Years ago, new military spouses Lisa Bradley and Cameron Cruse found themselves asking the question: why is it so difficult to find meaningful employment?
Both were highly educated, creative, and determined. Yet neither was able to find work. Employer after employer turned them down.
"That's how we became friends-we really struggled to find work despite being overqualified."
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Military spouses provide strength to servicemembers, yet their sacrifices often come with an economic and emotional price tag unknown to many. If Bradley and Cruse experienced these struggles, what could be said about the employment landscape for other spouses?
Plenty of military spouses want to work, but obtaining employment is especially tough. Military families move on average, every 2.9 years - and oftentimes, they relocate to remote military bases where there are fewer professional opportunities for spouses. In duty locations next to smaller cities, it's oftentimes difficult to create a professional network, interview, search and obtain jobs - all while supporting your service member and helping your family adjust to the new location. This is an aspect of being a military spouse that is not widely discussed, yet is a major struggle for most families.
Because of the transient lifestyle, constraints of moving, cost of caregiving, and flexibility required to balance family obligations when a servicemember is away, many spouses seek or require remote work opportunities. In fact, 57% of military spouses do not work outside the home.
Challenging the Status Quo
The women knew they had to do something. How could they solve the employment issue that plagued thousands of military spouses?
"We were starting to see that if we wanted a career in this transient military life, we'd have to create it for ourselves. Not only did we need flexible income, but we needed mobile income to travel along with us as we relocate with our military members. And that's when R.Riveter was born."
After charging two thousand dollars each to their credit cards, Lisa and Cameron purchased a commercial sewing machine and a small supply of leather and canvas. At first, it was a two-woman operation, but as demand grew, so did the team.
And so R.Riveter began. The name was inspired by World War II cultural icon Rosie the Riveter who symbolizes the contribution women made to the workforce that helped win the war.
"Rosie the Riveter embodies everything that we stand for. Our mission is a bit more modern, but her spirit and 'we can do it' attitude still apply."
Scaling the Business
Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2014, the women raised additional capital to hire more help to meet the demand for the product. In 2015, R.Riveter opened a retail store in North Carolina where Cruse had moved. That's when demand really began picking up and Bradley, who had moved to New York, says the company began to scale.
In 2016, after a successful appearance on Shark Tank, Bradley and Cruse made their pitch and wound up with three offers. They decided to accept an offer from billionaire investor Mark Cuban, who already had a track record of working with and supporting military affiliated companies.
"It was the most exhilarating and terrifying day of our business lives."
And it paid off.
The company grew to become a network of military spouses, known as Riveters, scattered across the country.
We're just getting started.
What began as an entrepreneurial dream and an outlet for improving their employment situation quickly grew into much more than just selling a few handbags. Although the company has grown from its humble beginnings in an attic, the mission has remained the same.
"R.Riveter doesn't hire military spouses to make handbags. We make handbags to hire military spouses, and create a greater sense of mission"
R.Riveter has a company "saying" that binds the era of WWII with today in a few short words. It's a shorthand expression, a rally cry to go along with the iconic image and name, R.Riveter.
Of many, one.
We are stronger together than we are apart. We can do it.
MISSION TO CREATE MOBILE, FLEXIBLE INCOME FOR MILITARY SPOUSES
MILITARY FAMILIES SUPPORTED IN 2017
PERCENT OF EVERY DOLLAR THAT GOES BACK INTO THE HANDS OF A MILITARY SPOUSE
ON INC.'S LIST OF FASTEST GROWING COMPANIES IN AMERICA