Milpreneur Lisa Bradley: R. Riveter

Milpreneur Highlight

Some military spouse organizations offer to help spouses find employment through workshops, meetings, and job fairs. Lisa Bradley’s business, R. Riveter, actually provides them with jobs. Leave it to a military spouse to find a way to tangibly help fellow military spouses provide a second income to their household.

Riveter, which sells elegant handbags and even dog collars and handkerchiefs, promotes the idea that there are mobile and flexible careers that spouses can take with them. Every product is hand-crafted by military spouses employed by R. Riveter. The finished item is elegant, durable, and made in America using military-inspired materials.

The Path to Fashion

For R. Riveter’s creator, this is a labor of love rather than profit. “My parents were entrepreneurs,” she explains, “So the ups and downs of running a small business are not new to me.” 12660476_10208976459515282_1924985504_nToday, R. Riveter remains a passion project, but is also a successful online shop. It was what Bradley describes as her first true career.

Prior to starting R. Riveter, Lisa had a string of jobs that she describes as “for now” work that left her feeling “deflated and always having to redefine who I was.” With the support of her husband, Lisa worked with her business partner to create a line of handbags that would give her something to be proud of.

“Moving every two or three years made it difficult to have a resume to be proud of—or that employers would notice.” Entrepreneurship provided the solution. “It was time to quit complaining and do something about it,” Bradley insists. R. Riveter came to mind as a way to help her create a career, and provide employment to military spouses in her shoes.

Four Years Later…

Today, Lisa and her business partner divide and conquer. While Lisa’s partner runs the “production side” from North Carolina, Lisa operates the business side from her home office in Murfreesboro, TN.

Lisa describes her business as incredibly rewarding: “When you grow a business it takes on a life of its own—under your guidance. Knowing that the pains and pleasures are a product of our own decisions and our creation is the most rewarding career experience I can imagine.”

Her love of the pains and pleasures alike has enabled her to grow a business that is so much more than she had conceived of for herself. She doesn’t see it as a business about numbers and profit. For her, R. Riveter was successful the moment it taught her that “being fulfilled as a military spouse isn’t about that dream job or title I thought I needed to define who I was. R. Riveter taught me that you can do so much in this world and have a huge impact on people’s lives.”

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Her business has also taught her what the ideal business for military spouses is: one that’s both portable and flexible. This often comes, Lisa admits, with creating your own business (and employing other military spouses to share the experience). She envisions the perfect spouse-owned business as one that forges a community of spouses who work together, even across the country, to create something.

The process of collaborating with other spouses has been streamlined by social media, which enables all company employees to communicate easily. It has also enabled R. Riveter to share its message of positivity through hardship to military spouses stationed all over the world.

Making a Difference Matters

For Lisa, the entire effort behind R. Riveter is about making a difference. Her business shows her children the value of a strong work ethic, as well as American made products. It also shows them that a mother and wife can still be a successful business-owner. The day-to-day balance is hard, but possible.

She also prides herself on her company’s work to “forge a new way of manufacturing, where there are only goods and outputs. Traditionally the manufacturing industry is riveted with poor working conditions, low wages, and environmental hazards. R. Riveter is providing mobile income to military spouses to work from home, using recycled materials.”

For Bradley, her business is part of a mission to set a great example for other businesses, her children, as well as military spouses. She continues to encourage spouses to do whatever inspires them. “You have to follow your own instincts,” she insists. That’s what Bradley did, after all, and she created a successful business that gives to both its customers and its employees.

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