An Alex & Ani Jewelery Design

Courtesy of southcoasttoday.com

Dennis Rebelo ’91, president of the Rhode Island-based Alex and Ani University Professional Development Center (AAU), visited Rochester last week to train employees of two recently opened Alex and Ani retail locations.

The training, which included a seminar entitled “Rethinking Retail,” taught the employees how to deepen client engagement through the human science of dialogue and retail therapy, as Rebelo called it.

“This course teaches them how to be more structured in their inquiry,” he said. “It helps them move from a sense of rigidity in their dialogue to a sense of openness in dealing with someone they don’t know.”

Alex and Ani sells recycled jewelry and charms with ancient symbols. According to a prepared statement, the company “offers eco-friendly, positive energy products that adorn the body, enlighten the mind, empower the spirit, and are made in America.”

The company has two locations within the Rochester area: one is located in the Upper Monroe neighborhood on Culver Road, and the other is in Victor.

As president of AAU, Rebelo oversees curriculum development, fosters the development of positive energy, and identifies what it means to be human in the workplace.

“This basically means to be aware of who you are,” Rebelo said. “For years, we as a society have been managing people as if they are machines. People need to be happy, stay longer, and bring their strengths to work, so they can come into work comfortable in who they are.”

The educational branch of the company was founded in 2011. This year, AAU expects to have 2,500 student learners who are employees from Alex and Ani and from external (non Alex and Ani) client companies, a jump from about 500 in 2012, Rebelo said.

Rebelo also said that Alex and Ani was recently considered the 13th fastest-growing retailer in the country.

“Our entire staff enjoyed Dennis’ presentation,” said Gabrielle Soto, store manager of the Upper Monroe location. “He was knowledgeable, easy to listen to, and made the presentation fun so we could really pay attention.”

The Upper Monroe location has 11 employees. Rebelo said that Alex and Ani has a total of 648 employees and 35 stores across the nation. He predicts the company will have 1,300 employees within the next three years, as well as 80 stores by the end of this year.

Soto said the presentation made her staff reconsider how other retailers approach customers and how they themselves do so.

“We make customers feel comfortable in our environment. We give them the opportunity to look and see what we have to offer,” she explained. “It’s more about the repeat customer: what that person means to you and how they are special to you.”

Rebelo attributes his success to the UR curriculum.

After a social psychology class led him to reconsider his optics major, Rebelo designed his own major to pursue his passions. These days, he can be found pursuing the motto of “Meliora” through teaching courses like “Rethinking Retail.”

“I encourage UR students to connect with alumni as much as possible,” Rebelo said. “Don’t just say ‘Wow, what an awesome story’ when you hear about an alum’s story, but do something about it. We have a responsibility as alumni to share our advice.”

Rebelo, who will be featured in an upcoming TEDx Talk on Feb. 20, visited both stores during his time in Rochester.

Fox is a member of the class of 2013.



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