Carolyn Rafaelian can’t wait to get up in the morning and come to work. She expects her employees feel the same way.
She has a lot to look forward to. Two years ago, her company, named after her first two daughters, was 25 employees large. Today, she employs 240 Rhode Islanders.
Rafaelian is the owner and designer of Alex and Ani, a Cranston-headquartered jewelry company that designs pieces promoting positive energy.
How can one young company handle such billowing growth?
“I have a phenomenal team,” said Rafaelian. “The people that are part of this right now are literally divinely put here. I say that to them all the time, ‘There is no mistake that you were meant to be put here.’ ”
Spirituality permeates every part of Rafaelian’s life. As a result, it’s an integral part of her business as well. Each week, Alex and Ani sells hundreds of thousands of bangles adorned with symbolic charms, representing the Tree of Life, Star of Venus, or St. Christopher, the patron saint of travelers.
Nancy Carriuolo, president of Rhode Island College, discovered Alex and Ani a few years ago.
“I was just really taken with the fact that the whole company reflects her personality and her look,” said Carriuolo, who wears a bangle and charm that represents leadership.
The jewelry is handmade. When Carriuolo visited Rafaelian’s factory, she described the near-silence as “serene.” Instead of the blaring sounds of machines, the factory was filled with workers assembling each piece.
Rafaelian and her family inherited the 25,000-square-foot factory from her father, Ralph Rafaelian, a jewelry maker in Rhode Island. So in a very real way, founding Alex and Ani was a way for Rafaelian to return to her roots. And in doing so, she wanted to give back to her community.