Dara Firoozi of Adarabella Designs: “Consistency”

Consistency: Set up a routine and create systems. Don’t let it get to you if you have to reset. My first year out of college and starting the business was difficult to set up best practices, since I had never worked for anyone aside from internships. There was a lot of trial and error, and […]

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Consistency: Set up a routine and create systems. Don’t let it get to you if you have to reset. My first year out of college and starting the business was difficult to set up best practices, since I had never worked for anyone aside from internships. There was a lot of trial and error, and a ton of procrastination but eventually set into a routine which allows for forgiveness and to be restructured at any time.

As part of our series about young people who are making an important social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dara Firoozi, Owner & founder of Adarabella Designs, Firoozi is a Discursive Sensory Designer with a thematic focus on provoking positive conversation around Mental Health and educating self care practices through designing products for Anxiety & Stress Relief in order to de-stigmatize the subject & encourage individuals’ healing journeys.

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 about how you grew up?

I am a third culture kid — I am the youngest of a large Iranian American family and was raised in China from ages 3 to 16. As a goofy bubbly kid I struggled with ADHD and staying “focused” and “quiet” in class, which when singled out caused school to be a stressful environment. Later in my teens, after a series of events, I struggled with panic attacks and dissociation, as well as anxiety and depression from PTSD.

I was fortunate to be introduced to practices like yoga and breathwork at a young age and spent my teens and early twenties gaining certifications in naturopathic practices, and learning sensory grounding techniques from my therapist and in my research for my undergrad thesis.

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

I studied Product Design at the University of Michigan with a focus on Discursive Design, Metalsmithing and Digital Fabrications. It provided the space to create provocative work focused on social impact while developing a wide range of production skills from welding to 3D printing. I developed my line of functional jewelry for anxiety and stress relief as my senior research and design thesis, to take what I learned in therapy to “put it on the body” in the form of self soothing wellness wearables that explore the relationship between the body and anxiety. This program allowed me to take a deep dive into exploring human behavior through empathic design.

You are currently leading an organization that is helping to make a positive social impact. Can you tell us a little about what you and your organization are trying to create in our world today?

We intend to destigmatize the taboo surrounding mental health by educating people on self care and self awareness practices in order to empower individuals on their mental health journey with our self soothing on the go mental health aids.

Can you tell us the backstory about what originally inspired you to feel passionate about this cause and to do something about it?

Over the years I had built myself a toolkit of different breathing techniques, coping mechanisms and more, but found it challenging to remember the breathing patterns, affirmations and mantras when I needed them most. My anxiety was causing me anxiety because I didn’t feel prepared or in control. My therapist and I developed a sensory kit which was a small box of 5 items one for each sense. All items I found soothing; mint gum for taste, dryer sheets for smell, a tangle toy for touch, a list of positive affirmations to see and read outloud, and a playlist of binaural beats on my phone. While I loved this kit and it really helped to ground me, I rarely had it at the ready and it wasn’t a very discrete process, so I wanted to create comfort objects.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

Every conversation with our community of customers has been a mix of laughter and heart shares! Take the jewelry aside, Adarabella provides a safe space for people to talk about their mental health journey, whether it’s people sharing their recent diagnosis of Bipolar disorder, women who want to feel safe walking around again after an attack, or more recently, I have had a few people share that the wearables help them during treatment for cancer or chronic pain. I won’t deny that at first I wasn’t sure how to respond to these comments, I wanted to honor these heart shares, then I realized this is the work, this is the mission, to open up the conversation and hold space for each other.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

A story that I hold near and dear to my heart was actually from someone who was not yet a customer, it was a young woman who had seen one of my posts for our Self Defense Rings and reached out to share what they meant to her. She had shared that she had been brutally attacked by a man at random, her body was in recovery and the PTSD symptoms were developing. She shared that seeing these Self Defense Rings made her feel seen and that someone was looking out for her. She said she wished she had the rings in that moment to protect herself or have a way to scratch to collect DNA of this person. There is so much regulation around self protection, that even our rings have been banned from Etsy sales and many Facebook Instagram Ads since they won’t promote self defense items. I know my rings have given me so much freedom and empowerment, I hope to give that same gift to people.

How do you define “Making A Difference”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

I know I am making a difference when our Adarabella community reflects our message. Whether it is customers bringing friends to the booth, getting requests for personalized notes with orders that share “for when the days seem impossible”, parents buying gifts to share their support of their children’s struggles. It is the moments when I step back and see how the conversation is evolving on its own, that we at Adarabella have encouraged people to open up to each other.

Many young people would not know what steps to take to start to create the change they want to see. But you did. What are some of the steps you took to get your project started? Can you share the top 5 things you need to know to become a changemaker? Please tell us a story or example for each.

Accountability: If you don’t have it with yourself, find it in a friend, coach or mentor! At the beginning of Lockdown I pivoted my business online, which was a world I knew nothing about, and I immediately brought on a Business Coach, Jen Mattiola, it was the best decision I could have made for myself and my business to go from surviving to thriving during the pandemic.

Consistency: Set up a routine and create systems. Don’t let it get to you if you have to reset. My first year out of college and starting the business was difficult to set up best practices, since I had never worked for anyone aside from internships. There was a lot of trial and error, and a ton of procrastination but eventually set into a routine which allows for forgiveness and to be restructured at any time.

Feedback loop: We can’t do it alone, find someone to bounce ideas off of who can also provide constructive critiques! I am so grateful for the critiques we had in design school, and have tried to recreate that with mentors and other small business owners. Instagram is an amazing resource for feedback, especially by interacting with your audience through polls and quizzes.

Reasonable and Attainable Goals: Have the big picture in sight and stay motivated by breaking things down to celebrate wins and set your own pace. I recently relearned this lesson, after coming off of the high of the first holiday season in the ecommerce space to readjust goals from Q4 of 2020 and Q1 of 2021 and how to adapt the conversation, content and action items at different times of the year.

Gratitude or appreciation: Practice self love and self care, make sure you celebrate both the big wins and the little one. There are going to be times where you might be hyper critical about yourself or your work. As hard as it is to not seek validation from sales or number of followers, the best motivator is to do your small business sale dance with each order no matter how small, be kind to yourself and laugh off the fumbles. If you are a solopreneur like me without a co-founder, you have to be both your own disciplinarian and your own cheerleader.

What are the values that drive your work?

Adarabella Designs aims to provoke positive conversation around mental health, inform people about the relationship between the body and anxiety, while encouraging them to incorporate therapeutic healing practices, and inspiring individuals to share their story and remind them that they are not alone in their journey!

Many people struggle to find what their purpose is and how to stay true to what they believe in. What are some tools or daily practices that have helped you to stay grounded and centred in who you are, your purpose, and focused on achieving your vision?

Community and self education are key! I am constantly building relationships with mentors, I have support from these incredible souls in many aspects of my life, be it my business and life coach, mentors in ecommerce and CPG, as well as mentors who are in the wellness space who are educators and healers. In addition to mentors, I have had so much fun building my network and collaborating with other female entrepreneurs through groups like Create and Cultivate or Girlboss. We all learn from each other and it is incredible what can come out of these interactions! I also find a lot of value in joining webinars and conferences with group classes on digital marketing and ecommerce.

In my work, I aim to challenge us all right now to take back our human story and co-create a vision for a world that works for all. I believe youth should have agency over their own future. Can you please share your vision for a world you want to see? I’d love to have you describe what it looks like and feels like. As you know, the more we can imagine it, the better we can manifest it!

Mental health needs a rebrand. We have so much stigma around it that it is impeding people from healing. We talk so much about the negativity of certain conditions but forget to praise what they give us, people who have experienced depression have endless empathy, those with anxiety or OCD have a unique attention to detail, there is so much creativity in these people. Like the Carrie Fisher quote says “take your broken heart and turn it into art”. We should be looking at these as personality traits as possibilities for growth, when properly honed in that allow us to co-create a welcoming world.

We are powerful co-creators and our minds and intentions create our reality. If you had limitless resources at your disposal, what specific steps would take to bring your vision to fruition?

While it was important to me to gain an understanding of digital marketing and ecommerce, I recognize that I am a Designer at my core. I believe as a business owner it is important to understand all aspects of the company though I am eager to expand the team to allow more time for me to focus on research and design of new products and use the platform to talk about mental health. Aside from assistance in marketing, I am planning on expanding the team with sales and campus reps to continue educating people about the products, getting in hands to feel the benefits and build brand awareness. I plan to develop a wider range of products beyond jewelry, create more gender inclusive products and a line for teens and tweens. I continue to self educate on arduino coding to eventually incorporate technology into the pieces to have greater awareness and further immersed experiences.

I see a world driven by the power of love, not fear. Where human beings treat each other with humanity. Where compassion, kindness and generosity of spirit are characteristics we teach in schools and strive to embody in all we do. What changes would you like to see in the educational system? Can you explain or give an example?

I would love to see schools encourage positive conversation around mental health, providing time and space to open up. School causes so much anxiety for children, especially those with sensory sensitivity or learning disabilities. Think of how empowered the next generation would be if they were taught self care and self awareness practices as well as coping mechanisms for stress and anxiety. Countries all over the world incorporate yoga and breathwork into the curriculum, I think American children and teens would greatly benefit from these practices. They need self love that doesn’t come from how many likes they get on a post.

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 resonate with the design concept of “design for one, design for all”. I make this work because it is an extension of my truth and of my healing journey. I recognized in myself that I needed products like these, and that there would be other people who would benefit from. Find the gaps in the world that you need and dedicate yourself to bringing it into fruition.

Is there a person in the world 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 be honored to have lunch with Aubrey Marcus, I was introduced to his podcast about a year ago and have been captivated by his empowering messages, the way he builds community and his encouragement of the blend of spirituality and entrepreneurship. He doesn’t straw away from the taboo and he isn’t afraid to say his choices and opinions are evolving rather than stagnant and set in stone.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Check out our fidget and sensory jewelry at www.adarabelladesigns.com and follow us at www.instagram.com/adarabelladesigns/ as well as my design portfolio at www.DaraFiroozi.com

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

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