We had the good fortune of connecting with Dara Firoozi and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Dara, every day, we about how much execution matters, but we think ideas matter as well. How did you come up with the idea for your business?
I developed the concept of functional jewelry for anxiety and stress relief while in undergrad at University of Michigan for product design, and in therapy for PTSD, combining what I was learning in both worlds to make self soothing Wellness Wearables. I was overwhelmed by anxiety, dissociation and panic attacks, and worked with my therapist to build a sensory toolkit of five items; one for each sense that were grounding or provided happy memories. This toolkit allowed me to step into the present, rather than anxiety from the past or future, but it was really inconvenient to carry around.
I took every opportunity during class projects to take these toolkit concept and put it on the body in the form of an on-the-go mental health aid. I studied the relationship between the body and anxiety to have a greater understand of the physical experience of mental health and to learn therapeutic coping mechanisms. For my senior thesis I designed a collection of fidget and sensory jewelry based on my experience, academic research and collecting stories and data from others about their mental health journey.
While I didn’t have the intention at first to sell the work, many people who attended our senior showcase expressed enthusiasm for the work and wanted one for themselves! I was honored by the joy the pieces sparked in people and how it encouraged positive conversation around mental health and was eager to evolve the discussion through starting the brand, focusing on educating my audience and developing new products to help more people.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am a Discursive Sensory Designer! I use the five senses heavily in my work to provide self soothing products and provoke positive conversation around mental health while educating self care and self awareness practices. I love my work because it is an extension of my experience, this is a “me for we” brand, I needed products like these so I created them for myself, at first, then recognized how much it could help others!
I was able to develop this line while in school of product design at the University of Michigan and in therapy for PTSD. While I overcame personal challenges with my mental health, my drive and motivation to bring this work to people has always been there. As an solopreneur, I combatted the stories I told myself of “not being prepared” or “inexperienced” since I was starting a business fresh out of college, without having worked for anyone else, by building my community of mentors, small business owners and my wonderful business coach to help with direction and accountability. While I am learning along the way, I am paving my own path while holding space for others to build an empowering conversation around mental health.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Oh LA! You have been a lovely treat! I have loved living in Venice on the west side during my time in LA and have found many lovely pockets through out the city.
As someone who comes from an Iranian American family and was raised in China I have a deep love for international food. Some of my favorite spots include Raffi’s for Persian food in Glendale and Parks Korean BBQ in KTown. In addition to those two, if I am with a vegan foodies, Plant Food and Wine in Venice is unreal!
I am still surprised to admit I am a Blue Bottle convert, and as a coffee and chai tea enthusiast, I also pop into Menotti’s, Bluestone Lane and New Deli during my strolls around Venice. I also love passing by Saints and Sinners for yummy treats!
In terms of fun activities I have an ever growing love for Ecstatic Dance LA, if you haven’t tried it this is my must do activity in LA! Especially now as they are holding their dance mediation sessions on the beach around sunset and provide silent disco headsets for you to thrive in your own experience. My other favorite activity is heading to Wisdome to experience VR domes during their sound bowl healing sessions or concert.
A perfect weekend in LA would be Saturday coffees in Venice, and then head to support local makers by attending Artist and Fleas on Abbott Kinney where there are 50+ incredible vendors, followed by a lunch at one of the awesome food trucks near by (Heritage is my current favorite) and a walk to the beach for sunset, followed by drinks at Neighbor. Sunday would definitely be a hike in Temescal Canyon or Malibu and a wind down meal at home.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I am so grateful for the mentors I have in my life, especially as a solopreneur. While my mentors in the ecommerce, CPG and wellness space have been integral to the start of my business I would love to dedicate my shoutout to my therapist Dr. Thomas Atkins (Ann Arbor, Michigan) and my business coach Jen Mattiola (Los Angeles – specializes in Neurolinguistics Processing). The two of them have truly empowered my mental health journey and guided me to bring myself out of the stories that were holding me down to go from a place of surviving to thriving!
product shots of jewelry – Lucas Cartaxo (@lucascrtx) 2 head shot images (white wall and brick wall) – Casey Eiland (@mister.island)