Dennis Rebelo and Giovanni Feroce Share Stories and Strategies with Sold-Out TEDx Crowd

January 31, 2013 (Providence, RI) – Alex and Ani University (AAU) President, Dennis Rebelo, and Alex and Ani CEO, Giovanni Feroce, were among the speakers at a sold-out TEDx event this month entitled, Ideas Revisited. TED, an acronym for Technology, Entertainment and Design, is a non-profit dedicated to Ideas Worth Spreading. The affiliated TEDx program gives communities, individuals, and organizations the opportunity to hold independently organized forums at the local level. Sunday’s event was held at The MET School, 325 Public Street in Providence, RI.

Rebelo, who oversees strategic educational initiatives, daily operations, and course design for AAU, began his talk by inviting participants to rethink the roles of “leaders, organizational members, and followers” in what he referred to as “storytelling organizations” of the 21st century.

“All storytelling organizations have one thing in common,” said Rebelo. “They encourage other folks, folks that aren’t the founders, to tell their stories.”

This “Peak Storytelling” practice of collaborative business strategy is a complicated phenomenon, according to Rebelo, a formally educated phenomenologist in the spirit of the European tradition —“I actually went to school for it, believe it or not,” he said adding that “a phenomenologist studies the mind through subjective, lived experiences.”

Rebelo referred to his life of learning as a quest “to understand things that seemed so beautiful but were so difficult to create.” At AAU, Rebelo immerses himself and others in “what it means to be human at work in the 21st century.”

With his AAU storytelling model, Rebelo trains his Alex and Ani colleagues to achieve more meaningful engagement with others by telling their stories—the “big why” they’re at Alex and Ani—in a clear, dialogical way. Rebelo advocates rethinking retail client engagement and choosing positivity in business interactions at AAU, Alex and Ani Headquarters, its retail stores, and with vendors and partners.

“We need to really rethink the way we handle ourselves in these organizations,” Rebelo said. “I’m convinced we need to transform them.  Storytelling organizations only appear when individuals inside them feel encouraged to story.”

Contending that most people are present at work for more hours than they are awake and at home, Rebelo asked, “Why don’t we make those positive places and positive stories that pour into our personal lives?”

Alex and Ani CEO, Giovanni Feroce, provided a special preview of his “Reality Management” course at AAU by closing the afternoon event with the assertion: “We’re not equal.”

In a talk that began with his Italian family’s immigration to the United States and his mother’s work for a novelty gift manufacturer, Feroce challenged the myth that businesses cannot manufacture in the United States and stay competitive.

“How in the world do you explain an Alex and Ani who began with 23 people in 2010?” Feroce asked, adding that the company now boasts 650 employees and counting. He added that Walmart recently announced plans to commit $100 billion to American-made products in the next decade.

The promotion of these myths, according to Feroce, may well be stunting the growth of a potential American manufacturing renaissance.

Feroce advocated passionately, “Figure out how to do it here.” The audience applauded Feroce’s words.

The Operation Iraqi Freedom Army Veteran went on to challenge other conventional wisdom—older is better, technology is bad, etc.—that mires the business world in a sluggish state at odds with Alex and Ani’s “battle speed” or operational tempo.

While looking to the future, Feroce also embraced some business practices of the past where handshakes and loyalty trumped résumé and employment contracts.  The company’s “Main Street Strategy,” which eschews malls for street facing storefronts, has resulted in what is now known as the “Alex and Ani Effect” and the brand’s growing appeal. “I want to be on the same path of what made this nation great,” Feroce said. “You reward your people for the work that they do.”

Feroce added, referring again to his inward focus on the United States, “We do everything. It’s important that America has a seat at the table, that manufacturing has a seat at the table, that youth has a seat at the table, and that all that we want to do as a country is able to be done.”

Ideas Revisited featured speakers who shared how they have been working in their respective fields to reshape the world. Alex and Ani was recently named the 13th fastest growing retailer in North America by INC Magazine.

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