The founder of Adarabella Designs, who used her experience with PTSD as inspiration, launched a line of necklaces, rings, and more as therapeutic aids.

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Adarabella Design sensory jewelry necklace
Credit: Courtesy of Adarabella Design

Have you ever wondered how to turn your dreams of owning your own business into a reality? We can help. Each week, as part of our Self Made series, we showcase female entrepreneurs—as well as their quality, handmade goods—and share their best advice related to starting, maintaining, and growing your own business.

Dara Firoozi says her proudest moment to date was being stopped by a woman who wanted to know more about a particular item she was wearing. It was a mask chain that she had designed as part of her functional jewelry collection Adarabella Designs. While she was explaining to the woman that the piece in question was from her very own collection, Firoozi was thrilled to notice that the woman was actually wearing one of her other pieces. "I was instantly honored and filled with pride; it felt like a sign that I was on the right path and gave me a huge boost of motivation," she recalls.

For Firoozi, the journey from overcoming her battle with anxiety to designing and launching her own jewelry line specially created to help others deal with anxiety and stress has been a challenging one, but she feels that she's finally arrived. 

portrait of adarabella designs creator dara firoozi
Credit: Courtesy of Adarabella Design

Her Inspiration

Firoozi discovered her passion and purpose while still in college at the University of Michigan. While undergoing therapy to manage her anxiety, she had an "a-ha" moment that paved the path for her creation of a functional line of jewelry. "I wanted to make an on-the-go discrete solution," she recalls. "I dedicated my senior thesis to studying the relationship between the body and anxiety, researching sensory grounding and therapeutic coping techniques." Such techniques inspired the design of her self-soothing wearables—collar necklaces, statement rings, and mask chains.

Firoozi says that the process of creating her very own jewelry line has allowed her to not only take a deep-dive into her own experience, but to connect with others. "I started this line straight out of college after receiving a ton of support at my senior thesis showcase," she says. "During my senior year, I was so focused on the research and design of the products, I hadn't thought at all about starting a business around it so I started working for another jeweler for about eight months to learn the tricks of the trade." After graduating, she moved to Los Angeles in 2019 to launch her line and spent the first year selling at local flea markets and getting feedback from customers.

The product design and launch process is something that Firoozi says she could not have undertaken with the support of her family. "My family has always been highly encouraging of the entrepreneurial journey," she says. Her father immigrated to the U.S. in the '70s and her mother was a first-generation college student. "We strayed away from the stereotype of families like ours requiring the doctor or lawyer route," she adds. "Instead, we were always encouraged to lean into art and design."

With the launch and success of her line, Firoozi has tapped into a relatively unexplored segment of the jewelry market: functionality. "We already find comfort in these objects that we adorn ourselves with: If you look back into history spanning from African spirit mementos to Catholic rosaries, Muslim prayer beads to Chinese meditation balls, we have used these tokens across time to bring peace and bring ourselves into the present," she explains. "The intention behind my work is to give you a discrete sensory experience that empowers you to practice self awareness, to see what triggers you and what soothes you. To teach yourself to feel prepared and in control of your mind and body."

Adarabella Design sensory ring
Credit: Courtesy of Adarabella Design

Turning a Negative Into a Positive

Firoozi says any innovative product begins as the solution to a problem. "Focus on the problem you want to solve, narrow it down, get to know your niche, and become an expert," she advises other entrepreneurs. "When I first started designing the work, I didn't know much about psychology, and was personally in a very anxious place in my life, but I saw a problem in my life, of not feeling in control of my overwhelming feeling and the stress of feeling like I had to hide them, and redirected that energy to learn everything I could about what my mind and body was experiencing." 

Firoozi, while she builds her business on her own, believes in the power of community. "Build your community of mentors and other small business owners," she says. "Tell your story. Community is built upon shared experiences—allow your story to drive the way you connect with your audience, inspire your products, and build your branding. Telling your story reminds you why you started the work in the first place and fuels your resilience."

Comments (1)

Martha Stewart Member
June 21, 2021
Wonderful idea for so many people. When our granddaughter was in first grade she was pulling her hair out. Tried many things, even therapy. I decided she needed something to have her hands go too, instead of her hair. We went together and found lovely textured beads and she and grandpa made a necklace out of them. It was not immediate and the teacher kept us informed on the process at school. Within two weeks she was using the beads and had no more problems with the hair pulling.