Roots in the Community

30 Sep 2019

From Shark Tank fame to QVC, R. Riveter continues to expand and grow


The R. Riveter Flagship Store is perfectly arranged. The newest handbag design is upfront, ensuring it gets attention. The product that immediately preceded the leather bag, is to the visitor’s right, showcased with accompanying artwork and merchandizing. Two friendly young sales women are on the floor to share the R. Riveter story.

Store Manager Jessie Mangrubang greets me and leads me to a small round table in the corner of a tidy office space carved out of the organized stock room in the Broad Street location.

Co-Founder Lisa Bradley joins us via LiveStream as we wait for her partner and Co-Founder Cameron Cruse. In the background we hear Lisa’s 5-year-old playing while Mom is working. Cameron joins us, winded and wearing a calm smile.

This is clearly a 21st Century, flexible, female-empowered environment, exactly what Lisa and Cameron set out to build eight years earlier.

And a great deal has happened over the eight years. A Kickstarter Campaign in 2014 was followed by an investment by ‘Shark Tank’ billionaire Mark Cuban, and R. Riveter grew from a two-friend partnership to a multi-state business supporting over 70 full- and part-time workers.  

Most start-ups never make it past their fifth year. And only a tiny percentage exceed $1 Million in sales. The R. Riveter team has exceeded both and beaten the odds.

And they have done this by remaining focused on their core business proposition…to provide meaningful, flexible and mobile income for military spouses. The military spouses, called  Riveters, remain the key element of the business model.

“We never change the ‘who’ and the ‘why’ for our business,” states Cruse, “Our model must provide military spouse employment and through that, empowerment.”

According to the company website, 33% of every dollar goes back into the hands of a military spouse.

“Mobile, flexible income is paramount,” echoes Bradley, “We want to help women redefine who they can be and to begin to write their own story.”

Since the Shark Tank, R. Riveter has focused on creating infrastructure that will allow them to scale the business. Cuban has encouraged them to keep growing.

“Mark pushes us, but lets us run our business,” Bradley explains, “ He has a special place in his heart for the veteran-owned and military community companies he is involved with.”

Cuban suggested that they create the R. Riveter Marketplace, a curated collection of products that are made by veterans and military spouses, like the popular Southern Elegance Candle Company.

New print handbag styles are also helping the business grow. The Christin Daubert Art-inspired Maker Series has been well-received, with customers reacting to the movement of the art in their own handbag.

And the just-launched, All-Leather totes are obviously designed “by women, for women”. The totes are lightweight, with a good drop in the handle and the rivets give the bag exceptional strength. And, noticeably, the interior has been left natural, rather than dyed black, making it easier to find keys and other items in the bag. In addition, dramatic new handbag styles will be introduced in time for the holidays.

Thanks to Cuban, in September, Bradley and Cruse stepped into living rooms across America on the QVC Channel, selling out 400 signature totes in just over 6 minutes. QVC provides a great opportunity to tell their story to a nationwide audience.

“The R. Riveter story resonates with people outside of our military area,” explains Cruse, “the idea of employing military spouses, resonates with anyone who believes in serving, whether that is the military, police, EMS, fire, or others.”

In 2020, R. Riveter plans another big change. They will  launch their first line of R. Riveter Jewelry. The jewelry will have the refined utility of the R. Riveter brand.

“The jewelry is designed to be worn everyday and everywhere,” says Cruse.

“Like our bags, the jewelry suits the no-fuss woman who is grinding everyday,” adds Bradley.

The R.Riveter Jewelry will be made in the same way as the handbags, by military spouses throughout the United States. However, these Riveters will likely be new to the business; women who have an interest in jewelry-making versus sewing. And like the handbags, every piece of jewelry will have the Riveter number on it, so customers can look up the Riveter on the company website and learn about the woman who made their jewelry.

Following the jewelry launch, R. Riveter will open its second retail store. This time the store will be located in Columbus, Ohio, where Bradley now lives.

The Columbus store will leverage what they have learned from the Flagship store.

“We will be putting our roots in the community, just like we have done in Southern Pines,” says Mangrubang, “We want our customers to pop in to see how we are doing. We are a community that is bigger than just handbags.”

As if on cue, as soon as Mangrubang completes her sentence, a man wearing an R. Riveter shirt comes into the store being dragged by his big yellow dog. They say ‘Hello’ and head directly to the checkout counter.

“Ringo is a regular,” explains Mangrubang, “He knows where his treats are.”

If all goes as planned, R. Riveter will have many new ‘regulars’ in 2020, in North Carolina, in Ohio, and across the United States.

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