Name: Aram Ostadian-Binai
Age: 37 years
Current occupation: CEO & Founder of The Soulfuls, Creative DEI Advocate and Columnist & Public Speaker.
What did you dream about as a child?
As a child, I dreamed about working in the creative industry.
Surrounded by entrepreneurial and creative parents, I remember wanting to create and build something on my own. I wrote poetry, played music, and dreamed about performing, painting — often about the topics of freedom and human potential.
“In a life changing stage of my life, I imagined, visualised, and longed for a future where only the sky was the limit.”
What key experience impacted you to move in the direction you are moving today?
The most impactful experience is without doubt when - at the age of 14 - we moved to Denmark from Iran, together with my mom and little sister. My whole life changed, a new world, new language, and a new lifestyle — a new identity, this was when I realised my skin colour meant something in this world - on top of my gender.
In my first days in Denmark, I made a painting which still today - 22 years later - feels as if it has set the path of my life. In the asylum centre, there was an art workshop titled ‘paint your past, present, and future’. I painted the whole canvas blue, and for my past, I painted a bird in a cage, representing a young woman in Iran. For the present, the bird was chained in the cage with the door open, representing a young woman of colour in a Danish asylum centre. For my future, I painted myself a free bird with a graduation hat on, I was flying towards the sky, and the cage was falling further down - disappearing.
In a life-changing stage of my life, I imagined, visualised, and longed for a future where only the sky was the limit. Today - through my work with The Soulfuls (https://www.thesoulfuls.com/) - I aim to close the opportunity gap for ALL women.
What choice you’ve made in your life are you most proud of, and why?
One of the choices that I am proud of is my choice of life partner. A partner that is my rock, who believes in me and my dreams as much as I do, sometimes even more.
Before getting married or meeting him, I remember telling my younger sister: don’t dream about prince charming! Dream about what you want and what type of life you want to live; so, when you meet your life partner, you can feel if he fits your future and dream.
“Standing up for something bigger than ourselves and making room for voices of those who're being silenced should be an easy choice!"
What choice has been the easiest, and why?
There are many. The most recent one was to dedicate The Soulfuls platform to the voices of women of Iran, who are the spark and engine of the first women-led revolution in history. Since September 2022, we have hosted various talks and initiatives and the biggest one was the Woman Life Freedom Exhibition in Copenhagen and Milan centred around art, culture, music and food to celebrate the talent and creativity of women of Iran and echo their voices.
Standing up for something bigger than ourselves and making room for the voices of those who're being silenced should be an easy choice! The climate and our societies are suffering while we are quiet.
What has been the hardest choice you’ve taken, and why?
In 2018, I chose to let go of what I had studied and instead started The Soufuls. I realised that as long as we don’t have inclusive representation and fair chances for women from ALL backgrounds in Denmark, my dream will never come true!
I, therefore, chose to let go of my career dream, and instead change the status quo. The Soulfuls today is a community, mentorship and consultancy platform, on a mission to close the opportunity gap for women of ALL backgrounds. A place where young women and leaders can come to be inspired, connect with like-minded women, and find the support they need — but most importantly a place where you can be you! The Soulfuls' mission for an equitable future means also that we work to change the system, with like-minded companies and organisations.
“I guess another way for me to build confidence is doing more of what I love!”
How do you find inspiration and confidence to pursue your personal journey?
Listening to stories of people from different walks of life teaches me about the world and myself, and I find that inspiring. Creativity and art also inspire me to dare to step out of my comfort zone and become part of a bigger change.
One of the ways I stay grounded and build my confidence is to look back at my journey so far. I remind myself of what I have achieved and find confidence in that. When I started The Soulfuls, I tried to avoid public speaking as much as I could. Back in September 2022, when I won the ELLE Voice of The Year Award, you can imagine how shocked I was, having to give a speech in front of 350 people. On Friday, June 30th ’23 at 12:00, at the Roskilde Festival, I will be moderating a talk in front of 6000+ people about music, culture and the women of Iran.
I guess another way for me to build confidence is doing more of what I love!
What personal characteristics do people most often use to describe you?
My closest friends describe me as soulful, determined, a multitasker, and someone who is good at gathering people while looking after her tribe. I am also shy and introverted, which can be hard to believe given the work I do today.
“Believe that you're good enough. Dream, visualise and plan, while being agile.”
How do you feel these unique characteristics have impacted your way in life?
There is a need for communities that mirror different personalities and values. With what I am and who I am, we have created a soulful space where different people gather and connect. I love design, fashion and beautiful things, but I always go below the surface to look for something more profound. And that's the core – the soul - of what I aim to do with my work, answering the questions: What are you trying to do? What do you want to change?