Don’t let her glamorous exterior fool you—Myriam Ullens has the stamina and steely determination of a true entrepreneur who, at her core, is driven by her causes. She is a true innovator, passionate about helping people and creating lasting change. An avid globetrotter, her projects span from Switzerland, Belgium and France to the United States, Nepal and China.
Originally from Belgium, Myriam Ullens’ interest in food and cooking led to the launch of her first business, La Petite Salade, a salad delivery service, which she sold four years later to pay for her children’s education. Immediately after, she whipped up another gastronomic venture, this time with renowned French pastry chef Gaston Lenotre as a mentor. She created a professional pastry shop called Sweetly out of her home in Brussels which became an instant success.
In 1991 she met her husband, Baron Guy Ullens, one of Belgium’s most respected businessmen, who shared both her entrepreneurial spirit and her interest in helping others. She soon sold Sweetly in order to devote herself to causes close to her heart. She applied the same skills that made her a successful businesswoman to set up several nonprofits.
While traveling in Nepal, Myriam was inspired to help the country’s disadvantaged children. She built two orphanages to aid children suffering from malnutrition. Then, together with her husband, she created the Ullens School, which is the first and only school in Nepal that offers the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. Today, many of its students graduate from Ivy League colleges in the U.S.
A breast cancer survivor always on the lookout to improve the lives of others, Myriam recognized how important it was for all cancer patients to feel good about themselves. In 2006, she founded the Mimi Ullens Foundation to support what has become eight wellness centers across Europe. These centers provide 15,000 cancer patients a year with psychological support that includes spa and beauty programs to boost self-esteem and alleviate stress.
In 2009 Myriam launched her own fashion label, Maison Ullens, in part to create clothes for busy working women like her who traveled a lot and wanted to be comfortable but still look professional and polished. The brand was quickly recognized for its very high end knitwear and luxury leather. Made in Italy, the two collections Maison Ullens producers each year are sold worldwide.
Always ready to amaze, Myriam decided to take up the challenge of co-writing a play with Louis-Michel Collat. The boulevard comedy “Adam et Eve ce n’est pas du tout ce que vous croyez” was therefore born and played during over three months at the Théâtre du Petit Montparnasse (Paris, France) in 2009.
Her passion for art, especially contemporary Chinese art, led Myriam and Guy to establish the largest contemporary art museum in Beijing. Founded in 2007, today, the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA), the first nonprofit art center in China, offers pioneering support for emerging artists. The Guy & Myriam Ullens Foundation Collection at UCCA has one of the most significant holdings of contemporary Chinese art in the world. Through 12 sponsored exhibitions that take place in cities around the globe, it has been integral to the growth of the contemporary art scene in China.
Myriam is also a member of the board of trustees at The Royal Drawing School, founded by the Prince of Wales to provide a space and classes where practicing artists help students see the world with greater clarity and sensitivity. As a generous sponsor her contributions have helped the institution become a permanent resource of the highest quality for painting, sculpture, illustration, animation, film and design studies.
In addition to all these many projects, Myriam founded and managed a foundation that helps organize social protection for mountain guides in Switzerland.
Myriam Ullens puts her heart, soul, and abundant energy into every endeavor and adventure she embarks upon. What’s next on the self-made entrepreneur’s horizon? Stay tuned for her first novel, Distant Starless Nights, a love story.