Born in Sweden and now living in Copenhagen, Dia shares how losing her job under the pandemic inspired her to follow her acting dreams and create Aeris with her partner Nik. And even though it's “just a fucking cocktail” creativity and dreaming is what Aeris is all about.
RF: And how do I say your name, just Dia?
Yeah, it's short for Dragana. Dia has just become my Copenhagen nickname.
RF: Ah! So, you're not from Copenhagen?
No. So, I was born and raised in Sweden. But I'm a little bit from everywhere. My mom she's from Serbia and my dad is Italian gypsy, something along those lines. We're not entirely sure where or what he was.
I came to Copenhagen when I was 22. That's 10 years ago now. I come from a conservative family. So, I had just a few options in terms of career. I could become a doctor or do something with finance. So, I chose finance and got into CBS Copenhagen Business School, which was fine. I did that for five years and I got a really shiny degree. Then I worked as a management consultant here for a few years. Then life hit me when I turned 30. I was crying for days. I was like, "Oh, my God."
RF: Thinking ‘what am I doing?’
What is it? I don't want to do this. I'm not even good at math. Why do I have a degree in finance? I'm not getting any value in these positions that I'm in. Yeah, so I decided to just sit back and try to get to know myself again. And the thing that I remembered very distinctively was that when I was 12 I desperately wanted to enroll in an acting class. And my mom said, "No, acting is not a real job." So, when I turned 30 I was like, "Fuck you mom. I'm going to do whatever I want."
So, I enrolled into a one year acting class and graduated and then started slowly to get some gigs whilst keeping my corporate job. But then COVID hit, and I lost my job. And I was for the first time in my life unemployed. But I think that was the best thing that could have happened to me. This is also where I met Nik. We spent a lot of time talking about what would be cool to do if we could just dream. And then we managed to put Aeris together.
RF: What were those kinds of conversations around dreaming?
It was simple stuff for me as I wanted to decide myself what to do with my Monday, Tuesday etc. I didn't want to be in a conference call with some idiots telling me that this is the direction we're going to go. We wanted to be free to set our own rules when it came to how to live our lives.
RF: Of course.
And then from there we were like, "Oh, wouldn't it be cool to earn some money?” How can we turn this whatever fluff that we have right now and capitalize on it?
RF: Incredible. How did the ideas around how you were living and how you wanted to live, how much did that change both in the literal sense, but maybe in a more spiritual sense as well?
It changed a lot. I think I was desperate to be myself. Not just fractures of the time. I wanted to be myself in the corporate world, but I was never really able to because the corporate world that I was stuck in felt like a party that I wasn't really invited to. So, with Nik, when we started talking about Aeris and what that could be, it was just about doing something cool that we could identify with.
RF: I'm curious to know now that you have more of a sense of freedom and agency and control. How does it feel?
It's weird how it's not until you're happy that you realize how unhappy you've been. I think when I wake up now in the morning, I can't wait to get my day started and do things whether that's acting or Aeris, it doesn't really matter because both of these things are so fulfilling.
RF: I tried some of your drinks for the first time the other night, they were lovely! As someone who has tried it, understands what it is but for someone who may not have ever heard of what Aeris is, how would you go about describing what it is?
Aeris is drinking and style. It's a high-quality cocktail that you can enjoy wherever you are.
RF: Very chic. Now that you're living that dream and being free through Aeries, what are you dreaming of now?
I think we reached a great milestone at the end of last year when Nik and I could both take out a salary for the first time in the history of Aeris. Now we can actually live off it. That was a big dream. Our next goal is to expand to other markets. That dream in itself is already like, wow, oh my god, we can't even believe we are where we are. So, right now we're just playing, we're just having fun.
RF: In a sense that’s almost like a mantra, right? Like, oh, I want to have fun with this. Is that something you feel like you want to continue doing through your work, and also more generally in life?
I'm shit with advice. I don't think I'm the right person to give advice to anybody. But if I can say anything, if it's not fun then don't do it.
RF: Do you feel freer now that you are a business owner?
I'm free because it's mine. I have never worked this much in my entire life, but that's just the rhythm now, and it's perfect.
RF: Yeah, of course. It's part and parcel of it. It’s exhausting but so gratifying. Outside of Aeris I'm interested in things that you're really passionate about, the things that bring you joy. What might they be?
Acting. I don't know why I think it's so much fun. It wouldn't even matter if I wouldn't earn a penny doing it for the rest of my life. Being an immigrant, I think my whole life has been about falling in line. You need to not be too loud and don't do this and be like the Swedes. You weren't really allowed ever to be entirely yourself. But then with acting, I can be anybody. I can be myself. I guess, that's again the feeling of freedom. I'm like a freedom junkie out here.
RF: So, in the last year, you felt inspired to create your own business. But I'm curious to know how you see creativity. What does it mean to be creative?
I mean, we were being creative every day, we just didn't call it that. We just said, "This would be cool." Or, "Wow, this feels like fun." Or, "Wow, I really like the look of that." That really does something to your whole you.
RF: I definitely feel that creativity is taking new shapes and forms. Do you have any time when you feel creative and it doesn't have to be related to Aeris?
Every day, all the time. The boring stuff that you don't necessarily would consider being creative are actually creative, because you need to use your creativity to come up with the best processes and the best solutions in your company.
At the end of the day, yeah. Isn't that what creativity is?
RF: Is there such a thing that fuels or might fuel your creativity?
It can be different things. I think when you hit a writer's block, then sometimes you go for a walk. Sometimes getting shit faced on a Friday works. Sometimes not doing anything just staring into the wall works. It's just silly little things like that can spark creativity. But I think my inspiration always comes from other people who inspire me. They give me a different perspective, and that's inspiring.
RF: Totally. I guess your boyfriend and partner Nik plays a big role within all aspects. Maybe you can formalize the role that he plays in the business?
Because we're in a romantic relationship, we pretty quickly figured out that we need to separate things in the company because otherwise we will kill each other. He's in charge of the whole production side of Aeris, and I'm in charge of sales and marketing. And then we help each other out with our growth right now because that’s a five-person job. We need to help each other out. But there's a very clear divide.
RF: What's it like to share so much with a person? How do you manage to find balance?
It's been both beautiful and also very rough, I think beautiful because you can talk when you're in bed, it's kind of like we talked about, it's like a safe space. So, I guess you can talk about things that you maybe wouldn't talk about in an office space or in a cafe or whatever. And that's nice being in a relationship, being partners. What's less nice is when you're a little bit irritated with each other and you had a shit day or whatever and maybe you just want to be alone for the night. But we've solved that by having a good couch.
RF: Tell me a little bit about where you live and your neighbourhood in Copenhagen?
We just moved here. We live up to Slagtehusgade, which Christiania is the street right next to us. I've never lived here. I lived in Copenhagen for 10 years, and I've lived everywhere, but I've never lived here and it's really nice. There's really not much to explore. I think we found our little cafe and we found the store. We're not big on weed. So, we can't really use Christiania, but it's fine. It's cute.
RF: No need for weed if you've got the booze.
We try not to get high on our own supply though. We'd so easily turn into alcoholics.
RF: That's funny. Are there places in Copenhagen in general that are meaningful to you?
Yeah, I like to take really, really long walks because the city in itself is really beautiful. It's not like Paris, which is an outdoor museum, basically, but you can actually see some nature in Copenhagen, which I think is rare in big cities. Copenhagen is such an easy city to dance with, really. I think that's why I stayed for so long because life is easy. And even if you're unhappy, there's happiness because it's an easy life.
RF: It’s true, Copenhagen is such an easy city to move around. It's amazing. I'm curious to know if you’re passionate about any social cause?
There are three very profound things. The third one is a dream that I would like to do. First of all, I'm trying to think about just being sustainable. It pisses me off that the weather's changing. I hate that we can see and feel the changes and that we know why they occur. I think that it's the big corporations who have fucked mother Earth up. And as long as there's capitalism, there shall be damage to the world. Secondly, both me and Nik are very big advocates of staying green. And the third one, is my dream if one day Aeris becomes big enough for us to have money to start some sort of nonprofit organization. Both me and Nik were raised by single parents. So, I think we would like to help and support single parents out who are struggling to make ends meet with one teeny tiny salary.
RF: That's so nice!
RF: In ReFramed we like to think that bedrooms are an extension of ourselves, where we manifest ourselves through objects, furniture, paintings, trinkets, stickers, tickets to festivals, or whatever. So, I'm interested, how would you describe your relationship to your bedroom?
It depends on the day. I would say I have a good relationship with it. But you know how it is, sometimes you're so exhausted and you just go in there and you just crash in your bedroom and sometimes you can't sleep at all. And then, Nik has this thing of being a snoring motherfucker. So then my bedroom becomes like this symphony thing that he creates and I have to listen to the whole show.
RF: So it plays a really functional role. Are there any words that come to mind when you think of your bedroom?
It is a safe space. But like, my bed is a place that I try to use for sleeping and some other activities, but I don't like to hang in my bed. It loses its charm in a way.
RF: That's cool. You mentioned Nik keeps you up at night with his snoring. But are there other things that’s running through your mind and keeping you up? Talk to me a little bit about that.
Well, it's never small things. It's usually the big existential crisis that keeps me up. I had one of those last night actually. I think both me and Nik suffered from this, but we want a lot of things and we want them to happen fast. So then sometimes at the end of the day, you can feel like you haven't gotten as far as you wanted to, I guess. And then you just let yourself get carried away with negative thoughts.
RF: And when you have these kinds of thoughts and worries, anxieties, existential moments, how do you go about managing them?
Those are the times when I'm like Notting Hill, you come to me. You know, these feel-good kind of films where you can just let them affect your mood.
RF: Yeah totally - I do it all the time, you have to have those things that zone you out from reality. Do you have any special three items that kind of define you in your bedroom?
Well, in the bedroom now actually the bed really, we like looking at it. We're like, oooft. It's really sexy.
RF: Fucking sexy. It’s a Ferrari bed!
Oh my god. Don't tell... Oh no. Now Nik is going to... Oh my god. Because he picked the color. I was like, what color do you want? He was like, I want it red like porno red.
I was like, hey honey. Okay. I mean let's get a porno red bed but now that you say Ferrari that's so much cooler.
RF: It makes way more sense! I'm going to ask you my last round of questions - music and the role of music in your bedroom. If you ever listened to it, if you had a song or a sound or something that comes to your mind, what might it be if it was related to your room?
I used to listen to music a lot more when I was a teenager in bed. Then there was a lot of Hip Hop and R&B. I don't do that anymore. It's interesting because talking to you I realize that I'm really Balkan. I realize people in Serbia, they don't really make a big thing out of their bedroom. They're like, I go there, I sleep there, I get up, I get the fuck out. I can hear that that's what I've turned into.
RF: Wow. But I think I've heard that in the conversations we’ve had for this kind of series. I just never thought of it like that, but everyone's different.
But it's such a personal space. It should be a nice place to be.
RF: If you think about your room now and your past bedrooms, what do you think the most important piece of furniture is?
The bed. Really.
RF: Yeah. Period
In the bedroom. Yeah. The bed.
Edited by Frederik Berg