PCS Story Contest Update: PCSgrades and Shyft are giving away 2 grand prizes of a full-service PCS Do-it-Yourself Move! Other prizes include huge gift cards from The Home Depot and Radisson Hotels Americas, which are providing five separate packages of 300,000 Rewards Points each for military families to use on their next stay. All you have to do is log onto PCSgrades.com and share your most memorable PCS story. Enter the contest here. It will be live from August 15-31.
Our Guest: Cameron Cruse, co-founder of R. Riveter. We are a handbag company on a mission to support military families. I went to college in Savannah and met a man in the military. Once we got married, we moved to the middle of nowhere Georgia. That’s where R. Riveter began! We have moved twice since then, and are in the middle of a PCS right now. My husband is retiring from the military, so we are on our final move and making a lot of decisions right now. We invested in an RV to buy us some time.
How was R. Riveter born and what is their mission?
I graduated with a Master’s in Architecture and we moved to Dahlonega, Georgia, which is the start and end of the Appalachian trail. But other than that, nothing is really happening there. There were no jobs in architecture! I started having a career crisis realizing I wouldn’t be able to have the career path I dreamed of. Around that time, I met Lisa, my co-founder, and we realized other military spouses must be facing similar career challenges. We wondered if we could help support military spouses while building a company in a win-win moment. We wanted to provide mobile, flexible income. Ultimately we decided on handbags because it is a power accessory that you pick up every day. We had handbags and our mission for mobile flexible income. It has been an incredible journey, but we are celebrating 10 years this year!
What has PCSing in an RV been like?
We’ve been living in the RV for a few months now. We have 2 kids, so there are 4 of us in a 43-foot RV. We started this process many months before we bought the RV, so we could understand what we were getting into. We took to the internet the second we considered it. We pared down considerably, and had to decide what to pay to store, what to keep, what to sell or donate and get rid of. We plan to be in the RV for 7-8 months. It’s like a new category of the PCS purge!
As a military spouse entrepreneur, what are the benefits and challenges of taking your business with you when you PCS?
We are at the scale now where we have a network and a team. But in the beginning, Lisa moved much more than we did. We had to be really transparent about where we were in the moving process and which days we would be off grid. When you are moving in an RV, the entire day you are moving you have to pack up and do things around the RV. All I really need is a solid internet connection, my laptop, and somewhere to sit. There have been moments that are stressful, but this is why we built the business, to provide flexibility.
Is space the biggest adjustment to RV living?
The biggest adjustment was laundry and dishes. I don’t have a built-in laundry or dishwasher, so that’s a big adjustment. The space hasn’t been too bad, but it’s the summer months, so we have been in and out. We did run into peak RV travel season, and RV parks have very limited spaces, so we needed to go in advance and book spaces because we weren’t sure we would be able to stay in some areas.
Our kids are 10 and 7, so we wanted to take a break and take it slow from North Carolina to Texas. We have a toy hauler in the back, so they are just living their best life!
Where can military spouses learn more about R. Riveter?
You can always go to our website, RRiveter.com. To learn more about the community and the brand, @RRiveterbags on Instagram and all the platforms is a great place to go.
You are one of the judges on our PCS Story Contest panel! Can you share how you feel about that?
It was perfect timing, because I was mid-move. R. Riveter is always about supporting our community and our families, especially when they are moving every 2-3 years. We wanted to do anything we could to give back and support in those moments. I am so excited to read all of the stories!
How did you get into sewing?
My mom taught me to sew when I was young. I went and got an architecture degree that was unrelated, but I circled back to the sewing. I don’t sew often any more, but I think it’s one of the best therapeutic activities.
Tell us more details about RV living.
Mail is something to consider. We have everything forwarded to our parents, and turned on USPS informed delivery so you can see what is being delivered. Amazon still delivers to most RV parks, so I didn’t miss a beat with my online shopping, haha!
It is a simpler lifestyle, but it’s a change in pace. You will be doing more chores as a family that you used to take for granted.
All RV layouts are not created equal! There are so many different options and layouts! Ours has a decent amount of food storage and kitchen and bathroom space. But if you have more kids, you may need the bunkhouse in the back.
Neighbors in RV parks have been wonderful, because everyone is so helpful and waves to you and wants to chat. We have met a lot of retired military families on vacation, especially when we were around Destin, Florida and also in Texas.
I think travel in winter and cold weather would be a lot harder. The kids have been able to get out and spend a lot of time outside. And some RVs are rated better for cold weather than others.
We bought our RV from someone else, then spent some time and energy to remodel it to make it more airy and exactly how we wanted it. I definitely recommend renting an RV first for some short weekend trips before you take the plunge to make sure it works for your family.
How have you applied your artistic training to developing your products? Where do the design inspirations come from?
Our designs are all about refined, sophisticated but highly-utilitarian military spouses. Our designs are inspired by that. The exterior pockets, for example, on the outside of the pockets are designed to hold the military ID card so it is easily accessible when driving through the gate! A lot of design, engineering, and manufacturing is all project management. And that is a lot of what I learned in the school of Architecture. I had to work backwards to make a design happen. We are inspired by the minimalist look that goes well with everything–like a great pair of jeans. But we are also inspired by our community.
MJ: I have had my R.Riveter clutch for about 4 years, and I have used it with everything! I am low maintenance, but I also live near D.C. and go to meetings on Capitol Hill. So I have used this wearing my PCSgrades polo shirt, also with a t-shirt and jeans, and I have brought the same clutch to every formal event I’ve attended for years!
Sally: I’m going to show off my Dot bag. I love the handles. I also use the longer strap when I’m with my toddler in the parking lots running wild. It’s a very practical bag. I use the exterior pocket for my mask. And the story tag is stamped with the R. Riveter ID of each military spouse who helped make this purse!
Currently, R. Riveter is not hiring, because we go through ebbs and flows of hiring and then having too many people. But if you message us, we will put you on the list to reach out to once we start hiring again!