Throughout Virginia Peterson’s 15 years working as an emergency room nurse, she could never find a bra that was comfortable to wear for 12 hours. Sports bras were too tight, and the job required too much movement for hook-and-eye bras. So, Peterson designed and sewed her own bras in a spare room of her Chugiak home. Then she started making some for friends, and when word spread her side hustle quickly turned into a small business. Now in its third year of operations, Swoop employs five Alaskan women who handmake the bras and underwear.

Swoop bras’ bold, fun designs—think ‘70s colors and Alaskan patterns like snowmachines and salmon—match the women who might wear them. Peterson is an avid backcountry skier who likes to be in the mountains when she’s not working. She imagines the typical Swoop customer as someone similar: a mother of three who gets up at 6 a.m. and makes time for yoga, skiing, or another low-impact activity during her busy day. The company’s name even encourages an active lifestyle. Swoop is short for Always Be Swooping, a phrase Peterson thinks captures the feeling of being out in the world doing things. “Whether it’s sitting and reading books—challenging yourself that way—or surfing, or being out in the sun, just always be out there doing something and following your dreams,” she says.

The hustle required to start and operate a small business is cutting into her time in the mountains, but Peterson says every time she gets a repeat customer it energizes her to keep going. Swoop sales more than doubled in the company’s second year of business. In 2022, Peterson wants Swoop to start selling shorts, pants, and other loungewear. “We’re moving in the right direction,” she says. “We’re on to something that people really like and enjoy.”

a middle-aged woman models a Swoop bra with a bright, colorful pattern
Virginia Peterson says Swoop bra customers are busy, active women. Courtesy Swoop.

Alexander Deedy formerly worked as the assistant editor and digital content manager for Alaska magazine.

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