Leave it to military spouses to see a challenge, tackle it … and inspire, engage, and empower others in the process! Cameron Cruse and Lisa Bradley — American Legion Auxiliary members — are doing that with R. Riveter, the U.S.-based handbag company they co-founded nearly six years ago.
The two Army wives are co-recipients of the American Legion Auxiliary 2017 Woman of the Year Award. Cruse and Bradley were honored in August at the 2017 American Legion Auxiliary National Convention in Reno, Nevada.
Based in Southern Pines, North Carolina, R. Riveter employs military spouses who help make the handcrafted handbags the company sells. This work can be done remotely, offering military spouses flexible and mobile job opportunities in response to employment challenges — such as frequent relocations, which can come with military life.
“We are unified in purpose and spirit to bring something more to the military spouses who support and endure a life that asks more of them than any other,” Bradley said. “Every time a customer picks up (an R. Riveter) bag, she’s also picking up and supporting a community of military spouses.”
Up to five military spouses could have worked on one bag, depending on the bag’s style. R. Riveter employs 30 local staffers plus 27 remote workers — or, Remote Riveters, as they are proudly referred to within the company. That title, and the company’s name, pay homage to the decades-old inspirational and iconic image of “Rosie the Riveter.”
“She represented what military spouses do,” Cruse said about Rosie the Riveter. Military spouses are so good at standing up and doing what they need to do for the greater good,” Cruse added.
Cruse and Bradley met in 2011 in Dahlonega, Georgia, and bonded over their employment struggles as military spouses. From there, R. Riveter had its modest start in November 2011, in the small attic at Cruse’s home near Camp Merrill, Georgia. By 2014, R. Riveter’s brick-and-mortar store in Southern Pines had opened.
Another highlight in the life of the company was Cruse and Bradley’s successful appearance as contestants on “Shark Tank,” ABC’s business-themed reality TV show, in February 2016. Shark Tank contestants pitch their product or business ideas to a group of shrewd, wealthy tycoons looking for the next worthy investment.
Cruse and Bradley’s pitch landed them a partnership with — and financial investment from — well-known billionaire businessman Mark Cuban. As an equity partner, Cuban owns 20 percent of the company, Cruse explained. Since the successful Shark Tank appearance, R. Riveter has opened a new warehouse, and launched Post to Pillar, a curated marketplace of home decor and accessories handmade by military spouses.
“Whatever the future holds, our focus will be helping military spouses. It has been a phenomenal experience and we’re just getting started,” Bradley said.
Bradley has a Master’s in Business Administration from Chapman University. Cruse has a Master’s in Architecture from the Savannah College of Art and Design.
Established in 1984, the American Legion Auxiliary Woman of the Year Award recognizes outstanding women who exemplify the values and ideals of the American Legion Auxiliary, particularly those women whose contributions advance the quality of life for America’s military, veterans, and their families.
Past Woman of the Year honorees include former Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Tammy L. Duckworth, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Army Wife Talk Radio Host Tara Crooks, Patriot PAWS Founder Lori Stevens, and U.S. Air Force Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson.