How Shiza Shahid Launched a Viral Kitchenware Company

Anyone on Instagram has seen the Always panoramic. An elegant kitchen utensil sold in a variety of pastel shades and intended for baking, braising, steaming, frying, boiling, roasting, straining, browning and sautéing. It’s the only pan you need, says Shiza Shahid, co-founder of Our Place, the company behind Always Pan. Along with her husband, Amir Tehrani, and friend Zach Rosner, Shahid launched Our Place in 2019, a significant pivot from her previous position as co-founder of Malala Background. The kitchenware’s aesthetically pleasing design set the Internet on fire and gained 665,000 followers on Instagram. Engaging product videos on social media boosted the company’s e-commerce sales, making it a leading direct-to-consumer (D2C) brand. When it was first released, Always Pan reportedly had a waitlist of 30,000 people. Since then, the company launched a limited-edition line featuring Selena Gomez and courted Cameron Diaz and David Beckham as devotees. And this year, Our Place moved into the small appliance space, launching the Wonder Oven (a six-in-one steam-infused air fryer and toaster oven) and Dream Cooker (a pressure-cooking, slow-cooking, multi-cooker and saute). . Each new release reinforces the company’s goal of providing safe, sustainable, well-designed tools that make cooking fun again.


Qualification: Co-CEO, Our Place

Degree: BA in International Relations, Stanford University

Age: 3. 4

Of: Islamabad, Pakistan

Actually lives in: the Angels

The childhood moments that helped shape who I have become: I had a modest upbringing in Pakistan. My mother did not have the opportunity to pursue higher education or develop a career. And she really wanted to give her daughters all the opportunities in the world. So I was lucky to grow up in a loving home and go to a good school. But I also grew up in the post-9/11 world of Pakistan, which meant an increase in terrorism and violence. Every week barricades went up closer to my house. And, as always happens when there is poverty, when there is war and when there is instability, women and girls are the most affected. I wanted to help. So, I started showing up at the doors of nonprofits that supported women and asked them to let me volunteer.

The most important thing about my education: Growing up, I hadn’t really been exposed to startups or women building businesses. She had only seen the nonprofit model as an option. At Stanford, I realized I could build a business that did good in the world. and that escalated And maybe it even had a bigger impact than a nonprofit.

My first job was: Working at McKinsey in Dubai. That was right out of college. But growing up, I did a lot of volunteer work. The first thing I did as a volunteer intern was bring medical supplies to a women’s prison.

A major challenge I had to overcome: Three weeks before my interview at McKinsey, I hadn’t even heard of the company. I didn’t grow up in the United States. I didn’t have as many opportunities or career advice as my classmates at Stanford. But I had created a summer camp in Pakistan for girls who were denied the right to go to school and Stanford Magazine I had written about it, so consulting companies heard about me and reached out. I dedicated myself to preparing for the interview and was lucky to have people at Stanford who were willing to help me get up to speed. I think the lesson of this is that if you don’t try, the result is the same as rejection.

Related: Brian Chesky’s big move: How the Airbnb CEO went from industrial designer to tech giant

The reason I changed industries: I was working at McKinsey and had no plans to quit my job a year later, move to New York, and start a nonprofit. But Malala Yousafzai and her father asked me to help them. I met Malala when she was 11 and attended the summer camp I organized. When she contacted me about starting the Malala Fund, I had a decision to make. In those big turning points in our lives, we need to do everything we can to be guided by hope and not fear. I knew there was an enormous amount of hope in Malala’s story and her message, and that because of the volunteer work I had done with nonprofits and because of my own upbringing, I was uniquely positioned to help spread it. . That was more important to me than being at McKinsey.

After about five years, once I helped lay the groundwork for the Malala Fund and had an incredible team, I knew I wanted to build something of my own. That’s when I started working on Our Place.

The reason Our Place has grown so fast is: We have innovative products. I think a lot of brands, especially in e-commerce, are marketers. They are not product developers, they are not designers. Our team worked on Always Pan for two years before its launch. We are obsessed with design. When we make something, it is better than what exists on the market from a functional perspective, plus it is beautiful and sustainable. If you’re launching a D2C brand and you just go to a factory, you pick up the tray and ask the factory to make it pink and put your logo on it, which is what every other D2C brand in the space was doing. It will not work. Ultimately, you need a product that is truly better. That’s what helped us grow so quickly. Last year, we opened two brick-and-mortar locations in Los Angeles and are expanding internationally: Our Place was the first kitchenware brand to be stocked in Liberty London, the luxury department store.

Something that needs to change in the kitchenware industry is: Brands should stop using PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene), commonly called Teflon. It is a form of PFAS (perfluoroalkylated and polyfluoroalkylated substances), which are colloquially called “forever chemicals.” They are bad for the environment. They are bad for human health. They are bad for worker safety. There has been increasing regulation (Minnesota banned it starting in 2025 and the EU is trying to do the same) but of course there is a lot of pressure because most companies still use it. We use a non-stick ceramic coating on our products that lasts 50 percent longer than Teflon and does not include PTFE or other PFAS. It is mainly composed of sand and water derivatives.

What keeps me motivated is: My work fills my life with deep meaning. It requires all my attention and concentration, but it gives me back inspiration, energy and joy. And my team. You are only as good as the people around you, so I introduce myself to them. I want to give this business every ounce of energy I have so we can be successful, because I have a responsibility to them. Also, I know that many girls and women around the world can’t live the life I live, nor do they have the opportunities I have, so I want to make this worth it.

When I need inspiration: I travel. We have artisans and factories all over the world. I am also inspired by the cultures of our teams, which are very diverse. We celebrate everything from Lunar New Year to Eid. We cook together, we share our stories. We also have a large, diverse community of customers and we often reach out to them and say, ‘Hey, what do you want us to do next?’

Related: How Tanya Taylor became a leader of the Slow Fashion movement

The biggest mistake about being an entrepreneur is: Make it glamorous or sexy. I think being an entrepreneur really takes a lot of work, at least when done right. If you’re building something from scratch, it’s extraordinarily difficult and emotionally draining. And every year you have to discover how to improve and give more. We hear many stories of entrepreneurs who became successful overnight; I’m not saying that no one has been lucky, but there is extraordinary pressure. You need to do it for more than just money or material success because that won’t maintain the level of passion you need.

The advice I give to other entrepreneurs starting out is: To work on yourself. Building a business will expose all your flaws, all your weaknesses, all the things you’ve been avoiding, and you’ll have to overcome them. So commit to it, because it will have a huge impact on your organization and the people who work there. When you fall short, it is felt. That doesn’t mean you have to be perfect. I certainly am not. But you will have to continually work to be a better human being if you want to be a better leader.

What I want to achieve next is: Continue growing Our Place. This year, we entered the appliance category with our Wonder Oven and our Dream Cooker. We now have our own line of tableware with knives and textiles. I am also excited to continue creating collections and stories around culture and traditions, such as our Tangine pots handmade by Moroccan artisans. Ultimately, food and home cooking is about coming together. And that’s really what the brand stands for.

Leave a Comment