SOLVING MILITARY SPOUSE UNEMPLOYMENT – Military Wives Team with Shark Tank’s Mark Cuban

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SHARK TANK - "Episode 719" - Veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs try to enlist the Sharks' investments in their products-will it be a mission accomplished? Two military spouses from Murfreesboro, TN have built a handbag empire using upcycled military materials and piecework from other military spouses-but will the $200+ price point for a bag deter a deal? A former Marine from Dallas, TX and his business partner cousin from Columbia, MD try to sell the Sharks on their gloves that put wireless control of your phone at your fingertips, even while on the ski slopes and motorcycles. A former Air Force Major from Phoenix, AZ looks to franchise her personal organization business that can keep Americans' homes "majorly" de-cluttered. Two veteran army rangers tout their product line, which empowers locals who make "cool products in dangerous places"-namely Colombia, Afghanistan and Laos-from sandals to sarongs and jewelry. They promote peace through business instead of bullets. "Shark Tank" revisits Air Force veteran Kristina Guerrero of La Pine, OR, owner of Turbopup, the canine meal bars, in which Daymond John invested last season, to see how her business has expanded in just 18 months, on "Shark Tank," FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 5 (9:00--10:01 p.m. EST) on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/Michael Desmond) LISA BRADEY, CAMERON CRUSE (R RIVETER)

Employment for military spouses is one battlefront that is often difficult to win.

RRiveter at work

Because of the transient lifestyle, military spouses are often overlooked or underemployed, despite being more educated than those who don’t share this lifestyle. In addition, constraints of moving, cost of caregiving, and flexibility required to balance family obligations when a servicemember is away, many spouses seek or require remote work opportunities – which are hard to come by.

A survey conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (2017) indicates military spouses experience higher rates of unemployment than do other adults, and Federal data back up this claim. Based on a survey of 1,273 active duty military members and veterans, the U.S. Chamber estimates that military spouses and spouses of recent veterans had a 16 percent unemployment rate in 2017. ACS data suggest the rate is lower than this, 10.2 percent in 2016, but still nearly twice the rate for the overall U.S. population between 18 and 65.6.

In 2014, Cameron Cruze and Lisa Bradley, both military spouses, set out to solve the employment issue that plagued thousands of military spouses.  After charging two thousand dollars each to their credit cards, Lisa and Cameron purchased a commercial sewing machine and a small supply of leather and canvas.

And R.Riveter – a once, small, two-woman operation making handbags out of an attic – found their way to Shark Tank in 2016. Bradley and Cruse made their pitch and wound up with three offers. They decided to accept an offer from billionaire investor Mark Cuban, who already had a track record of working with and supporting military affiliated companies.

And as some say, the rest is history.

Today, Cruse and Bradley employ military spouses across the country and this army of highly-motivated, well-educated, truly-dedicated women (mostly women), are doing more than manufacturing handbags. As Cruse states, “R.Riveter doesn’t hire military spouses to make handbags. We make handbags to hire military spouses and create a greater sense of mission.”

The R.Riveter Marketplace offers not only high quality handbags but a curated collection of American Made apparel and accessories.

The Military Spouse Employment Partnership, a Department of Defense partnership program, also helps connect military spouses with jobs or provides them with training to help them enter a new career field.

Military spouses are eligible to receive up to $4,000, or $2,000 a year for up to two years, to cover education and training required to enter a portable career field through a Military Career Advancement Account.

Cameron Cruze and Lisa Bradley ignored the odds, faced adversity and did something about their situation, of which is now positively changing military families across the country.  

The lesson: be a victor over your circumstances. Listen to the full podcast interview with Cameron Cruze at The Military Wire with Mike Schindler.


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