Durana Elmi, co-founder of Cymbiotika, a natural and organic supplement brand

Born in Afghanistan, Durana Elmi thrived in the US, becoming a Fortune 500 executive. Cymbiotika, her company, uses advanced bioavailable absorption technology to resolve specific nutritional deficiencies and support healthy aging, detoxification, and longevity.

Durana Elmi’s upbringing was a unique blend of two contrasting worlds due to her Afghan roots and upbringing in the United States. Being an Afghan girl raised in America, she navigated the complexities of balancing her family’s traditional practices with the American lifestyle. This duality often posed challenges, as she had to find her way amidst the diverse cultures surrounding her. Nevertheless, these experiences endowed her with invaluable lessons in open-mindedness and the courage to challenge conventions.

Durana’s journey to the US began when her family left Afghanistan when she was a mere infant. While she doesn’t remember those initial days, she speaks with immense pride about her identity as an Afghan American. The transition to the US marked a stark contrast to the life she might have led in Afghanistan, where women’s rights are frequently stripped away. For Durana, America symbolizes unparalleled opportunity and freedom, a stark contrast to the struggles faced by women in her home country.

In her unique narrative, Durana Elmi embodies the spirit of embracing diversity, cherishing the liberties she enjoys, and recognizing the privilege of living in a land that upholds the rights she values deeply. Her story underscores the power of multicultural experiences and the importance of fostering understanding among different cultures.

Harper’s Bazaar: Dear Durana Elmi, can you describe the path you took to go through the ranks of corporate America? Can you list some Fortune 500 corporations you worked for before you founded Cymbiotika, the company you share with your business partners, Shahab Elmi and Chervin Jafarieh?

DURANA ELMI: It’s simple: it was hard work. Wherever I was, I made sure that I was the hardest-working person in the room. And my secret sauce? Doing more than what was asked. During my career at Corporate America, I built a strong community of mentors who helped me identify different roles that would advance my career. They helped me pave the way to where I’m today.

Harper’s Bazaar: 

What inspired you to create Cymbiotika, and how does it differentiate itself from other wellness brands in the market?

DURANA ELMI: As a mother and wife, I was deeply concerned when I realized that the products in our homes and grocery stores were filled with products that contained harmful chemicals and artificial ingredients. It seemed like companies didn’t care about what they put into their products so long as they were profiting. So, after seeing the lack of care and transparency in the wellness industry, we knew we had to make a change. I strongly believe that good health is the foundation for longevity and happiness, so we wanted to make sure that people aren’t unknowingly ingesting chemicals that could jeopardize their health. After years of hard work, research, and development, Cymbiotika was born, and now we’re helping people all over the world on their own wellness journey towards happier and healthier lives.

Harper’s Bazaar: How do you ensure transparency and trust with your customers regarding the ingredients and quality of Cymbiotika’s products?

DURANA ELMI: To make sure that our customers know what they are putting in their bodies, we have created a full Knowledge Center on our website. There, our customers can look at what kinds of ingredients are going into their products, the benefits of these ingredients, and view countless studies on how these ingredients are effective. We believe knowledge is power and aim to empower our customers wherever possible.

Harper’s Bazaar: Cymbiotika has experienced remarkable growth under your leadership. What strategies or factors do you attribute to this success?


Trends come and go, and it can sometimes be tempting to conform to them because that might drive higher traffic or sales. But, to us, trends typically lack longevity. What has helped us grow and continue to expand is staying true to our mission and never wavering in our quality. When you are building a company with the intention of doing good and helping your customers, then your audience recognizes that.

Harper’s Bazaar: Could you tell us more about your non-profit organization, Helping Hands for Afghans (HHFA), and the work you’re doing to support refugees and women in Afghanistan?

DURANA ELMI: Helping Hands for Afghans (HHFA) was founded when the Taliban took over Afghanistan in 2021. The mission is to provide as much aid as possible to Afghan refugees here in the United States and also provide food to those back home. The HHFA committee hosted a concert in 2021, bringing together famous music artists on one stage. 100% of the proceeds went to those in need.

Harper’s Bazaar: As a leader, how do you support and empower your employees to help them achieve their professional and personal goals?

DURANA ELMI: Personal and professional goal alignment is a major factor we keep in mind when adding new members to our team. Above all else, we want our team members to feel supported at Cymbiotika and know that this is a place where they can grow both personally and professionally. For this reason, we also prioritize giving development opportunities to our team members and offer them mentorship and support as they continue their professional journeys.

Harper’s Bazaar: Being a successful entrepreneur, how would you describe your personal fashion/beauty style?

DURANA ELMI: Love this question! I would describe my fashion/beauty/vibe as Fierce yet Feminine. I love dressing up at work and in my personal life. My fashion reflects my personality. My signature look is a Hermes hat with a statement piece bag.

Harper’s Bazaar: Do you believe that fashion and personal style play a role in projecting confidence and success in the business world?

DURANA ELMI: I know that when I feel confident and good in what I am wearing, I have an extra edge. I also think that fashion and personal style allow the men and women of the business world to express themselves in ways that go beyond their professional roles. Fashion and personal style can be powerful tools for self-expression, creativity, and identity formation.

Harper’s Bazaar: How do you strike a balance between personal expression and maintaining a polished, professional image?

DURANA ELMI: Achieving a balance between personal style and professionalism requires understanding the context of your attire. Adapt your style while staying true to yourself, ensuring your clothing choices reflect professionalism. And, don’t forget to add personal touches to let your unique style shine through.

Harper’s Bazaar: What advice would you give to aspiring women entrepreneurs who want to make a positive impact in their industries and communities?

DURANA ELMI: I urge aspiring female entrepreneurs to identify their passions and purpose. I have found that I get my best work done and am motivated when I know what I am working towards and who I am looking to help.

Makeup: Fariia @fari_makeup.
Hair: Hannah @hannahair_sd.
Photographer: Laura Bravo Mertz @laurabravomertz.
Clothing: Matti D @mattidstyle.

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