COVENTRY — It all started with a stinky T-shirt.
Megan Eddings was washing her would-be husband’s laundry one day several years ago when she was met with an appalling stench emanating from one of his gym shirts.
“I have two brothers, we all played sports for Coventry, so I knew the smell,” Eddings recalled. “I just hadn’t smelled it in a while, and I thought, ‘this [stink] still exists?’”
A trained chemist, fitness fanatic and self-proclaimed “positivity enthusiast,” Eddings is also a problem solver. And several years after smelling that tee, the Coventry native has launched an apparel company to combat those kinds of odors.
Using an antibacterial, “anti-stink” fabric that she developed herself, Eddings, who these days lives in Texas, officially launched Accel Lifestyle just three weeks ago.
“I’m calling it ‘sweat, don’t smell’ fabric,” Eddings said, sitting Monday in an East Greenwich coffee shop, a collection of her “anti-stink” shirts hanging off the back of her chair. “Really, it’s ‘clean clothes,’ because the bacteria isn’t even getting into the fabric.”
But while her activewear company was inspired largely by a smelly shirt, the path that would eventually lead her to establish her eco-friendly, anti-stink clothing line can actually be traced back further than that.
After graduating in 1999 from Coventry High School — where she was heavily involved in extracurriculars, including cheerleading and student government — Eddings studied chemistry at University of Virginia.
“I thought I wanted to work in a science lab the rest of my life,” she said, “and that did not happen.”
Eddings was leaving her job at a Brown University science lab one day when she was suddenly struck by the realization that working in a laboratory wasn’t for her.
“I remember the feeling like it was yesterday,” she said, adding that she moved soon after that to Houston to work instead for a company selling medical equipment.
Eddings enjoyed her sales job, and had never pictured herself leaving it to become an entrepreneur. But then something happened that altered her outlook on life.
Eddings recounted being at a meeting in 2012 when she received the news that her dad, Richard Doucette, had died suddenly at 58 years old.
“About two weeks later I had that feeling I had when I walked out of Brown that day,” she said. “Like, am I doing what I should be doing?”
Although Eddings stayed in her sales position for some time afterwards, that thought continued nagging at her.
“My dad passing away kind of gave me the confidence to go for whatever I want to go for,” she added. “Life is just so sudden, and you never know.”
Shortly after her losing her dad, Eddings met her husband Kyle. And although it was his encouraging words that would eventually nudge Eddings to take a leap of faith into entrepreneurship, it’s not what made the lightbulb go off — it was his stinky shirt.
Eddings became fixated on finding a solution to foul-smelling workout garments.
Having realized after some research that the problem had to do with the cotton of his shirts retaining sweat bacteria, she began searching online for fabrics that would resist that.
“I would call all these yarn scientists… and I would tell them what I was looking to create,” she said, adding that she’s been blown away by the kindness of those who’ve helped her along the way.
“That went on for about eight months, and I was still not thinking that I would quit my medical sales job,” she continued. “This was just pulling me to figure it out.”
Meanwhile, Eddings and her husband tested dozens of shirt brands, judging them based on how they felt, how they smelled, and how breathable they were. Through those experiments, Eddings decided her fabric should have the luxurious feel of cotton, with the hydrophobic technology of a moisture-wicking fabric.
“Oh yeah, and then let’s have it be anti-stink, as well,” she added.
Then one day in 2017, Eddings got an offer for another, more lucrative medical sales position. And with her husband cheering her on, she turned the job down to focus full time on Accel.
It took Eddings three years to develop her fabric, called Prema, which she’s engineered to inhibit odor-causing bacteria from entering into the shirt.
For Eddings, however, it wasn’t enough that her activewear just prevents smells and keeps people dry. She was determined in founding the anti-stink apparel company that her clothing also be sustainable, and its materials ethically sourced.
“It’s just the right thing to do,” said Eddings, who’s a vegan. “As cliche as it sounds, we only get one Earth.”
Eddings wanted to be able to trace every fiber back to its source, and was set against employing sweatshops.
“In life, there’s black and there’s white and there’s rarely ever a gray area,” she said. “If someone is suffering so I can buy a shirt for $5.99, someone is paying for that. They might not be paying out of their pocket, but they’re paying through the lifestyle they’re living.”
All Eddings’ fabric is made at a mill in North Carolina of yarns made in various places along the east coast. Once the fabric is made, it’s sent to a factory in California, where it becomes the clothing that’s sold.
Eddings is also proud that her clothing is shipped in biodegradable material, with no plastic.
Accel launched last month featuring shirts for men and women, but Eddings said she plans to scale to a full fitness apparel line. She’s also considering licensing her fabric to other clothing companies — lingerie companies, for example — for use in their garments.
As for her goal in the long term, Eddings said she’d like Accel “to be as big as Lululemon.”
“And to not just focus on clothing,” she continued. “I truly believe in inspiring and empowering people. Anything I can do to inspire and motivate.”
Eddings said she attributes a lot of her drive to her upbringing in Coventry, where much of her family, including her mom, Clare Doucette, still live.
Eddings lauded her parents for instilling in her a strong work ethic.
“I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, that we were brought up to work hard,” she said, “and that, in anything you do, you treat people with kindness.”