oops” moments that every healthcare worker encounters at one time or another where their scrubs would normally absorb body fluids. All the while the fabric is breathable, durable & protective.

What were some of the most significant design challenges you faced?

We spent about 18 months building our fabric, I wanted only the best in performance and protection, so it had to meet stringent testing. We also introduced a higher price point to this industry that has mostly only known commodity priced scrubs, and it will take time to earn the trust and respect of healthcare workers for them to feel the value of great scrubs. If our reviews and repeat customers are an indicator of this success, we are well on our way.

There appears to be a layering system involved here? Is this a direct nod to athletic kits available in today’s market?

Absolutely! Brands like Patagonia pioneered this decades ago, knowing that gear works as a system. You must be comfortable at your core to perform at your peak. We built our base garments knowing that at first we would sell few, and would have to help educate the healthcare worker about the importance of this. So far, I (George) have been pleasantly pleased with the interest we have received in these garments.

What inspired the name and branding of Aegle Gear?

A good friend and mentor of mine (Uli) is Peter Moore, a sports industry icon. We challenged him on how we should brand this new venture. He came back with proposals that have their roots in Greek mythology. Almost in analogy to Nike, we picked Aegle as our spearhead, “the goddess of radiant health”. The “gear” portion of our name, comes from a concept that helped Adidas turn around in the early 90s. Equipment was the gear that grows on you the longer you owned it, and we wanted to create exactly that for healthcare. Thus, Aegle Gear was born. And no, we’re not worried if pronunciation doesn’t always come easy.

It’s part of the story.

_

You can buy Aegle Gear online here.

“Just as an athlete wants to wear functional gear to perform at their best, we want to take scrubs from a body-covering to performance gear.”

Uli Becker
Partner, Aegle Gear

Why the healthcare industry?

Advancement in healthcare apparel is much needed. At Aegle Gear,  we believe healthcare professionals deserve world-class gear. There is much evidence to show that the market will be growing for years to come. The healthcare industry employs 1-in-8 workers in the US. It is a massive audience that has been using uniforms that have been virtually unchanged for over 35 years. Additionally, it is a dedicated workforce that often stays with the same employer for their entire career, we felt it was important to build a brand dedicated to the needs of these important workers.

How do you draw the connection between healthcare occupations and athletes?

When you compare professional athletes to the healthcare professional there are so many similarities. They work as a team, and a head surgeon might lead her staff similarly to how a quarterback may lead their team. Often both work under stressful situations, such as variable climates that can be very cold or very hot. Both are required to manipulate their bodies in various positions in order to complete their jobs. Both can be very rough on their uniforms, whether it be staining the fabric or stressing the fabric – inferior fabrics will not hold up. Additionally, uniforms identify who you are, in both verticals they must look good while being comfortable.

What makes Aegle Gear different from traditional scrubs?

While designing Aegle Gear we first focused on the fabric, we wanted a textile that could be long-lasting and comfortable. In addition to this, the fabric needed to be antimicrobial to assist in protecting against the transmission of disease where nearly 100,000 people die in US hospitals from an infection transmitted in the hospital. We tested our fabric thru 100 industrial washes (about 2 years of regular use) while still removing 99.99% of contaminants. Additionally, we added a liquid-resistant coating (Durable Water Repellency) to help repel those “oops” moments that every healthcare worker encounters at one time or another where body fluids would normally be absorbed by their scrubs. All the while the fabric is breathable, durable & protective. Beyond the fabric, when building our collection, we started with a base layer in order to control the climate and support muscles, easing the suffering of long periods of standing. Our designs followed the rule in sporting goods where form follows function, adding articulation in the stress areas is one simple feature that enhances comfort during exaggerated movement. Not all features were inspired by sports such as the raised collar on our men’s and women’s tops, the collar works to protect the wearer from germs carried on stethoscopes that are commonly kept around the neck. We build our products with an abundance of pockets so that the healthcare worker can carry all the tools they need to perform their tasks, our pockets include an ORG system to properly organize these items. Traditional and even many designer scrubs are simple with a focus on color while simply covering the body of the healthcare worker so they look uniform, while not considering their protection or utility.

What were some of the biggest design challenges you faced?

We spent about 18 months building our fabric, I (George) wanted only the best in performance and protection, so it had to meet stringent testing. We also introduced a higher price point to this industry that has largely only known commodity priced scrubs, and it will take time to earn the trust and respect of healthcare workers for them to feel the value of great scrubs. If our reviews and repeat customers are an indicator of this success we are well on our way.

What makes Aegle Gear different from traditional scrubs?

I (Uli) view traditional scrubs as a commodity. Aegle Gear wants to provide professional gear for the professional healthcare worker. Just as an athlete wants to wear functional gear to perform at their best, we want to take scrubs from a body-covering to performance gear. While designing Aegle Gear we first focused on the fabric, and we wanted a textile that could be long-lasting and comfortable. In addition to this, the fabric needed to be antimicrobial to assist in protecting against the transmission of disease where nearly 100,000 people die in US hospitals from an infection transmitted in the hospital.

We tested our fabric thru 100 industrial washes (about two years of regular use) while still removing 99.99% of contaminants. Additionally, we added a liquid-resistant coating (Durable Water Repellency)  to help repel those “oops” moments that every healthcare worker encounters at one time or another where their scrubs would normally absorb body fluids. All the while the fabric is breathable, durable & protective.

What were some of the most significant design challenges you faced?

We spent about 18 months building our fabric, I wanted only the best in performance and protection, so it had to meet stringent testing. We also introduced a higher price point to this industry that has mostly only known commodity priced scrubs, and it will take time to earn the trust and respect of healthcare workers for them to feel the value of great scrubs. If our reviews and repeat customers are an indicator of this success, we are well on our way.

There appears to be a layering system involved here? Is this a direct nod to athletic kits available in today’s market?

Absolutely! Brands like Patagonia pioneered this decades ago, knowing that gear works as a system. You must be comfortable at your core to perform at your peak. We built our base garments knowing that at first we would sell few, and would have to help educate the healthcare worker about the importance of this. So far, I (George) have been pleasantly pleased with the interest we have received in these garments.

What inspired the name and branding of Aegle Gear?

A good friend and mentor of mine (Uli) is Peter Moore, a sports industry icon. We challenged him on how we should brand this new venture. He came back with proposals that have their roots in Greek mythology. Almost in analogy to Nike, we picked Aegle as our spearhead, “the goddess of radiant health”. The “gear” portion of our name, comes from a concept that helped Adidas turn around in the early 90s. Equipment was the gear that grows on you the longer you owned it, and we wanted to create exactly that for healthcare. Thus, Aegle Gear was born. And no, we’re not worried if pronunciation doesn’t always come easy.

It’s part of the story.

_

You can buy Aegle Gear online here.

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