“Go back to the basics.” With Candice Georgiadis & Marissa Goldstein

What’s really beautiful about this time is that we have been given an opportunity to hit pause. Our family is always out and about, and it has been so uplifting to see families walking together every night, or having a picnic in the lawn. Seeing kids riding around on their bikes instead of sitting on […]

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What’s really beautiful about this time is that we have been given an opportunity to hit pause. Our family is always out and about, and it has been so uplifting to see families walking together every night, or having a picnic in the lawn. Seeing kids riding around on their bikes instead of sitting on tablets gives me hope that we can all go back to the basics and find joy even in the simple moments.

As part of my series about people who stepped up to make a difference during the COVID19 Pandemic, I had the pleasure of interviewing Marissa Goldstein of Rafi Nova.

Rafi Nova is a social enterprise on a mission to create products that meet the ever-changing needs of families while connecting global communities. Founded as a fair-trade fashion brand to equip adventurous families with sustainably made travel bags, the company shifted focus to face masks to solve the urgent needs of families and communities.

Veterans of sustainable product manufacturing, Co-Founders Marissa and Adam Goldstein named the company after their two sets of twins and travel partners: Raya, Efi, Noa, and Eyva.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about how and where you grew up?

My name is Marissa Goldstein and I grew up in Needham, MA, which is a suburb outside of Boston. I was the middle child with 2 siblings, and had two wonderful, hard working parents. My dad is a self-made entrepreneur and has always worked for himself, and my mom was a dedicated philanthropist. I was raised on the Jewish saying Tikkun Olam, which is essentially the notion that it is up to each of us to “repair the world” through social action, giving back to the community, and overall kindness.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

To be honest, as a mother of two sets of young twins who is also running a business, I don’t have a lot of time to read. But I do love listening to podcasts, How I Built This with Guy Raz in particular. I love learning from and about these other entrepreneurs and hearing their stories and what motivates them. It is always inspiring and motivating.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

I mentioned it already, but the phrase Tikkun Olam has taught me a lot, and inspired me throughout my life. The concept is very powerful to me. It has guided me throughout my childhood, and has continued to do so into my adult life.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. You are currently leading a social impact organization that has stepped up during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to address?

Generally speaking, Rafi Nova is working hard to address the fact that communities and front line workers are in need of protective face coverings. When Covid-19 hit, we completely shifted our production to focus almost entirely on face masks, and we are really proud to say that we have sold over 500,000 masks and donated 40,000 along with monetary donations to TransParent USA, the ACLU and the NAACP. We really believe that wearing a mask is a simple act of kindness, and are passionate about our work surrounding that idea.

In your opinion, what does it mean to be a hero?

To me, being a hero is all about helping those around you who need it. Being able to notice when someone needs to be listened to, cared for, or lifted up. Heroic acts could be small, but they are always centered around others.

In your opinion or experience, what are “5 characteristics of a hero? Please share a story or example for each.

Kindness, sense of community, inclusivity, empathy, and motivation.

Kindness feels obvious, but I strongly believe that every act of kindness is a heroic action. We need to be filled with love to support each other. Having a sense of community is also huge. It allows people to know who they are helping and what their goals are.

Speaking of goals, inclusivity should always be something we strive towards. So many communities are ostracized, and by opening our arms and ears to them, there is so much good we can do.

I also think empathy is important, and is closely tied to motivation. Both are characteristics that I think are necessary, because without either, there is no impulsion to help others or do the right thing.

If heroism is rooted in doing something difficult, scary, or even self-sacrificing, what do you think drives some people — ordinary people — to become heroes?

First, and probably most importantly, I think people need to be empathetic. If you are empathetic, then you are able to see when something needs to be changed, if someone needs help, an organization needs support, or if a voice needs to be heard. Empathy drives the motivation to step up, even if it is difficult or scary.

What was the specific catalyst for you or your organization to take heroic action? At what point did you personally decide that heroic action needed to be taken?

When we first started, we knew we wanted Rafi Nova to have a social component. It was really important to us, so I studied case study after case study of social businesses that were an inspiration to us. Personally, everything I’ve ever done has had a social component. Even when I was starting Rafi Nova, I was also a co-founder of a startup that designed solar systems for off the grid communities in rural India. I have always wanted to give back, or help in some way, so Rafi Nova needed to do that too.

We were very drawn to the ethnic tribes in Vietnam, and when we saw the textiles they were making and the tradition behind them, we knew we wanted to shine a light on these wonderful communities by incorporating them into our designs. We started by purchasing the textiles at fair trade costs, but as the business continues to grow, we want to give back in a sustainable way. For example: we hope to one day donate educational materials!

Of course, when Covid-19 hit, we realized we needed to help in a different way, and when our daughter Eyva came up with the idea to make masks we immediately decided to put our resources towards this effort. I don’t think of ourselves as heroes, but I think our donations are heroic in the sense that we are supporting our heroes on the frontline.

Who are your heroes, or who do you see as heroes today?

There are so many heroes today, it is hard to pick just one. Right now there are frontline workers who are sacrificing their health for others, and there are also parents who are making sacrifices for their children during a confusing and scary quarantine. Both of those examples and everyone who is putting others before themselves are heroes to me.

Let’s talk a bit about what is happening in the world today. What specifically frightened or frightens you most about the pandemic?

I think what frightens me most is the thought of getting my parents or loved ones sick. I know that we are exposed, and even though we are taking every precaution possible, I’m definitely aware that there is still a possibility of getting someone sick.

I think it has also been scary for us to be unable to physically interact with our friends and family. Those relationships are so important to us, so distancing ourselves has been a challenge.

Despite that, what gives you hope for the future? Can you explain?

What’s really beautiful about this time is that we have been given an opportunity to hit pause. Our family is always out and about, and it has been so uplifting to see families walking together every night, or having a picnic in the lawn. Seeing kids riding around on their bikes instead of sitting on tablets gives me hope that we can all go back to the basics and find joy even in the simple moments.

What has inspired you the most about the behavior of people during the pandemic, and what behaviors do you find most disappointing?

I have been so inspired seeing communities come together! Seeing teenagers and young adults volunteering their time to grocery shop for the elderly has been incredible. It has definitely reinforced the idea that even though we are socially distant, we have never been more connected to each other.

What disappoints me the most is people that don’t wear a mask. Face coverings limit other people’s exposure, so by wearing a mask it is really a simple act of kindness. We aren’t asking for a large over the top gesture, so I do wish people would be more willing to help in this way.

Has this crisis caused you to reassess your view of the world or of society? We would love to hear what you mean.

There are many aspects of this crisis that have given me a restored faith in humanity. It has reinforced the idea that we don’t need a lot of extraneous things to thrive and be happy. It has created a closeness with those around me, and I honestly feel more connected with my friends and family than ever before.

All in all it has given me a new appreciation for the simple things in life, and inspired me to partake in things like small acts of kindness and being more creative.

What permanent societal changes would you like to see come out of this crisis?

I really hope to see all the kindness towards others and community building continue. Even when life “returns to normal” I hope that we return to a more simplified life. It’s great seeing everyone order food from their local restaurants and eat dinner together as a family, so I hope that doesn’t stop.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

I would tell them that it’s up to them! I would ask them what kind of world they want to live in, and what kind of a world they want to leave for their children in years to come. I really believe it is up to everyone individually to be a positive influence, and that we are all capable of making a difference.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

If I could start a movement, it would be completely focused on inclusivity. This is a central focus for our brand, but I also know that this seemingly simple act can have strong ripple effects. When people come together, despite their differences, we are met with new perspectives, ideas, opinions, and relationships. All of these things can lead to widespread change for good.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I would absolutely love to meet with Ruth Bader Ginsberg. As a female entrepreneur, I am consistently inspired by her dedication to equality for both genders and more. She is such a powerful female leader, and I would be honored to speak with and learn from her.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can find us at @RafiNova_Go, and @TwinsOnTheGox2 on Instagram!

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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