Cameron Cruse, one of the co-creators of R. Riveter handbags, can’t quite believe she made it to Shark Tank. Her company was scouted by show producers after a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised more than $40,000. More than a year later, Cruse and her business partner and fellow military spouse, Lisa Bradley, stepped onto the carpet next to a display of their original bags made from recycled military materials.
As the Cruse told The Pilot, the chance to appear on Shark Tank was positive — and a still bit unreal.
“It was an incredible and surreal experience. I won’t believe it until the show airs, because it kind of still feels like this is all a dream.”
The concept behind R. Riveter is quite simple. The company employs military spouses from across the country to create piecework that are sent to its headquarters in Southern Pines, North Carolina. There the bags are finished and sold online and in retail stores.
Each piece is stamped with a number that corresponds with the name of a military spouse who created it. Their first names and duty stations are listed on the R. Riveter website.
Cruse now lives in Southern Pines and Bradley is based in Tennessee. They started the company while located in Dahlonega, Georgia. As their enterprise grew, they saw the opportunity to partner with other military families, as Cruse told The Pilot.
“The bigger we get, the more we can empower other military spouses, whether that is providing remote employment or sharing our story with other spouses so they, too, can realize that they can start their own business.”
That inspiration has great meaning for Susan Reynolds, a military spouse and blogger at Fay Observer. She wrote that, due to frequent moves, military spouses have few employment options. They can take a job that doesn’t use their skills or expertise, they can volunteer, or start businesses. Reynolds was particularly impressed by Cruse and Bradley’s community-minded efforts.
“All I know is that I’m so impressed by these women. Lisa and Cameron are the epitome of all that is good and kind about military spouses. They are thinking of others by employing military spouses. They give back to their community and serve with pride.”
But will they get a deal on Shark Tank? As with most companies that come on to the show with a great story, that appears to be a different question altogether.
As Carter Matt noted in its episode preview, Shark Tank viewers have seen this before, in a way — Sarah Oliver Handbags pitched earlier this season and landed a deal for its line of handmade products. In that case, the proprietor tapped seniors to make the raw, unfinished shell of her product, as they had the knitting skills she sought.
In the episode synopsis, mention is made of R. Riveter’s $200-plus price point, which is steep for most shoppers. However, it’s not out of line with most designer handmade bags, and comparable to the price charged by Sarah Oliver Handbags, which also targets a higher-end consumer.
Regardless of whether or not they land a deal, Cruse and Bradley are prepped to receive orders after their Shark Tank segment. Show producers told them to expect 100,000 orders following the broadcast.
R. Riveter is part of a military-themed episode of Shark Tank that airs Friday night at 9 p.m. on ABC.
[Photo by R. Riveter/Instagram]