Handbag Company Brings Jobs to Military Families

 

A survey conducted by FlexJobs found that the most important factor for working parents assessing a job opportunity is whether the work is flexible. Unfortunately, in the manufacturing sector, an industry squeezed by labor shortages, hiring managers typically cannot offer this perk. Production and assembly work, maintenance, packaging, distribution — these are all tasks that don’t really translate well to a home office. Not to mention, in this market you’re more likely to see mandatory overtime than flexible scheduling.

That’s what makes this next story so unique.

Lisa Bradley and Cameron Cruse are military spouses and, at one point, found themselves wondering why they couldn’t find work despite their qualifications. But the deck was stacked against them: The couple says that military families move, on average, every 2.9 years. On top of that, many members of military families are tasked with managing parenting and household duties on their own while their spouse is deployed. With options for super-flexible, remote, and part-time work at a minimum, Bradley and Cruse were determined to solve their own unemployment issue in a way that would also provide flexible work opportunities for other military families.

Enter R.Riveter, a handbag company that the two launched after buying a commercial sewing machine and a small amount of leather and canvas on their credit cards. They saw some initial success with their designs, but they weren’t done yet. As business began to scale, R.Riveter didn’t set up a factory; instead, the couple took a look at the traditional assembly line and figured out a way to make it work with multiple remote employees, whom they refer to as “Riveters.”

Co-CEO and founder Lisa Bradley described the process to us as a “deconstructed assembly line.” She says this “allows each Riveter to stitch or piece together a certain part of [the] bags right from their own homes.” These pieces are then shipped from all over the country to the company’s warehouse in Southern Pines, North Carolina, where the bags are put together and sent to customers. And the great part is that the Riveters — who are often forced to relocate on a regular basis due to military demands — can simply move their work along with them.

With a leg up from a 2014 Kickstarter campaign, followed by, believe it or not, a 2016 appearance on Shark Tank, during which they received an investment from billionaire Mark Cuban — plus the hard work of Bradley, Cruse, and their team of Riveters — the business is now in the multi-million dollar sales territory, and was named one of Inc’s fastest growing companies in America.

Cruse told us that when they first presented the idea, everybody they talked to said it would never work. “But, last year alone,” she says, “we produced more than 21,000 units with 35-40 Riveters.”

In the end, the company seems to be an appropriate nod to the Rosie the Riveter character of World War II era, known for the rallying cry, "We can do it!"

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