Meet Marissa Goldstein. She is the Co-Founder of Rafi Nova, a fair trade textiles company based in Needham, MA that produces face masks, pouches and bags out of ethically sourced materials from Hmong artisans in Southeast Asia.
All Photography by Cara Soulia, Boston Family Photographer
I first met Marissa when her family participated in The Front Steps Project, (a global social mission I co-founded to photograph families on their front steps in exchange for a donation to a local charity). In exchange for her family photo, Marissa made a donation to our GoFundMe to support the community council in our town Needham, MA. But because of Marissa’s dedication to supporting her community, Rafi Nova also made a $1000 donation to our causel! We are so thankful for her generosity. Amazing!!
Not only is a Marissa a powerhouse business woman running a fast growing company in a constantly changing marketplace, she is a wife and amazing mama to TWO sets of twins!! To say she is juggling a lot is an understatement! If you haven’t heard of Rafi Nova before, I encourage you to check out their website and watch the video that so beautifully describes their mission of running a fair trade company and their passion for creating products for adventurous families.
The products Rafi Nova makes are beautiful and practical and their materials are ethically sourced. Their masks are fashionable, super comfortable and are the ONLY ones my family wears! I’m so thrilled to feature Marissa in my “A Mother’s Work” portrait series and to share her inspirational story about how her company began and how it has completely transformed during the pandemic.
Don’t miss the PROMO CODE at the end of this blog post for 15% off Rafi Nova products!
A Mother’s Work: Marissa Goldstein | Founder of Rafi Nova
Tell me the story of how Rafi Nova was born ( what the name means, your mission, etc) 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.
You have completely shifted your focus during the pandemic from backpacks to face masks! How did you decide to make this shift and what has it been like to have such a significant change in your business model?
Our business model has always been centered around the idea of helping communities, so when Covid-19 hit, it became very clear to us that there were communities here in the US that we wanted to help. When our 4 year old daughter Eyva came up with the idea to start making masks, we immediately decided to put our resources towards this effort. Of course it has been challenging having to shift our business so drastically, but we are incredibly grateful for the success the masks have had. We have added team members, moved into an office space, sold hundreds of thousands of masks, and donated an equally large number. None of this would have been possible had we not changed our focus, so even though the growth has been staggering, it is also exciting.
Tell me more about how Rafi Nova is donating masks to front line workers during the pandemic. When we first started making masks, frontline workers urgently needed personal protective equipment, so we set up a program where we donated a mask for every purchase made. This was our first step, but we are proud to say we have worked with and donated masks to many other organizations. Since March we have donated over 40,000 masks, and made monetary donations to the NAACP, TransParent, and the ACLU.
What is the most challenging thing about running your own business and raising a family ( TWO sets of twins!!) at the same time and how do you manage it?
The biggest challenge is without a doubt time – there never seem to be enough hours in the day! It can be near impossible to feel like you are doing a good job being both a business owner and a mother, but I have learned that the best solution is to set my expectations low and not be so hard on myself. I manage everything by planning ahead as best as possible, particularly when it comes to my children. I am grateful to have an amazing nanny who stays with the children when both my husband and I are at work, and a spouse who shares the load with me as much as possible. I always try to remind myself that I can’t do everything alone, and that it is okay to need help.
I love that your business is a joint effort between you and your husband (and that you are high school sweethearts!!) What is it like to work with your spouse – the good the bad the ugly 🙂
Yes, it’s true that we are high school sweethearts – we met when we were both just sixteen and have been together for almost 20 years! Being in business with a spouse has many challenges, but it has an equally large number of rewards. Although we work together, we made sure to have defined, separate roles so that we do different things within the company. This works for us, because even though we have very different skill sets and views, we also have complete trust in one another. Something that is a challenge for us is the fact that work can easily become 100% of our time. We do our best to establish boundaries and not talk business at home, but it is definitely hard.
What is one of the best pieces of business advice that someone has given you?
I received the best piece of business advice when I was getting my MBA, and the concept is entrepreneurial thought in action. Essentially this means that you should embrace and confront uncertainty rather than avoid it. It emphasizes smart action over planning, and that you need to move quickly and be able to pivot. This made me realize that while you could spend years planning a perfect business model, you can’t always plan for reality. It taught me to take risks that I could stomach, to be reactive, and to shift my direction if necessary.
I know you in the past you have lived half of each year in Vietnam. What is the best (or hardest? or funniest) thing about traveling abroad with young children?
The best thing about traveling abroad with young children is being able to show them the world. We can show them people who look different from them, foods that they have never tried before, and new ways of transportation. It gave us the opportunity to come out of our comfort zone as parents, and the entire experience taught them so much more than they could have ever learned in a classroom or from a book. The worst thing is literally just having to be on an airplane with them for 24 hours, followed closely by the 24 hours of jet lag once we arrived. But as difficult as those two days are, we always remind ourselves that it is only two days, and that they will be over soon.
I have to ask, what was the first thing you or your husband said when you found out you were having a second set of twins?
When we originally decided to have a third child, we thought that having a single would be easy and allow us to continue on with our lifestyle of travel and adventure. I found out that I was pregnant right before we left Vietnam, and immediately had a strange internal feeling about it being twins despite all the doctors telling me how uncommon it was. When we saw the ultrasound, we knew exactly what it meant and were initially upset. Going from 2 kids to 4 is a huge jump, and we knew that having twins again would be a major challenge. But we quickly felt guilty for being upset, and began to focus on what was really important to us; having two healthy children!
Is there a promo code I can share with my audience for Rafi Nova products?
YES! It’s CARA15
Read more features from the A Mother’s Work series here!
Cara Soulia is a Boston Photographer who specializes in creating beautiful, natural images in a unique and artistic way. See more of Cara’s work here or get in touch to find out more about scheduling a photo session.