Ilove PARA. They’ve got really cool cannabis-centric stuff that is as at home in Brooklyn as it would be in Barcelona, Palm Springs, or Venice, California. Anyplace that mid-century modern design is held dear, this esoteric world of cannabis design tools fits very easily within.
What kind of stuff am I speaking of? Certainly, if you are reading this, you’ll know that it’s cannabis paraphernalia that appeals to the intellectual and somewhat well-heeled stoner. What is that, you ask? Well, first of all, I would surmise that this person has great style, and they live somewhat frugally within that stratum of design. They hope to possess a lifestyle of architecture and authentic bougie design. I love all the products that PARA carries. I immediately thought that my book, Cannabis Cocktails, Mocktails and Tonics, would be right at home alongside their erudite bongs, pipes, papers, and other “high-styled” ancillary tools of the trade. For those in the know, it’s like that veritable, hint, hint … It’s that secret handshake that I have found, without leaving my desk here in New Jersey. Like that carrier pigeon that finds its way to your door, carrying something unknowable. Now, where’s my confounded lighter?
PARA – a female-founded, BIPOC owned online shop housing a curated assortment of premium paraphernalia for the aesthetically high-minded consumer-based out of NYC. Partnering with numerous established designers from around the world, Para has curated an unparalleled assortment of modern pipes, bongs, papers, trays, scents, and much more.
Para also donates a portion of revenues to the ‘Last Prisoner Project, utilizes only eco-friendly shipping methods, and continues to source from only ethical small businesses.
Para was founded by Mariam Saïd, the OG Functional Stoner, who decided to utilize her knowledge of luxury fashion to propel a product category that she was personally more passionate about. In 2020, Mariam, along with a large portion of humanity, turned to cannabis for anxiety management. She specifically started utilizing cannabis as a de-stressor and a sleep-aid but soon found additional positive side effects; a decrease in physical pain, an increase in creativity, and focus (negating her expectations that she would simply be lethargic).
Perhaps it was the intimidating atmosphere of the corner bodega (her source for rolling papers) or the fact that she burned her hand every time she used her pipe- that led her down the cannabis accessories path, but Mariam could not stop formulating questions and needed answers
PARA is a really cool store. Click through to visit!
Warren Bobrow: Please tell me about yourself. Why cannabis? What brought you to the plant? When was the first time that you became aware of the plant?
Mariam Saïd: I am the Founder & CEO of PARA, an online shop that offers modern paraphernalia & home goods for aesthetically high-minded consumers with a focus on affordability. I was born in Egypt, grew up in Massachusetts, and currently live in Brooklyn, NY.
Prior to starting PARA, I worked in the luxury fashion space for over a decade- working for Bloomingdale’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Ralph Lauren, and Frame Denim, to name a few.
2020 was what brought me to the plant. I, like a lot of people, was very overwhelmed by the pandemic and subsequent happenings that followed. I found it harder and harder to justify myself continuing to work in the fashion industry, given the world’s circumstances. I am very appreciative of the professional and personal growth I’ve experienced during my tenure in fashion, but there was a stark contrast between how I was spending my time and how I wanted to spend my time. I started to feel like I had more to contribute.
At that time in 2020, I wasn’t much of a cannabis consumer. I had occasionally smoked socially, but it was never with any intention other than to “party.” It was also in 2020 that I started to develop very heightened levels of anxiety and depression. I was prescribed medications, but it took about two years for my doctor & me to configure the right medicine that works for me. It was during those two years that I started to develop a conscious, more purposeful relationship with weed. My boyfriend at the time instigated my interest in the plant because he would have a joint or a packed bowl ready for me to help alleviate my anxiety. Smoking gradually became part of my evening routine to unwind and cure my anxiety.
I am a very inquisitive person and wanted to know more about what it was that I was actually consuming. I had so many questions about the plant as a starter, and I assumed others did too. So, thus began my re-introduction to cannabis. I wanted to learn it ALL! I did copious amounts of research and consumed so much information. It became a very informative hobby for me, in a way, to learn how I could cure anxiety and depression with plant medicine instead of prescription drugs.
It was my newfound hobby, coupled with the gradual disliking of my career that I found comfort in learning about cannabis, refining my relationship with the plant, and seeing results in the form of genuinely feeling better after consumption. I learned about strains, types of consumption, measurement, historical roadblocks, and future possibilities. And finally, the accessories!
With my background in fashion and love for a good aesthetic, I was immediately drawn to the accessories end of cannabis. Not only is the type of weed important, but how you prepare and consume it is just as important, so I started the quest of learning about optimal ways of doing so. Being the shopper that I am, I decided to really honor my ritual and get my own setup: a sleek grinder, a non-phallic-looking pipe, a cute rolling tray, and maybe a storage box. I was SHOCKED to find that such a place did not exist near me. But how? I live in New York City! We have everything!
Turning my research to the internet, I noticed two things:
1. There are actually quite a few modern, ethical, innovative smoking accessories brands out there- from all over the world.
2. There aren’t enough centralized locations where you can buy your whole setup without having to stick to one brand or do extensive research on 20 different brands.
I was thinking, “Where is the Saks Fifth Avenue of weed accessories?” It wasn’t long before I bid my fashion career adieu and started the blueprint for PARA.
WB: Tell me about the ritual of well-being? Please tell me about your company and how well-being fits your ethos? How do you choose your products?
MS: I am naturally very driven and very goal-oriented, which sounds great, but because of it, I have a strong tendency to ignore my sense of well-being. I am a workaholic by trade, and I sometimes work so much that I could go an entire day without eating, moving, resting, going outside, you name it. And being that I am a small business owner with big dreams, I allowed the work of launching PARA to eliminate any ritual I once established.
My current ritual is super simple in that it consists of me walking my dog Marlo 3 times a day- no matter what. It anchors me and forces me to take a break from my work. It makes me bond with another little soul of love.
My main brand and personal ethos are 1) Trust in the quality of the product. To be a trusted resource among our customers and 2) Being known for being an ethical company with a positive contribution to the world. At the end of the day, I want to be there for people who are just starting their cannabis journey, similar to how I started mine.
PARA is a welcoming, honest, and caring company. There are certain big-box companies whose name became synonymous with evil, high CEO salaries, disregard for the community and planet. If and when PARA becomes a household name, I want it to be synonymous with philanthropy, kindness, trust, overall goodness.
Before starting PARA, I knew that my next career move, whether working for myself or somebody else, I had to be proud of my contribution beyond monetary success. And that feeling really stemmed from my experiences in 2020.
Products at Para are picked with design and functionality. I do a lot of research online. I did my initial buying round by literally googling variations of “weed accessories” and just went from there … websites, articles, social media presence, partnerships, the founding members… all with a few questions in mind: do they give back to the community? Are they original? Are they small? What it boils down to is are they a company I want to ethically support as well?
WB: What kind of obstacles do you face? How do you remove those obstacles? What are your six and twelve-month goals? Do you have a mentor?
MS: There are many obstacles that are presented when dealing with- even in an ancillary capacity- a plant that is not federally legal in the US. This includes everything from high banking fees, social media restrictions, fewer funding options, etc. Those types of obstacles can’t be removed in the short term. You just have to anticipate them financially and work around them creatively. Having said that, despite the obstacles, I do think it’s a very exciting time to enter the cannabis space because I feel like I’m experiencing history in the making.
I have BIG goals for PARA, so I want to make sure I establish a company with a strong foundation and set it up for longevity. Over the next year, the goal is:
· To continue to grow our audience and customer base
· Invest in the right categories, learn from customers’ feedback
· Increase our philanthropic endeavors
· Release our first in-house product
I was so fortunate to have had strong women who invested time in mentoring me during my early years in fashion. I am certain that their guidance contributed to my success in a difficult industry. As a solopreneur and a cannabis industry novice, I would love nothing more than to have an informed sounding board to help me navigate. I welcome any passionate advisors to reach out, as I would happily be a mentee!
In the meantime, I seek guidance from the small community that PARA has created. I’ve reached out to vendors for funding advice and banking options, to content creators with social media advice, etc. I am always met with a plethora of advice and tips. There is a collective sense of community and willingness to help, which is why I love the cannabis community.
WB: What kind of food do you enjoy? Do you cook? If so, who taught you? Do you have a go/to when you enjoy cannabis? Favorite food memory from childhood?
MS: I have become such a stereotypical New Yorker when it comes to food- living off dinner plans and takeout- a fact that I became painfully aware of during the pandemic.
Every food is my go-to when I smoke! But dessert in particular- I have such a sweet tooth.
Like I mentioned earlier, I “prepare” meals for myself- mostly to take mental breaks from work and add structure to my day. But real cooking, I wouldn’t say I know how to do that. My mom is actually an amazing Chef, and I’ve always had great meals growing up. I joked that we have to partner up and start a cannabis-infused restaurant when it’s fully legalized. Knowing her, she’s probably putting together a menu as we speak.
My favorite food memory from childhood is definitely of my mom’s early years as a cook experimenting with different menu items. My mother was actually a stay-at-home mom throughout my childhood and didn’t enter the workforce until her mid-thirties as a cook. She was an overachiever who concocted these unique dishes and desserts at home before introducing them to the Chef. My brother & I were her testers, and we were tough critics.
WB: What is your passion?
MS: I have different passions at different levels of importance to me. At the top of the list, I would say community. Over the past few years, I have really developed a passion and somewhat of an obligation to help. The biggest instigator of that is my transition into cannabis and learning about the injustices people face. I can’t operate a profitable business knowing that others are in jail for pioneering an industry that we are currently benefiting from.
My passion extends to more than just my immediate cannabis community. I want to bring awareness and make meaningful contributions to climate change and mental health advocates. I want to help others, which all ties into my ethos of doing GOOD!