So I was catching up on last week’s Shark Tank episode, all about military spouses and veterans and their businesses, and I was incredibly excited about this one in particular. One business that I have been following for months now, R. Riveter was featured, and as the sharks were talking about military spouses and the sacrifice we make to support our military members, I realized I was crying. The sharks are typically known for tearing apart business owners, trying to get the meat of the deal. Instead, they saw two women, who put their own professional dreams on hold because they found love. Why was I crying, you ask? Because these were women who disrupted the military system and founded a company that promotes the mobility of the military community. And they did it, all while still supporting the men they loved, who were fighting for the country we all love.
Lisa Bradley was studying Business + Entrepreneurship when she met her husband. Following him to several duty stations, she eventually completed an MBA. Cameron Cruse has a Masters of Architecture from Savannah College of Art and Design (one of the top schools in the nation). She’s no slacker herself. These two met while their husbands were Army Rangers together in Georgia. Both highly educated women, but both wanted to be more than just military spouses, following base to base with their husbands.
Together, they founded their handbag company to provide employment opportunities to other military spouses who often move, on average every 2.9 years, and therefore have a hard time planting roots with their own professional goals. By the time you network, make connections, and locate a new position, you may have heard you are relocating again. The cycle goes on and on for 20 years until your spouse’s retirement ceremony.
This episode had me in tears because I began looking at my own life’s professional journey, introspectively. Shark Tank isn’t supposed to be therapy, nor is it supposed to make me think of all the things I could’ve done differently in my life, but somehow, this episode did.
When I began college, 15 years ago, I was planning to go into Business – management to be exact. Whatever that meant. I was really just a lost soul, with dreams of an office in the city, on the 40th floor, wearing pant suits to work everyday. It sounded cliche, but I wanted to be a city girl, who took the train in, and changed from sneakers to pumps. I wanted to “commute.” That was my purpose, that was my dream. I honestly didn’t know what kind of company I wanted to work for, or industry. I wanted the skyscraper. That was my dream.
But like Lisa, I met my husband while I was in college, and life took a funny left turn.
I left college halfway through my sophomore year, and followed my husband 1000 miles to his first base after tech school. It was blind faith that I put my dreams of a cubicle on the 40th floor on hold to move to a small town in Louisiana.
But I am a firm believer that EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON. And I mean everything.
It was here, in a small shop in Louisiana, that I found my love of marketing. I was working as an administrative assistant to an owner, and was provided the opportunity to work on a few side projects that were graphic design based. This is where I found my calling and I soared. I found passion. I loved this part of my job. I was creative and this was an outlet.
Soon after my husband returned from his first deployment, and we were just reintegrating, we received the news that he would be leaving again, but this time to an unaccompanied tour to Korea. I was crushed, devastated, and just plain mad. I just got my husband back and you want to take him away from me??
But again, everything happens for a reason.
His year in Korea was the perfect opportunity for me to go back to school and become a graphic designer. Again, I soared. I found even more passion. And I loved every bit of it.
But the year was over and we were moving, again. This time to San Antonio. I was excited – I was moving to a REALLY. BIG. CITY. Except for one thing. If I wanted to get a job in graphic design in this town, I needed to be bilingual. And I wasn’t.
So I searched and searched for jobs that were “kind of like graphic design,” and fell upon a newspaper classifieds ad, 4 lines long, that read: “Marketing Assistant Wanted. Organizing file structure. Graphics Exp Needed. Call XXX.” Graphics experience! I have that! So I pivoted my dreams in a new direction and applied.
I ended up getting a position at an architecture firm, hired by an marketing director who needed someone with a graphics background to help layout proposals. But after two months, this director left her position, and I was left with an entire marketing department in my hands. Say it with me: everything happens for a reason.
The firm’s leadership asked me if I wanted to sink or swim, and I chose to swim. Over many months, I learned marketing techniques, strategies and best practices, to keep the company’s marketing efforts going. At times I felt like I was sinking, miserably, but eventually I swam. And I loved it.
Since then, I have continued my career in marketing, growing and learning every day. It is never boring and I always wake up energized for a new day. Marketing in its essence is helping and meeting the needs of others, and that’s what I enjoy doing. Listening to problems and finding solutions. My new dreams are all centered around this profession – how to better myself so I can help others.
I don’t have that cubicle on the 40th floor, but I do have one on a 2nd floor overlooking a small pond. It isn’t downtown, but it is closer to my house in the suburbs. I traded the pant suits for business casual attire. And I wear flats instead of sneakers from the parking lot to the lobby. It doesn’t sound as glamorous as the ideals my 18-year-old self had, but it sure makes me happy.
15 years ago, I thought I wanted a super powerful corporate job. It wasn’t until I followed my husband and put my dreams on pause, that I could really find my calling in life.
The ladies at R.Riveter are doing that everyday, allowing other spouses, who have put a “pause” on their own dreams, to pick up and find a new calling. It may not have been what the riveters set out to do in life, but from what I can see, its creating a lot more happiness for those spouses. They now have mobile careers, a nice work/life balance, and still provide for their families.
So ladies and gents, if you are in the market for a beautiful handbag or laptop tote – check out this company, and know that you are supporting not only a small business, but many spouses whose hands went in to manufacturing the bags, and allowed them the opportunity to chase their dreams.
So tell me, where has your journey taken you and how has that changed your dreams over the years? Has your journey helped you find a new dream? Share your story below.