R. Riveter is a handbag line, handcrafted by using salvaged military items like brown leather, USMA wool, black waxed canvas, and green canvas.
The handbags have been made by military spouses, and each handbag is labeled with a number, corresponding to a particular military spouse.
The brand was launched by Cameron Cruse and Lisa Bradley, who met in 2011 during the time that their spouses were stationed in Dahlonega.
Even though both the ladies had master’s degrees (Cameron in architecture and Lisa in business), they had been struggling to find adequate jobs.
The main reason behind this struggle was the fact that, as military spouses, they could not reside in a single spot for more than a couple of years. Their husbands would be frequently relocated to a new Army outpost, and the spouses, of course, had to move with them.
Cameron and Lisa researched about Rosie the Riveter, and were extremely inspired – especially when they realized that there was quite a large market for leather and American-made canvas items.
Thus, they decided to create the R. Riveter, and established the headquarters in Ft. Merrill, GA, on Cameron’s attic.
Using industry-grade sewing machines manufactured during the Korean War, Cameron and Lisa started utilizing recycled tent canvas, surplus blankets, and excess uniforms to manufacture the R. Riveter handbags.
Over time, they hired close to 15 army wives to handle the manufacturing. Cameron and Lisa would arrange for the raw materials to be dropped off wherever they were currently residing. This allowed the wives to support their families as well as their husbands’ military objectives.
The duo also started a Kickstarter campaign to raise $35,000, and ended up raising more than $40,000. This Kickstarter success also attracted attention towards R. Riveter and its products.
The funds were used to outfit the company’s remote employees, whom the business refers to as ‘riveters’.
Each riveter is tasked with manufacturing the handbags according to the specifications outlined by Cameron and Lisa. Once done, these handbags are sent to the company’s ‘home office’ in Southern Pines, North Carolina, where they undergo final assembly before being shipped to the buyers.
Is R. Riveter Still an Active Business?
Yes, R. Riveter is still in business, and is consistently looking to expand its reach. Recently, the handbag company opened a new branch in Florida.
How Did the Shark Tank Pitch Go?
Lisa and Cameron made their Shark Tank appearance during episode 16 of the seventh season of the show. They were seeking an investment of $100,000, in exchange for a 20% stake in the company – a valuation of $500,000.
The duo talks about the difficulties of being a military spouse, the most prominent of which is the perpetual uncertainty brought about by the relocations and deployments.
Lisa’s and Cameron’s objective behind forming the company was revolutionizing American manufacturing while also empowering military spouses.
The duo starts distributing the sample bags to the Sharks, and say that each bag has a story of its own. Robert’s bag, for instance, was manufactured by a total of 15 people. Each person who participates in the manufacturing process, stamps in their unique riveter number on the bag.
The leather is obtained from Georgia and several other places, while the liners are primarily from New York.
Robert questioned about the manufacturing cost and selling price of the handbag. Lisa replied that each bag costs around $55 to make, and is sold for over $200 – a profit margin of approximately 300%.
The target audience is primarily military enthusiasts and supporters. The owners reveal that around 60% of their sales are made through online channels, while the remaining comes through the retail platform in South Pines.
The duo used $9,000 of its own money to start the business and, the year before coming to Shark Tank, R. Riveter had generated annual revenue of $300,000. A lot of the consumers come through the positive word-of-mouth and press articles.
Kevin felt that the price was on the higher side. To this, Cameron said that people are willing to pay a premium for American-made products, especially if service spouses have been involved in the manufacturing.
Mark sees the business as a ‘social network by action’, which he believes is the future of social networking: through action, every employee of the business becomes a salesperson.
Daymond is impressed by the idea and product, but is not sure why R. Riveter is looking for a partner. The owners explain that they want to use the funds for web marketing. The products have a lead time of 90-days, and they want to use the internet to reach out to a wider audience.
Daymond said that he did not think that the business needed a partner, and that sometimes, owners sell a part of their company to a partner who does not know much more about the business than the owners do. Since Daymond does not think that he can add any value to R. Riveter, he steps out of the deal.
Lori said that she invested in mass-market, cheaper products, and since R. Riveter was the exact opposite of that, she excused herself from the offer.
Kevin was willing to offer exactly what Lisa and Cameron wanted: $100,000 for 20% equity. The offer was matched by Robert.
Mark, too, chipped in with the same offer, but, as an extra enticement, also offered to fund the business inventory, as well as any assets or equipment that the company might need in the future.
Unsurprisingly, then, the owners decided to go with Mark, and the die was cast.
Our Review of R. Riveter After their Shark Tank Appearance
Apart from the quality, what we love about the R. Riveter handbags is their versatility. Just remove the cross-body strap, and the bag goes from day to night. If you are an on-the-go mother, you will be very pleased to know that the bag can also accommodate a few diapers and wipes. The bag will come in quite handy during vacations.
Pros of R. Riveter
- Premium quality
- Made in America
- Manufactured by service spouses
- Price is on the higher side
Our Final Thoughts
To sum up, R. Riveter is an excellent initiative that not only helps promote in-country manufacturing, but also supports and empowers military spouses and families. The business is still going strong, and has managed to increase its family of remote employees to almost 35, while the number of retail operators has gone from 11 to 21.