Military Spouses Start Company To employ, Empower Other Spouses

By Amanda Dolasinski The Fayetteville Observer, N.C.

SOUTHERN PINES

It started in an attic five years ago.

Two women -- neither a trained seamstress -- hand-punched holes through leather. They carefully sewed a piece of canvas through the holes, connecting it to the leather.

It took six hours, but they had just created their first handbag.

Cameron Cruse, 28, and Lisa Bradley, 30, started R. Riveter, a high-quality handbag company, as a way to employ military spouses. Now these women in business are taking their military-centric company to ABC's "Shark Tank."

They pitched their business to "sharks" Mark Cuban, Lori Grenier, Kevin O'Leary, Daymond John and Robert Herjavec. The show, which was filmed in California, will air this week.

The women were not allowed to reveal the results.

Someone from the show heard about R. Riveter and invited the small business women to apply. The process took about eight months.

"It wasn't something that was on our radar, but we decided 'Shark Tank' would give us a platform to empower military spouses," Cruse said. "It wasn't real until I saw the preview," Cruse said.

Cruse and Bradley met in Georgia, where their husbands were stationed at Fort Benning as Ranger instructors. Cruse's husband is assigned to Special Operations at Fort Bragg, and Bradley's husband served seven years in the Army.

The women became friends and lamented over the difficulty of finding a job as military spouses.

"You can see on the employers' faces putting the resumes at the bottom on the pile," Bradley said. "We have the opposite mentality at R. Riveter."

After brainstorming ways to empower military spouses, they decided to start their handbag company.

The company is a blend of Bradley's background in business and Cruse's background in design.

Women from across the country are contracted to construct pieces of the handbags and ship them to the R. Riveter shop in Southern Pines. The pieces are assembled into handbags at the shop.

The company takes pride in employing military spouses who typically have a difficult time finding a job, especially because of constant moves.

"We've been there. We know how hard it is," Bradley said. "We know how prideful it is to see what your husband is doing for our country. Being a military family is one you can be so proud of. I always knew I wanted to do my part, too."

 

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