December 5, 2023

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Shiza Shahid on the life-defining moments that shaped her

You’ll already know Shiza Shahid, if not by name, then by her brainchild: the Instagram-famous Always Pan, which currently graces the kitchen of every aspirational tastemaker and once had a 30,000-person waiting list. The decision to found Our Place, a high-end cookware brand which has made considerable waves both here and in the US, was a surprising career pivot for the Pakistan-born entrepreneur, although she is no stranger to success. Her previous roles include student activist, refugee camp volunteer, start-up funder and, perhaps most notably, co-founder of the Malala Fund.

Shahid’s career path has been varied, studded with glittering highlights and plaudits along the way, and the moments that have shaped and guided her route are just as diverse. Here, she shares the experiences that have defined her most.

My mother having the courage to invest in my freedom

“I was shaped, perhaps most fundamentally, by the women who came before me. My mother’s story, and her mother’s story, are the contours upon which my own story is being written. My mother was born into a family, a time and a place where women had very little freedom. She was not allowed to pursue higher education, to plan to work, or choose who she would marry. But she knew she wanted my sister and I to have different options in life. With the support of my father, she made the radical decision to send us both to the best schools in the country, even when they couldn’t afford it and when relatives and society criticised them for doing so. It was these choices that would open the door for me to claim my own freedom.”

shiza shahid

Losing my best friend in the 2005 Pakistan earthquake

“When I was 15 years old, Pakistan suffered a devastating earthquake. My best friend, and first childhood love, died. He was one of the most incredible people I’ve ever known. The loss and grief was overwhelming – almost too much to bear. But the day after the earthquake, my father drove me into an emergency camp that had been set up for victims. Conditions were dire and there was a shortage of female volunteers, so they put me to work. For the next year, I volunteered there every single day. I channelled deep grief into service and it taught me that helping and uplifting others is really the only way to survive the tragedies of life while still filling you with joy and gratitude. I carry that commitment to service with me, in his honour.”

Moving to the USA for college

“When I was 18, I got a full scholarship to Stanford University. Moving across the world shifted both my perspective and my possibilities. It was the first time I was exposed to startups, tech and entrepreneurship. Growing up, I had never seen a female entrepreneur, and I’d never even considered that I could start a business one day. But at Stanford, I realised the power of building a mission-led business and the impact that could have in the world. It planted the seed for what would one day become Our Place.”

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The 2012 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony

“Being at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony was totally transformative. I was 24 years old and I was there with my friend Malala Yousafzai. I had known Malala since she was 11, through my work in Pakistan. At 24, I quit my job to help co-found the Malala Fund, to help girls in the most vulnerable communities in the world access education.

“I watched Malala, who was 17 years old at the time, call upon the world to stop failing women and girls, speaking so powerfully and courageously from the same pulpit that Martin Luther King and Mother Teresa had spoken from. It was a moment that gave me tremendous hope for the future of women and girls.”

Founding and building Our Place

“I wanted to reinvigorate the kitchenware space as there wasn’t a brand that aligned with my values. I’m really proud to say we have a female majority in the business and a diverse range of backgrounds, cultures and lived experiences that reinforce our mission to make a bigger table for everyone. We source our products thoughtfully and sustainably, and have donated thousands of meals to fight food poverty, including to The Felix Project in the UK. We have grown faster than I could have ever dreamed; we’re now the first cookware brand to be stocked in Liberty London. We’re building this business in a better way, one which focuses on sustainability, inclusion, and making kinder and better choices.”

Find out more about Our Place HERE