The "aha" moment: Thomas Davis was working out at a Pittsburgh YMCA one afternoon in 2009 when he noticed his fellow gymgoers moving their sweaty towels from one machine to the next. Davis, a former consumer products consultant at Pfizer, thought there might be demand for a more hygienic gym towel.

R&D: Davis shared his idea with an old friend, Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Famer Franco Harris, who agreed to be his partner. They learned most antimicrobial towels on the market were treated with chemicals, so they researched natural options and came across studies about the bacteria-resistant properties of silver. They tested various fabrics and decided on bamboo, which was softer and more odor resistant than cotton or nylon. Next, they found manufacturers in South Carolina to make the towels and apply nanosilver particles to them. Friends who tested the first batch of towels gave them a thumbs-up.

Hitting the market: Pittsburgh-based SilverSport has sold 50,000 Silver Towels, for $20 to $35 each, since their debut in Dick's Sporting Goods stores nationwide in November. SilverSport has also unveiled several products, including an antimicrobial yoga mat.

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