As military wives, Lisa Bradley and Cameron Cruse led peripatetic lives, moving from one city to the next every few years. The women realized how it is difficult to get a job, let alone a career off the ground under those circumstances.
In a small attic above her home near Camp Merrill in Dahlonega, Ga., Cruse, who has a master’s degree in architecture from the Savannah College of Art and Design, launched R. Riveter in 2010 with Bradley, who has an MBA from Chapman University and counted four duty stations in just over six years.
The company is named after Rosie the Riveter, a symbol of the American women who worked in factories and ship yards during World War II, many producing munitions.
The company has a network of about 35 independent contractors — mostly other military wives — who take their work with them wherever they go, handcrafting the parts and pieces used to assemble the R. Riveter handbags. The women ship their completed work to the company’s factory in Southern Pines, N.C., for assembly.
“The most advantageous part of the job is the flexibility,” Bradley said. “About 98 percent of military spouses are women.”
R. Riveter recently opened a 2,500-square-foot store at Westfield Montgomery in Bethesda, Md. “Having retail helps support the mission to provide more military-friendly income opportunities,” Cruse said.
Cruse and Bradley appeared on “Shark Tank” season seven where they made a deal with Mark Cuban. “It was definitely a long process,” Cruse said. “You get vetted. It was a lot of hard work and planning. We took a long hard look at our company. ‘Shark Tank’ couldn’t believe how far we’d taken the company.”
R. Riveter introduced its third collection, featuring the Otto black canvas with brown leather handbag, $240, and Patton, denim and tan leather cross-body, $120. Limited-edition items made from recycled military materials include the Fin moss wool and brown leather tote bag, $320, and Hobby, marine dress blue and black leather handbag, $240, were sold out on the web site.
Post to Pillar, a section on the R. Riveter web site, features products created by other military wives, such as Stella Vale jewelry, gold and rhodium-plated jewelry with tags that read “Empowered Women” and “Empower Women,” Charliemadison Originals’ necklaces with African turquoise and Dalmatian jasper and Becca handmade soap.
Bradley said R. Riveter in 2017 will begin wholesaling to department and specialty stores and is planning to open additional stores next year as well as launch categories such as wallets and accessories.