Lisa Bradley & Cameron Cruse of R. Riveter – on a mission to empower military spouses and support service members 

R. Riveter is on a mission to provide mobile, flexible income to military spouses and support service members

R. Riveter is a certified women-owned business founded by military wives, Lisa Bradley & Cameron Cruse, to ensure military spouses would always have a way to support their families no matter where they were stationed. Every item produced by the company is handcrafted by a “Riveter” spouse in the U.S. – and they celebrate their 12th Anniversary this Veteran’s Day.

The R. Riveter anniversary date is fitting because veterans are a huge part of who this company is. These two female entrepreneurs and their brand support numerous military and veteran organizations including an HEIRLOOM COLLECTION that can transform veteran’s uniforms into a treasured collector’s piece – and they offer a lifetime discount to all veterans and first responders.

In honor of female veterans, during Military Family Month (November), the company launched a “She’s the Veteran” tote with $10 of every sale going to the She’s The Veteran organization.

We’re so glad we got a chance to interview Lisa and Cameron to talk about veteran appreciation, military families, and more for Veteran’s Day 2023. 

What made you decide to go into business for yourself?

Lisa: Several years ago, my friend (and fellow military wife) Cameron Cruse and I, frustrated in our attempts to establish productive careers while following our husbands from base to base, founded our company R. Riveter, which provides income opportunities to military spouses around the country as “Riveters” who work together on a virtual assembly line to produce handmade leather and canvas bags. Each Riveter is responsible for individual parts of our products, and each has a unique stamp. While our Riveters aren’t building planes or have boots on the ground, they’re taking part in a symphony of production that brings them an opportunity to develop manufacturing skills, a way to bring extra income to their families, and a sense of purpose–and, most importantly, allows them to provide that backbone of support for their spouses in uniform. 

Cameron: Funny enough, I had no professional experience prior to launching R. Riveter in our garage. I did have a master’s in architecture that prepared me for the challenges in visual communication and marketing as well as project management. The lack of experience led to a general naivety that helped us see the work through an unincumbered perspective which helped us pave a new path but also forced a steep learning curve.  

How do you boost your self-esteem in moments of doubt?

Lisa: When I get into a spiral of self-doubt I force myself to get out of the routine and try something new.  It’s comforting to do something that you have mastered, but doing the opposite and challenging myself to do something uncomfortable gives me perspective to put it all back in balance.  For example, over the last couple of years, I’ve tried a women’s ice hockey team, a women’s golf league, and a pottery class. I’d like to say I was naturally gifted in all areas, but truth be told I was glad I had a face cage on my helmet when I wreaked into the ice, and my pot was more of a paperweight than a liquid-holding vessel.  What it did remind me of is I’m willing to put myself back out there to learn and grow, and that will do more for my self-esteem than repeating the pattern of what’s comfortable.   

How do you use social media in your business?

We are active on Instagram and Facebook and share all promotions, sales, military information/organizations we’re involved with and engage with consumers to grow the brand.

How do you set your business apart from others in your industry?

Through our story, who we are, and why we developed this company. We decided on the business model before we decided on the product.  It was 2011 and Cameron and I were both over-educated and under-employed after several military moves.  We knew there had to be a way to engage other military spouses like us and started thinking of ideas.  With Cameron’s background in design, and my business background we somehow landed on the model of decentralized handbag manufacturing.  Our unique manufacturing process, inspired by Rosie the Riveter, is shattering the stereotype that you are either a career woman or a stay-at-home mother. We break down barriers and prove the unproven can succeed with vision and perseverance.

3 Habits for Successful Entrepreneurs:

Never Settle for less than what you need.  

Have a Vision-based Strategy that leads Data Driven Decisionsin that order 

Proper self-care – every day. 

Advice for my younger self and for new business owners:

Trust yourself. Your job as a leader is to trust and communicate your vision, not to try and execute it alone but to build the infrastructure for that to exist and to lead by example. Trust that your instincts are correct, trust that all skills can be taught and learned but you are the catalyst for the brand to take hold and grow.  

As a leader, I’ve come to realize that every day has something to teach. The last 10 years have both challenged and taught me lessons that have built a perspective unique to being an entrepreneur and to serving those around me with my strengths. I try to not look back and think about what I would have done differently, only what I will do next time to keep improving. Taking it one step at a time and banking those lessons along the way has built a foundation on which I hope to keep developing as a leader, a wife, and a mother. There is plenty of remarkable advice in the world, I realize now that sometimes you have to experience it firsthand to fully appreciate and comprehend it.  

Challenges faced in the workplace:

Once you have labeled the field male-dominated you have lost. Men and Women are not in competition and those biases cannot be controlled. I live by the mantra that I bring my own flavor or leadership style and skills to the table to get the job done. Those are inherently shaped by gender and experience, but they do not define me. I just come to the table as my most authentic self and work on earning my seat every day.   

Pitfalls to avoid:

Overcomplicating things. We get paid as leaders to simplify. We communicate our visions in simple but effective ways, we get everyone “rowing in the same direction” and we break down issues and prioritize. The most overwhelmed I’ve been, are in times that I have internally overcomplicated matters – making it confusing and difficult to manage. Keep things simple and you will go far. 

Quote or Motto that inspires:

“Choose courage or comfort – but you can’t have both.” 

Want more inspiring interviews?

Learn the one thing you need to know to Launch Your Business from Re-Fabbed CEO Brooke Riley. Read a Q&A With Lorie Spence Co-Founder of Bridge Medical Communications. Learn about Elina Filice – Entrepreneur and founder of Drop Rocket an LGBTQ+ and female-founded, innovative new tool for independent artists. All of these and more are part of our interview series spotlighting successful women in business.

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