Pivoting in the Pandemic | Business with Purpose Podcast EP 225: Marissa Goldstein, Rafi Nova
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The word for 2020 has been PIVOT. Especially when it comes to sustaining a business during an economy in the middle of a global pandemic. My guest today is living this idea of pivoting out. Her story about launching a business at the beginning of a pandemic and them completely pivoting is incredibly inspiring and you are going to love this conversation. Marissa Goldstein is a proud mother of two sets of twins. Yes, you heard that right – two sets of twins. She’s also the CEO of the leading sustainable travel accessory brand Rafi Nova. As an avid traveler, Marissa founded Rafi Nova to encourage families to travel while creating meaningful connections with global communities. While the pandemic shifted her company’s production to face masks, it expanded the company’s ability to connect and protect communities and support social causes committed to inclusivity. Under Marissa’s leadership, Rafi Nova will have donated more than 150,000 masks to organizations in need and workers on the front lines by the end of the year. This was such an incredible conversation and Marissa is such a leader in this area. Grab a warm, cozy, festive drink and Join me as I chat with Marissa.
4:42 – The Marissa 101
- Marissa is the co-founder and CEO of Rafi Nova. Rafi Nova is a social enterprise on a mission to create great products that meet the ever-changing needs of families and communities, and serves to connect, inspire, and encourage others to get out there and go. She and her husband are parents to TWO sets of twins.
- Marissa’s family lives life on the go (or certainly before the pandemic). For the last 3-4 years, they spent half the year living in Vietnam, and the other half living right outside of Boston, MA.
- After Marissa finished her MBA in 2015, she joined her husband working at his manufacturing business helping consumer products companies in the US make products overseas in Vietnam. They’ve always had a wanderlust, and quickly fell in love with Southeast Asia on an around the world trip.
- They settled in Vietnam, creating their own supply chain and amazing community of friends. Their niche was bags, backpacks, duffel bags, luggage, etc. Every weekend they traveled to other Southeast Asia countries to meet with different ethnic women and tribes.
- In Northern Vietnam four years ago, they met women trying to sell their trinkets with a colorful textile wrapped around then. They discovered the women’s stories as well as the story behind the artform that has been passed down from generation to generation. It started to disappear because of technology and younger generations choosing different career paths in cities.
- Marissa and her husband wanted to find a way to use that textile traditional art form and put them on meaningful products in the US while also supporting the women, telling their stories, and preserving the art form. They started their own brand, Rafi Nova, which is named after their two sets of twins. They goal was to create useful products and accessories that people can wear when they’re on the go.
- All of the Rafi Nova products use upcycled textiles that have a story. Marissa and her husband spent a year building the company in Vietnam and came back to Boston to officially start the company. It was right as Covid-19 started spreading in the US, before anyone knew what was coming. They launched the day after the product arrived on February 16th and two weeks later received their town’s stay-at-home orders before Rafi Nova even had a shot at thriving.
- They knew they needed to put their factory to good use to help during the pandemic as well as keep their factory opening as product orders began plummeting. It was actually their four-year-old who suggested they start making masks. In Vietnam, people wear masks every day because of the air pollution, which gave Marissa and her family a unique perspective on masks that most Americans don’t have.
- They know what it takes to make a comfortable, safe, and effective mask. They called up their factory and decided they were going to make 10,000 makes to donate to front-line workers. Word caught on quickly and people were asking if Rafi Nova would sell the masks for their own personal use. It was in March, when there was a lot of dialogue about masks but nowhere to buy them.
- They put the masks on their website, and 24 hours later they’d done over $25,000 in sales with a gratitude for the opportunity and the need for a plan to fulfill the orders! Since that day, Rafi Nova has sold over 2 million masks, and donated over 125,000 masks and have more than 30 employees in a 7500 sq ft fulfillment center.
- Marissa credits her experience as a mom of two twins for preparing her for this endeavor.
19:22 – Empowering Artisans Through Partnership
- After discovering the traditional handicrafts in Northern Vietnam, Rafi Nova wanted to find a way to connect with local communities and communities around the world. They would stay in the communities in a very different environment than what they were used to and believe that exploring these differences is a beautiful part of life.
- They found that we all have commonalities. Marissa saw that the communities in Vietnam had children whose parents wanted them to thrive, just like Marissa wanted for her children. They were able to connect through their roles as mothers. Even through language barriers, the language of motherhood rose up to connect them.
- Rafi Nova fell in love with the traditional art form and after learning more about the tribes who made them, they wanted to bring the art to the US, not to profit of the artisans, but to tell the story of the textiles and purchase them at fair trade rates to help families profit and preserve the art in various forms.
22:07 – Seeking Adventure (in 2020 and beyond).
- Rafi Nova has a vision to connect the global community of families to seek adventure. 2020 was a heck of a year, and it also gave Rafi Nova an opportunity to begin. They sold a lot of masks and created a loyal customer base while also giving back during a tumultuous time in our history, fulfilling their core values.
- While masks are not the product they intended to sell originally, they are a part of Rafi Nova’s story and fit their mission to connect people, keep them safe, and giving back to the community. In 2021, they want Rafi Nova to be a lifestyle brand destination of ethically-sourced products that encourage families to get out, connect, and give back.
- Even though adventure looks different in 2020, it is still relevant to Rafi Nova’s mission, just with an evolved definition. Most of us have an ideal vision of adventure that involves hoping on a plane and exploring a place we’ve never been to. These days, it could be a family bike ride, RV trip, a camping trip, or just a walk exploring the woods behind your house together. Adventure can also mean finding new and better systems for you and your family to slow down and spend more quality time together.
- Rafi Nova will continue to sell masks and are also adding a new line of products to accompany us on our new adventures and journeys.
24:37 – The Ethical Piece
- Marissa was raised with a sense of community and giving back. It’s so important to know where our products come from, how it’s made, and who made it. When finishing her MBA, Marissa was the cofounder of a solar startup based in India creating solar energy machines that provided fans, cell phone charging and light to rural communities.
- Rafi Nova spends time in their factories with the factory owners every day. They are like second family and it has been eye opening to have the opportunity to join communities in understanding the lifecycle of a product. There are so many pieces of the production line and every step holds the story of a person.
27:42 – Connecting
- You can find more about Rafi Nova at www.rafinova.com and on all the social channels. If you want to follow Marissa and her family’s adventures, follow @twinsonthegox2 on Instagram!
28:13 – Getting to Know Our Guest
- Find out what song Marissa has to sing along to when it comes on the radio, a person who has influenced her the most, what she would eat if she had to eat the same meal every night for the rest of her life, her favorite TV show to watch growing up, and of course, stay tuned to hear what it means to Marissa to run a business with purpose.
14:41 – “We started this pivot out of a sense of service, not out of a sense of business.”
15:42 – “I think my experience as a mom to two sets of twins or even a set of twins prepared us for this. We always go into life being flexible and being open-minded and knowing things are not going to come as they seem and that you need to pivot in a lot of your everyday life.”
24:08 – “Adventures have new meanings these days.”
24:23 – In 2021, while we will still be selling masks, we are coming out with a line of amazing products that we’re working so hard on that can accompany you on these new adventures and these new journeys.
Thank you to our partners of the show:
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The Lemonade Boutique
This episode is sponsored by The Lemonade Boutique, a women’s clothing with a cause store. Featuring ethically made and fair trade items from over 10 countries, every item is made by women facing extreme challenges such as trafficking, poverty, and more. Your purchase empowers women to take life’s lemons and make lemonade. Shop at THELemonadeBoutique.com. Listeners of the Business with Purpose Podcast can save 15% by using code PURPOSE15 at checkout.
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