Dec 23, 2020
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
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
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
- 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
- Rafi Nova will continue to sell masks and are also
adding a new line of products to accompany us on our new adventures
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
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
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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