Lisa Bradley said a lack of employment opportunities for military spouses and a driving desire to start a business led her and jogging partner Cameron Cruse to create R. Riveter, a handbag business that provides business opportunities for other military spouses.
Bradley said R. Riveter revives World War II cultural icon Rosie the Riveter.
“Rosies of yesterday and Rosies of today are still trying to help out,” said Bradley, referencing the iconic representative of American women who contributed to the war effort with a “We Can Do It” attitude. “We try to inspire military spouses to step out and start their own businesses.”
Public-relations coordinator Kellie Dudley said the original Rosies took factory jobs normally performed by men, and many worked with munitions and war supplies. She said R. Riveter’s independent contractors are either Riveters — military wives who make and assemble parts for specially-designed handbags — or Rosies — military wives who help promote and sell the bags.
“Moving every two or three years makes it difficult for military spouses to create a resume’ to be proud of or one that employers would notice,” Dudley said. “After much discussion and trepidation over careers, we decided it was time to quit complaining and do something about it. We wanted to create an outlet for others and somehow provide the security and self-reliance of a full-time job, one that would be as mobile and as flexible as the military lifestyle demands we be.”
Dudley, who is stationed with her husband on Fort Stewart, said R. Riveter nationally has 14 Rosies and Riveters, all of whom work as independent contractors. So far, all Riveters were at some time stationed at Camp Merrill in Dahlonega, home of the 5th Ranger Training Battalion. She said one of their first Riveters is stationed with her husband on Fort Stewart, while another Riveter, who does graphic design work on a project-by-project basis, is stationed with her husband on Fort Benning. Bradley added that all their Rosie-models also are military wives.
All materials used to make the handbags come from recycled military uniforms, shelter halves, blankets and duffle bags, Dudley said. The parts made at various installations are shipped to Dahlonega, where they are assembled using what she called specialized equipment that can penetrate heavy fabric and hand-dyed leather.
Bradley said each handbag, which is signed by the Riveter who made it and stamped with an edition number and location, is named for a military spouse. Initially, the bags were named for the wives of influential military figures the public would recognize, like Mrs. (Ulysses S.) Julie Grant, Mrs. (Robert E.) Mary Anna Lee and Mrs. (Creighton) Julia Abrams. Recently, they’ve started naming bags after military spouses who have been influential to R. Riveter, including Mrs. Laurie Bell, 2010 Army Spouse of the Year.
As evidence that the business is “portable,” Bradley noted that her husband is no longer in the Army. As he completes his graduate degree in New York while a member of the inactive Army Reserve, she continues to work with R. Riveter.
She said R. Riveter is continually looking for military spouses of all branches to join the company as independent contractors who can use their talents to support their families and the military mission.
“R. Riveter is about forging our own path and the possibility of creating independence and purpose for military wives nationwide,” Dudley said. “(This) is something I am incredibly proud to be a part of.”
For more information, go to www.rriveter.com.