Jan 04, 2024

Our Place Shiza Shahid

Under The Radar is our monthly column where we highlight some of the coolest, most inspiring founders of brands in the home and kitchen space.

In 2019, Our Place launched its signature product: The Always Pan, an innovative ceramic nonstick pan designed to do everything from braise to steam. It came in a series of pretty muted colors with a matching domed lid and accessories, plus the promise to do the work of multiple pieces of traditional cookware.

While Shiza Shahid launched Our Place with the Always Pan, she has since added cookware, tableware, ... [+] kitchen tools and even an appliance to the brand's growing collection of products.

The idea came to its founder Shiza Shadid as many ideas do, out of necessity. The Pakistani native recalled her own experience of learning to cook years earlier. She had arrived in the United States to study at Stanford University and found herself yearning for food from home. “I missed the flavors of my mom's cooking and I wanted to be able to nourish myself and connect to my culture, my traditions, my body. I walked into a kitchenware store, asked "What do I need to get started?" and I was given a 16-piece cookware set.”

That overwhelming trip has informed the way Our Place designs its products—they’re multifunctional, streamlined and toxin-free, but also inspiring and fun. You can use the Always Pan to fry an egg for breakfast and steam dumplings for lunch or roast a whole chicken for a dinner party and bring it straight to the table.

Our Place

Shahid, who runs Our Place as co-CEO with her husband Amir Tehrani and Zach Rosner, is no stranger to entrepreneurship. At 24, Shahid co-founded the Malala Fund with Nobel Prize winner and close friend Malala Yousafzai. It comes as no surprise that people—from the consumers who cook with Our Place to the employees who keep the company going—are at the heart of all she does.

The Always Pan’s unique design and capabilities made a strong impression on home cooks and it quickly took over social media, likely becoming the internet’s first-ever viral piece of cookware. But even as Our Place was trying to keep up with demand for its initial Always Pan, Shahid was already thinking about future iterations.

“We started working on the Always Pan 2.0 a year after we launched and worked on it for two years,” she says. “One of the biggest requests that we got was making the Always Pan oven-safe. But our long handle and top knob stay cool on the stovetop and it was really important to us to preserve that while making it oven-safe, so that was a technical challenge.”

The Always Pan 2.0 was released in April 2023, addressing the oven-safe request, plus a second consumer concern: nonstick durability. The interior is still free of chemicals but boasts a new longer lasting ceramic coating. It’s also now made completely of post-recycled consumer materials.

Our Place

As work on the Always Pan 2.0 was taking place, Our Place continued to launch product after product, breaking into tableware, kitchen tools and, its most recent category, appliances. The Wonder Oven, a 6-in-1 air fryer toaster oven hybrid, debuted in June 2023.

“The small appliances space that we just entered, it's a critical part of how we cook,” says Shahid. “ I use my Wonder Oven every single day. Either I'm toasting some bread with our steam-infusion technology, which makes the bread taste so much fluffier and crispier or I'm air frying some french fries or I'm baking some salmon. It really is just such a useful product.”

Our Place

“We've always known that Our Place would set out to become the most beloved, trusted and culturally impactful brand in the most important rooms in every home in the world. That means the kitchen, both analog and electric, and that means beyond the kitchen as well,” says Shahid.

One of Our Place’s most unique collections is Traditionware, which shines a spotlight on cultural celebrations and holidays beyond the typical Christmas and Thanksgiving. The first piece in this line—a bowl by Mexican ceramicist La Chicharra—launched a month after the Always Pan and the brand has since rolled out a tahdig flipping platter for Nowruz, a rice bowl set for Lunar New Year and a Shabbat baking set. They work closely with artists to both design the product and tell the stories behind them.

Our Place

“Food is so inherently diverse and connected to our histories and where we come from and where we migrate to. My Ramadan or Eid traditions today are different from my parents in Pakistan. And I imagine my children, who will blend Iranian culture and Pakistani culture and Californian culture and who knows what else, their traditions will honor some of mine and bring in some of their own.”

Ties to tradition and food not only drive product innovation at Our Place, but also its company culture. Like most founders, Shahid says one of the hardest parts of growing a brand is finding the right people to do it with. She believes that, as the founder and CEO, there are moments when it’s more important to step back and trust your team.

“I think the most important thing you do as a leader is find people who bring a unique perspective to the table and try every day to create a space where they can thrive, where they can collaborate well with their teammates and where they're inspired to show up and make something that hasn't existed before,” she says. “It's something we focus on very, very deeply. My third co-founder, Zach, is our chief people officer. His entire background is actually in people operations and culture. I don't know if there's another startup that has a people ops culture founder, but that's how important it was to us from day one.”

That commitment to culture and diversity has, in turn, helped Our Place flourish, both as a workplace and as a cookware, dinnerware and, now, small appliance brand.

“Our team is very diverse, our community is very diverse. We've been very conscious from day one to showcase all of our cooking traditions, to celebrate all of our rituals,” says Shahid. “We want to make every aspect of cooking and gathering and celebrating and honoring our culture and identities easier and more fun and more accessible.”

On Iterating And Innovating At The Same TimeOn Honoring Traditions Through A Modern LensOn Building A Strong Company Culture