Our Place Is a Cookware Destination for Modern, Multicultural Culinarians
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Gathering around the table to enjoy a home-cooked meal is a sacred tradition so many people cherish in the world—including Shiza Shahid, the co-founder and co-CEO of Our Place. "I grew up in Pakistan, where home cooking was at the forefront of my culture," says Shahid. "My family ate seasonally, with food rooted in Ayurvedic principles of healing and nourishing."
However, her personal relationship with home cooking ebbed and flowed going into her adulthood. "My mother, in an act of love and rebellion, did not teach me to cook," she says. "She wanted me to focus on my education and remain unbound by domestic obligations." When Shahid moved away for her education, she found herself without cooking know-how, even though she craved the nourishing meals inspired by her heritage.
Shahid took it upon herself to learn how to make the meals she cherished since her youth, and then everything came full circle: "That's when I realized the joy of cooking and the power of home cooking to bring people together around the table," she says.
Modernity for Multicultural Cooks
"When I immigrated to America, I saw a gap in the kitchenware market—there wasn't a brand that made products for the modern, multicultural cook, one that made home cooking simpler and more joyful," says Shahid. To close the gap, she co-founded Our Place in 2019 to build a table that could serve those of all backgrounds. "In an industry that made everyone feel inadequate, we took a new approach and created products that celebrated the beauty and joy of home cooking (and actually made it easier to cook)," she says.
Shahid started her business bootstrapped before raising any funding. "We faced a lot of rejection early on, as what we were doing was unprecedented and complex," she says. "It forced us to get to proof of concept early on—designing and launching the Always Pan ($145, fromourplace.com), which has become one of the bestselling kitchenware items of all time, and building a brand that was rooted in inclusion, and our own experiences."
One essential piece that went into designing each piece of cookware was making the actual process of cooking easier. For example, Shahid says the Always Pan was created to replace eight pieces of cookware: It's deep enough to make soup, but shallow enough to flip an egg; it's lightweight, easy to use and clean—thanks to the nontoxic coating; and it has other helpful features, like a built-in spoon-rest and nesting steamer basket. The overall build of every piece is toxin-free, using exclusive coatings made without PTFEs, PFOA, PFOS, lead, or cadmium.
To further honor and uplift traditions of those around the world, Shahid and her team created their Traditionware collections. "In a world where the traditions of BIPOC and underrepresented communities, like my own, have been overlooked and erased, these collections serve to uplift all the ways we celebrate and gather," she says. "Each Traditionware collection is always created in partnership with the community that celebrates the tradition, both within the Our Place team and through collaborations with artisans." They work with consultants, artists, photographers, copywriters, and designers from each community during every part of the creation process to ensure they pay homage to each cultural tradition respectfully and authentically.
No matter the changes that take place in the ever-changing food industry, the mission will remain the same at Our Place: "We're constantly trying to make kinder choices in every part of our businesses: from the materials we use in our products, to creating fully biodegradable packaging, to working with women-owned factories and multi-generational artisan collectives," says Shahid. "We see every choice as a chance to make a more compassionate choice."
"The food industry has a legacy of painting so many of our multi-layered cultures with a single brush stroke and relegating flavors as varied as biryani masala and miso to one aisle in the grocery store," says Shahid. "At Our Place, we celebrate all our cultures and identities loudly and joyfully." When it comes to the customers, she aims, again to make everything related to cooking easier and chemical-free, to limit clutter and waste.
While building her brand has been the most fulfilling part of her life, personally and professionally, it's still had its fair share of challenges. "Challenging the status quo is hard—you will have Fortune 500 companies copying your inventions, outbidding you on advertising, and people will doubt you," she says. "So, make sure you believe in what you're building with your whole heart, and have a mission that is much larger than yourself."
To continue to thrive along your entrepreneurial journey, Shahid says to create a community. "Surround yourself with people who you respect and admire—build a team who challenges, and works through hard things with you, and most of all create a culture that is kind and inclusive," she says. "It all comes down to the mission, the values, and the people at your business—those are the things worth fighting for."
Accomplishing the Mission
Our Place is embedded on the principle of bringing people together through a home-cooked meal. Shahid is continuing this practice by celebrating traditions with new Traditionware launches, debuting tableware, and opening the first retail stores in Los Angeles, Calif., for people to gather in person. "We're going to keep telling stories and celebrating the commonalities and differences in all the ways we cook, gather, and honor our identities," she says.
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