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Image / Agenda / Business

#IWD21: Maryam Paruk set up a small business to recognise Ireland’s cultural diversity


By Dominique McMullan
08th Mar 2021
#IWD21: Maryam Paruk set up a small business to recognise Ireland’s cultural diversity

It’s been a difficult year for Irish business. This International Women’s Day 2021, we’re shining a light on the businesswomen in Ireland that we admire. Meet Maryam Paruk – a small business owner, and a frontline worker. 


What is your name, and what is your business?
My name is Maryam Paruk and my business is “Ubumba”. Ubumba is the Zulu word for clay. I make lightweight polymer clay earrings by hand in Bray, Wicklow, inspired by my childhood in Africa.

How long have you been in business? And what was your mission from the outset?
I set up Ubumba as a creative outlet throughout lockdown . At the heart of my brand is a fusion of colour and culture. I wanted to set up a small business to recognise the cultural diversity that exists in Ireland. A core value of Ubumba is “ubumbana”; unity through acceptance. To celebrate our differences, each piece is one-of-a-kind and comes in a vibrant range of patterns, shapes and sizes.

Of what part of your business are you most proud?
I’m Irish-South African-Indian; I’ve always grown up being proud of both sides of my heritage but rarely saw mixed race people reflected in Irish media; ubumba has given me a platform to express my own identity through my brand and each piece I create.

Who are your business heroes? Personal heroes?
I have great admiration for Taz and Geraldine of “The Useless Project” who have essentially created a sustainability movement in Dublin and shone a light on the fast fashion industry. On a personal front my Mom and sister Nadia will forever be my heroes, they are the strongest and most resilient women I know. I also really admire fellow Pharmacist and creative Loah aka Sallay Garnett who is a great advocate for Irish people of colour.

How have you found the last six months? – professionally and personally
Professionally, it’s the busiest I’ve ever been! I’m a Pharmacist by profession and have been working in a busy acute Dublin hospital during the pandemic while doing a cardiology course. I make all my Ubumba creations in my spare time so it’s been hectic but I’ve loved every minute. Personally, the year has most certainly had its highs and lows, like most people I’ve found it challenging adapting to the social bubble shrinking dramatically.

What keeps you positive?
I remind myself that nothing ever stays static, things are always dynamically changing. What might seem like a bad moment will eventually be replaced by a better one.

What new perspective (if any) you gained from last year?
Never compromise your personal sense of individuality! Everyone has a story to tell in their own unique way.

Best/worst moment from the last year?
Best moment: The response and support I’ve received since starting my creative little venture has blown me away! It’s been amazing to see it grow legs in such a short space of time. Worst moment: As a healthcare professional on the frontline, I’m always conscious that I could be a potential risk to vulnerable loved ones.

Another Irish business you want to shine a spotlight on?
I’m a big fan of Jump the Hedges founded by Siofra Caherty. I love her concept, she makes bags from reclaimed materials such as truck tarpaulin and the colours are so vibrant!

Anything else you would like to let us know?
My earrings are all sustainably slow made using a zero-waste policy; all leftover scraps are reworked to make unique marbled creations. All packaging is eco-friendly and recyclable.

You can shop ubumba here and visit ubumba on Instagram or Facebook @ubumbaearrings