Getting in gear

Houston activewear founder doesn't sweat the small stuff

Megan Eddings wants her ethical and bacteria-resistant activewear line to be as big as Lululemon — heard of it? Courtesy of Accel Lifestyle

For Megan Eddings, it has sometimes felt like the world was against her and her startup. Just about everything that could have gone wrong for her, went wrong — sometimes, multiple times.

Eddings first had her idea for a bacteria-resistant, ethically-made material for workout shirts over four years ago, and, much to her disappointment, she still hasn't launched.

"I never thought it would take this so long to make a T-shirt," Eddings says. "But, if you do it right and in an ethical way, it just takes a little longer."

She's finally set to launch in the second quarter of 2019, she says, and her supply chain is almost complete with manufacturers across the United States — all with ethical working environments verified by Eddings herself.

Hers is a story of trial and error, but, more importantly, having a positive attitude, showing other female founders how to keep your head up when the world's getting you down. Throughout her past few years, while she was perfecting her material, Eddings learned every lesson about starting a company — the hard way — and she's passionate about sharing her story and motivate others not to be deterred by setbacks on the mission to creating something.

Ethical fashion

Courtesy of Accel Lifestyle

Accel will start with different styles of men's and women's tops — with plans to expand to other activewear clothing.


InnovationMap: Originally, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Megan Eddings: I was born and raised in Rhode Island. I left for school in Virgina, and I majored in chemistry and worked in the science labs at the University of Virginia and would also work in the summers at Brown University. I thought I wanted run my own cancer research facility, but I remember one summer leaving my job at Brown and thought, "I cannot do this for the rest of my life, confined to one room," Even though I loved it, I was too social for that.

IM: Why did you move to Houston?

ME: A friend of a friend told me about medical sales, so that brought me to Houston. I used to sell MRI machines and CAT Scan machines to hospitals. I was supposed to do that for two years then move back home to Boston, but here I am 14 years later. I love it here.

IM: How did Accel Lifestyle come about?

ME: When people make a change, they do it usually for two reasons. There's a problem that's drawn you to make a change and create a solution, or there's the emotional change that gives you the courage. Six years ago, I was at a lunch meeting, and I got a call that my dad had passed away from a heart attack. I flew home that day. I gave the eulogy, and the following week, after the shock wore off, it dawned on me that I hadn't mentioned his job even though he had been at his same company for over 30 years. It just didn't matter. It only mattered how he made people feel, his humor, how he loved food. I decided that day that whatever I do — work, volunteering, working out — I would give it my all. I also decided that I would start my own company or work for myself in a way that combines all my loves: science, fashion, fitness, and giving back. I didn't know what that was going to be, but now I know it was Accel Lifestyle.

IM: When did you realize there was a need for your product?

ME: My husband was doing crossfit in the mornings, and I was washing his workout clothes, specifically his shirts. I couldn't get the smell out ever, and I tried extra hot cycles and different pods, and I even had a washer machine repair guy come out to the house to make sure it wasn't broken. I knew enough about science that something wasn't right here, and I started researching. The issue I found was bacteria that mixes with the sweat and gets trapped in the material — and bacteria love thin, lightweight workout clothes. So, now that I knew what it was, I looked into what's out there. I was also realizing how much clothes are made in sweatshops — I hadn't really noticed before. About three years ago, I decided I wanted to develop fabric that doesn't hold that smell and that every fiber, down to the tag, will be made in an ethical way.

IM: What was your first step?

ME: I didn't know how to develop fabric, so I ended up calling someone I found on the internet who is in the business. We became close friends, and I asked him for advice and recommendations. It's about relationship building; you just tell people what you're trying to do and they get excited for you and want to help. Type A women don't like to ask for help — it's a sign of weakness. But I learned that asking for help got me more than help — it cultivated relationships too.

IM: What were some of the challenges?

ME: I know from experience now that when you're starting something up it will take so much longer and cost so much more than what you think it will. It's taken us three years and five iterations to develop the fabric. We had each tested by a lab the government uses for its own purposes. But because the fabric was delayed, it actually gave me a chance to develop other parts of the company — marketing, branding, etc. Everything happens for a reason.

IM: What stage is Accel at right now?

ME: The fabric is now patent pending in over 120 countries. I did a Kickstarter campaign last summer, and we met our goal of $25,000 in 6 days. Another thing was that I wanted to ensure the factories I was working with were ethical, and that meant going to tour their sites and look them in the eye. Most sewers are female. So, I wanted to make sure those women were treated right by the men.

IM: What are some the goals you have for the company?

ME: I'm starting with men's and women's shirts, however, I've got world domination baller plans. I always tell people when they ask me about my plans, "have you heard of Lululemon?" I want a full fitness line — sports bras and yoga pants. I also just want to keep motivating people to conquer their dreams through speaking engagements around town.

IM: Where did the name come from?

ME: I majored in chemistry, my husband, Kyle, majored in physics. We were sitting on the couch one day thinking of what I wanted to do with my company. And I knew i wanted to accelerate people's lives with the company. So we took the word Accelerate, and shortened it. Got the trademark, there we go.

IM: What's your timeline?

ME: If you would have asked me that question two years ago, I would have thought we'd be launched with 20 pieces of clothing right now. By the second quarter of next year, we will be launched. Our new website will go live in December. I'll be shipping all shirts to all our Kickstarter backers by February, and then by March, you would be able to go online, buy the shirts, and have them shipped to you in a few days.

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Portions of this interview have been edited.

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Building Houston

 
 

Here's what Houston startups and innovators will be honored at the Houston Innovation Awards Gala on November 9. Graphic via Gow Media

The Houston Innovation Awards Gala is just a few weeks away — and now the city knows who all it will be celebrating on November 9.

Eight judges evaluated over 150 companies and individuals across 11 categories for the 2022 Houston Innovation Awards. The event is a collaboration between InnovationMap and Houston Exponential to showcase the best of technology and innovation in the Bayou City.

This year's judges includedCarolynRodz, founder and CEO of Hello Alice; Wogbe Ofori, founder of Wrx Companies; ScottGale, executive director of Halliburton Labs; AshleyDanna, senior manager of regional economic development of Greater Houston Partnership; KellyMcCormick, professor at the University of Houston; PaulCherukuri, vice president of innovation at Rice University; LawsonGow, CEO of Houston Exponential; and NatalieHarms, editor of InnovationMap.

All 43 of the finalists will be honored at the gala on November 9, and winners will be named in each category. Additionally, the event will honor the 2022 Trailblazer Award recipient, Blair Garrou of Mercury, who was announced earlier this month.

Without further adieu, here are this year's finalists:

BIPOC-Founded Business

The finalists for the BIPOC-Founded Business category, honoring an innovative company founded or co-founded by BIPOC representation, are:

  • Blue People — nearshore software developer of custom technology solutions.
  • Clutch — digital marketer that connects emerging brands to next-gen creators.
  • Steradian Technologies — health tech startup that uses deep-photonics technology to diagnose respiratory diseases in seconds, all for the price of a latte.
  • Tradeblock — peer-to-peer barter exchange for collectibles.
  • Unytag — creator of universal toll tag platform that uses a mobile app and a custom-built RFID tag.

Female-Founded Business

The finalists for the Female-Founded Business category, honoring an innovative company founded or co-founded by a woman, are:

  • Accel Unite, LLC — creator of science-backed self-cleaning fabric.
  • Ampersand — platform that upskills entry-level professionals, leveling the playing field with the skills and confidence they need to transition from school to the workforce.
  • CDR Companies — human resources tech platform that provides in-depth assessments, executive coaching, digital avatar coaching for all employees, leadership development and talent management services.
  • Prana Thoracic — medical device company that's providing early intervention in lung cancer.
  • Sesh Coworking — women and genderqueer inclusive coworking and community.

Hardtech Business

The finalists for the Hardtech Business category, honoring an innovative company developing and commercializing a physical technology across life science, energy, space, and beyond, are:

  • ARIX Technologies — robotics and data analytics software company that helps industrial facilities like petrochemical plants and electric utilities prevent costly shutdowns and environmental disasters due to pipe corrosion.
  • Fluence Analytics — real-time analytics solution that optimizes processes and provides novel insights into material properties that enable customers to increase yields, improve product quality, and reduce costs.
  • Milkify — creator of patent-pending process to freeze-dry breast milk into a powder that is easy to use and transport and lasts for three years on the shelf.
  • Prana Thoracic — medical device company that's providing early intervention in lung cancer.
  • Saranas — medical device company focusing on improving patient outcomes through early detection and monitoring of internal bleeding complications.

B2B Software Business

The finalists for the B2B Software Business category, honoring an innovative company developing and programming a digital solution to impact the business sector, are:

  • Ampersand — platform that upskills entry-level professionals, leveling the playing field with the skills and confidence they need to transition from school to the workforce.
  • Liongard — software company that unlocks the intelligence hidden deep within IT systems to give MSPs an operational advantage that delivers both higher profits and an exceptional customer experience.
  • Pandata Tech — tech company that helps companies and federal organizations figure out what sensors they can trust to make critical decisions in daily operations and unforeseen events.
  • Rivalry Technologies Inc. (sEATz) — platform developer for sports and entertainment venues and has been a proven partner at stadiums and venues across the USA, and expanded the proven mobile ordering technology and best practices to develop the myEATz platform, which supports daily operations at facilities in healthcare, business dining, and leisure industries.
  • Solidatus — data management software solution that empowers organizations to connect and visualize their data relationships, simplifying how they identify, access and understand them.

Green Impact Business

The finalists for the Green Impact Business category, honoring an innovative company providing a solution within renewables, climatetech, clean energy, alternative materials, and beyond, are:

  • Bucha Bio — biobased materials company that combats animal and plastic waste and promotes ethical and natural bacterial and plant-based ingredients in the process.
  • Cemvita Factory — biotech company that uses a sustainable, economical, nature-inspired approach to empower companies with sustainable products and environmental technologies to decrease their carbon footprint, reverse climate change, and create a brighter future for the planet.
  • Encina Development Group — circular chemicals company that provides the basic building blocks for customers to meet their renewable content goals by enabling cyclical production and reproduction of products across a broad spectrum of ubiquitous goods, including consumer products and packaging, pharmaceuticals, construction, and much more.
  • IncentiFind — database for green building incentives that's transforming real estate through $70 billion in incentives.
  • NanoTech — materials science company that's designed a product to fireproof and improve thermal efficiencies.

Smart City Business

The finalists for the Smart City Business category, honoring an innovative company providing a tech solution within transportation, infrastructure, data, and beyond, are:

  • Pandata Tech — tech company that helps companies and federal organizations figure out what sensors they can trust to make critical decisions in daily operations and unforeseen events.
  • Rescunomics — platform that provides innovative solutions global safety pain points.
  • Sensytec — IoT Solutions platform that expedites and enhances concrete construction operations.
  • Sparks Spaces — builder of hospitality-focused electric vehicle charging hubs
  • Unytag — creator of universal toll tag platform that uses a mobile app and a custom-built RFID tag.

New to Hou Business

The New to Hou Business category, honoring an innovative company, accelerator, or investor that has relocated its primary operations to Houston within the past three years, are:

  • Allthenticate — platform that replaces passwords and keys with an easy-to-use smartphone phone app.
  • Bucha Bio — biobased materials company that combats animal and plastic waste and promotes ethical and natural bacterial and plant-based ingredients in the process.
  • Fluence Analytics — real-time analytics solution that optimizes processes and provides novel insights into material properties that enable customers to increase yields, improve product quality, and reduce costs.
  • INGU — pipeline inspection solution to achieve Net Zero and ESG compliance for the water and oil and gas pipeline infrastructure.
  • Venus Aerospace — creator of a hypersonic spaceplane capable of one-hour global travel.

People's Choice: Startup of the Year

The finalists for the People's Choice: Startup of the Year category, selected via an interactive voting portal during of the event, are:

  • Cemvita Factory — biotech company that uses a sustainable, economical, nature-inspired approach to empower companies with sustainable products and environmental technologies to decrease their carbon footprint, reverse climate change, and create a brighter future for the planet.
  • LevelField Financial — financial service platform that serves customers interested in the digital asset class.
  • Milkify — creator of patent-pending process to freeze-dry breast milk into a powder that is easy to use and transport and lasts for three years on the shelf.
  • Rivalry Technologies Inc. (sEATz) — platform developer for sports and entertainment venues and has been a proven partner at stadiums and venues across the USA, and expanded the proven mobile ordering technology and best practices to develop the myEATz platform, which supports daily operations at facilities in healthcare, business dining, and leisure industries.
  • Tradeblock — peer-to-peer barter exchange for collectibles.

DEI Champion

The finalists for the DEI Champion category, honoring an individual who is leading impactful diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives and progress within Houston and their organization, are:

  • Arianne Dowdell, vice president and chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer at Houston Methodist
  • Juliana Garaizar, head of Houston Incubator at Greentown Labs and lead investor at Portfolia
  • Kara Branch, founder and CEO of Black Girls Do Engineer Corporation
  • Loretta Williams Gurnell, founder of SUPERGirls SHINE Foundation
  • Rob Schapiro, director of the Energy Acceleration Program at Microsoft

Mentor of the Year

The finalists for the Mentor of the Year category, honoring an individual who dedicates their time and expertise to guide and support to budding entrepreneurs, are:

  • Alfredo Arvide, chief innovation officer at Blue People
  • Barbara Burger, board member, mentor, and advisor to several startups
  • Craig Ceccanti, founder and CEO of T-Minus Solutions
  • Emily Reiser, associate director of innovation at the Texas Medical Center
  • Kara Branch, founder and CEO of Black Girls Do Engineer Corp. and developer and manager at Intel Corp.

Investor of the Year 

The finalists for the Investor of the Year category, honoring an individual who is leading venture capital or angel investing, are:

  • Chris Howard, founder of the Softeq Venture Fund, Softeq Venture Studio, and Softeq Development Corp.
  • John (JR) Reale, managing director of Integr8d Capital and venture lead of the Texas Medical Center Venture Fund
  • Juliana Garaizar, head of Houston incubator and vice president of innovation at Greentown Labs and lead investor at Portfolia
  • Samantha Lewis, principal at Mercury
  • Sandy Guitar, managing director of the HX Venture Fund

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