The word virago comes to us from the feminization of the Latin word vir, or man. It was used to describe women whose fierceness, bravery and resilience surpassed even that expected of Roman men — and it is a title all too fitting for Brittney Hogan.
As Wonder Woman breaks summer blockbuster records, we had the privilege of meeting this woman whose story of overcoming a miscarriage, the combat loss of her Marine husband and alcohol dependence is downright amazonian.
Brittney is the winner of our “Best Brand” contest and we’ll be giving her $500 in free gear — but it’s clear she and her teammates were winners long before anyone asked us.
The/Studio: Introduce yourself.
Brittney: I am the president of Virago Fitness, Inc. My husband was killed in action during combat operations as a US Marine.
After his death, I hit rock bottom. I drank everyday to numb the pain and went down a two-year path of self-destruction. Then, in 2014, I found fitness and used it to cope with the loss of my husband, and it completely saved my life. So I started Virago as way to inspire others to use fitness for post-traumatic growth.
T/S: What does Virago Fitness do?
B: Virago Fitness is a nonprofit athletic apparel organization. We sell tees and tanks for men and women with inspiring messages on them.
But Virago is more than an apparel company; it is a movement. We raise money to offer free fitness classes all over the United States for anyone struggling with anything in their life; we sponsor someone in need every quarter and pay for three months of personal training, nutrition training, then connect them with a Virago Warrior near them for motivation.
T/S: What have you learned since starting Virago?
B: I have always wanted to own my own business, and like most entrepreneurs I have a new business idea everyday. However, what turns ones ideas into a successful business is passion. If you aren’t passionate about what you’re doing, you will fail.
T/S: What about Virago are you most proud of?
B: I am most proud of all the good that we are doing. When I first started the company, I was just doing it to keep me on track with my health and wellness goals, and keep myself busy. But once I started to share my story with others, I was overwhelmed by the intimate stories they began to share with me. An article written about my company and me went viral on LinkedIn, and my inbox filled with thousands of emails written by strangers telling me that my story inspired them to keep pushing on. That is when I realized the impact of Virago and how many lives we can change.
T/S: What are some of the greatest challenges you face with your organization?
B: The greatest challenge I face with Virago is the lack of capital we have to spend on marketing and advertising. I know that the word will eventually spread and Virago will be huge, but since we don’t have the money to really market it, I have to be patient and expect that it will happen when it happens.
T/S: Where do you see your organization in 10 years?
B: My long-term goal for Virago is to open a factory here in the States where we’ll make all of our products in-house and hire mainly military veterans and their families to work with us. Helping our veterans is so near and dear to my heart that if I am able to do this one day, I will believe that I’ve succeeded.
T/S: What type of legacy do you want to leave?
B: I think a lot of people have a very unhealthy relationship with fitness and their goals are based on merely how they look than how they feel. We want to change the way people look at fitness.
It isn’t just about getting fit to look sexy in a bikini. Fitness is a lifestyle, and it is a healthy way to deal with stress, anxiety, depression and any obstacle you’re facing. If someone is struggling, we want them to know that there is a community out there — of other people struggling just like them, and that there’s a healthy way of overcoming their obstacles.
T/S: What is the story behind the custom product that you produced with The/Studio?
B: We’re creating custom hats with The/Studio. We have had so many recent inquiries asking when Virago will come out with hats, so we are giving the customers what they want. We’ll sell them on our website and all of the proceeds will go to our nonprofit and help fund free fitness classes and sponsorships nationwide.
While you’re waiting for Virago Fitness hats, feel free to use the code T4E7HWC for 10% off any order on the Virago Fitness website.
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