Nik Richie always looks forward to the opportunity to take a drive with friends and talk about the way they built their businesses. They share insights on brand building, carving success from nothing, and how to keep your eyes on the prize. In this episode of Richie Rides, Richie sits down with dear friend Durana Elmi, Chief Operating Officer of Cymbiotika, an international and growing wellness brand. In this two-part episode, they talk about finding good people, how you put your best foot forward, and so much more.
Roots Across the Ocean
The episode takes place in Elmi’s breathtakingly sleek and stylish Ferrari 488 Spider. First, Richie takes people on a journey through Elmi’s roots. “I want to start from the very beginning. A lot of people don’t know you’re from Afghanistan, right?”
Elmi nods, responding, “I was born in Afghanistan, Kabul. The capital. I’m very proud to be Afghan.”
Richie pauses for a moment to touch on recent events, “Everything that’s going on obviously is probably close to your heart but also critical in your thought process and day to day. Because you’re probably in shock.”
Elmi agrees, “100%, shocked, devastated. I’m sad. There’s a lot of guilt that I feel being an Afghan-American living here today. I feel extremely privileged, yet I have worked for the things that I have. But I feel for what’s happening in Afghanistan. I feel for the women and the children, and being here in America – every Afghan today has a responsibility to give back.” Elmi adds, “Every single day I think about ‘what can i do?'”
Elmi helped build a school several months before the Taliban once again seized the country. “I was quite proud of that, because there’s no reason to take education away from innocent women and children.”
Maintaining a Marriage, Family Priorities
Richie then addresses the fact that Elmi is a successful businesswoman and a mother; something that’s increasingly challenging in a non-family-friendly business world. Richie asks, “You’ve been married for 20 years. 20 years, right? That’s crazy. And you have two beautiful daughters, and you’re literally on top of your game. Right now, I feel like this is the best Durana that you’ve ever been in your life because you know how to manage success.” Richie asks Elmi how her priorities line up and how she organizes what comes first in life.
Elmi thoughtfully responds, “First thing I’ll tell you is that I’m very big on self care. I take care of myself, I have been since day one. I feel that when you take care of yourself, you can give the very best version of yourself to your husband, your significant other, your children.” Even as a busy mother of two, Elmi prioritizes working out every day and eating right. The COO also takes time to reach out to the people she loves.
“First I check in with my ecosystem, I take a pulse check to make sure that I’m doing good. Then, what’s most important to me is being married to my best friend Shahab of 20 years. I think marriage is a form of art, it’s not easy. But we work on it every single day.”
And if she could help other women with any advice, Elmi adds, “My advice to all the women out there is that it’s very possible to be a mother, to be a wife, to be a boss b-tch, to be whatever you want to be. You just have to, in the process, be true to yourself. And surround yourself with people that support you, that encourage you, and I’m so fortunate I have the most incredible, supportive group of girlfriends that I call my sisters. They have been my ride or dies since day 1.”
“I tell my children all the time, they say, ‘Who do we love more? Is it me?’ And I say no, I love your daddy. Because without your daddy, you guys wouldn’t be here.”
Cymbiotika: Finding Good People
Working with your spouse isn’t for everyone, but Elmi and husband Shahab – the CEO of Cymbiotika, work well together. Elmi talks about what it feels like to go to work, and how important the team is to the function of the business. “I find that it’s very important that we foster an environment where people can succeed. I try to really focus in on all of my teammates’ strengths and highlight that every day. Bring out the best in them. Encourage them. Support them. We have an open-door policy at the office.”
Elmi takes the money her company makes, and puts it back into the business and the people who make it thrive. They provide insurance for their employees that is 100% paid by the company. The focus is on providing the best quality products they can, and by helping build their team up with people who care and people who feel valued, their product quality improves.
Currently, Elmi is at the launch of a new vertical line of Cymbiotika products with CBD called Rya, a skincare and organic body care line.
Elmi adds, “I feel like everything you do in life, you’ve got to do with intention. You’ve got to do with purpose. We don’t get into the things that we get into in terms of our businesses because we’re about the money. We’re not chasing the money. We’re passionate about what we do.” With the team working towards the same goal, “That’s what makes the partnership so good.”
Elmi loves to mentor up-and-coming women entrepreneurs, and hopes to teach her daughters and other young girls that you can be a boss, but you can do it with kindness.
Richie asks what Elmi’s single word is – the thing that embodies and drives her. Elmi responds, “Love. Do everything in life with love, with love in your heart. Put love into everything. If you put love into everything you do, A – you won’t feel like you’re working a day in your life. And secondly, the outcome – the end result – is so much better because you put that love into it. I love heart, the relationships I have in my life today. I absolutely love and admire all the friends and network, the circle and community around us. And that comes from a place of love. Today in our office, I have a lot of love for everyone we work with. I like to start and end my days with love, and put love into everything I do.”
Elmi doesn’t believe in competition between women, she loves her sisters and believes in lifting one another up. But sometimes life throws challenges in your path, and Elmi’s thought on that are, “No matter what hardships came my way, what obstacles, I learned to welcome them. I welcome obstacles because I feel like through every pain and every challenge, I grow. Part of that growth is I learned so much about myself. I learned what I love. And when I love something, I value it, I take care of it, I nourish it.”
The Cymbiotika COO adds, “People need to focus more on loving what they do. Loving the people around them. Loving your job. Loving the way you feel inside. Loving the way you look. I feel like all of that’s so important. And being a mother and a role model to my two girls, I want them to love themselves first. I want them to have self-confidence, I want them to feel worthy that they can do anything they want to do. Why? Because their mother has proven that to them. And to me that comes from self love.”