Military Wire: Solving military spouse unemployment

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Lisa Bradey and Cameron Cruse on ABC’s Shark Tank. (Photo courtesy ABC/Michael Desmond)

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

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 service member 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. Census 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 ages 18 and 65.6.

In 2014, Cameron Cruse and Lisa Bradey, both military spouses, set out to solve the employment issue that plagued thousands of military spouses. After charging $2,000 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 in an attic — found their way to Shark Tank in 2016. Bradey 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.

Making R. Riveter products.

Today, Cruse and Bradey 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 Cruse and Lisa Bradey ignored the odds, faced adversity and did something about their situation, and they are now positively changing military families across the country.

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

— By Mike Schindler

Edmonds resident Mike Schindler is the founder and chief executive officer of Operation Military Family Cares –– a 501(c)(3) veteran service organization and technology provider that combats veteran homelessness, while working to strengthen relationships and equip communities and families for success.

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