When her husband Hunter died in Afghanistan in 2012, Brittney Hogan needed to find a way to turn her grief into something positive.
Only 21 years old, Hogan realized she had her whole life ahead of her and needed to do something more.
“I knew that I had only two choices: I could give up completely, and feel sorry for myself the rest of my life, or I could take this struggle and turn it into strength,” she wrote in her website’s biography.
That line of thinking became the basis for her business — an athletic apparel line called Virago Fitness.
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The word “virago” is an archaic English word, and although it has largely fallen out of use, it means strong or spirited woman, or female warrior. Originally, Hogan discovered it through a friend’s Instagram account name, she told Task & Purpose in an interview.
Having been through so much with the loss of her husband, Hogan clung to the word. After a year of spiraling downward, she turned to fitness to pull her out from rock bottom, and “virago” became the inspiration for her now-thriving apparel line.
As a result, “turn your struggle into strength” is the company’s motto.
The company, which started in 2014, has helped Hogan overcome her grief and find a sense of broader purpose.
“I just wanted to be a business owner my whole life,” Hogan said. “In this day and age, it’s really easy to start a business online.”
When she realized how important the work felt, Hogan quit her job as a wedding coordinator to focus full time on the fitness apparel. Once she was able to dedicate all her attention to it, Virago Fitness took off, becoming a fully sustainable company in less than two years.
Hogan encouraged others who are grieving to find something they are passionate about and use it to move forward in the wake of major loss.
“Nothing you can do can change what happened or what you’re going through. You just have to move forward,” she said. “For everyone, it’s different. I think you just have to be honest with yourself and be really reflective.”
For her, fitness became a way to cope with the loss of her husband, and ultimately led to the foundation of her business.
“Get involved with something that you’re passionate about,” she said. “It might not be fitness for some people, it might be something else.”
But whatever it is, she added, it just needs to be something you can focus on that gives you a sense of purpose while you’re grieving.
Now that Virago Fitness is self-sustaining, Hogan donates a portion of its revenue to the USO and the HD Hogan Memorial Rodeo Scholarship Fund, in honor of her husband.
“Virago Fitness is my way of giving back to Hunter, our military, and everyone out there that is struggling with something in their life,” she said.