Small Business Profile: Parisa Morris, Founder of TOWN & ANCHOR and BIDE Market - Chicago
Hey Parisa! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m Parisa Morris, founder of TOWN & ANCHOR, an all-natural, vegan, zero waste skincare company based out of Chicago. At a very young age, I decided to adopt a cruelty-free lifestyle and made it my mission to create a change in the beauty industry that reflects that.
What is your background (i.e. education, previous jobs, experiences that led you to create)?
Believe it or not, I thought I wanted to be a lawyer for the majority of my life. My parents immigrated here after the revolution in Iran and they placed a strong emphasis on world issues and sharing with us what’s going on in the world. I wanted to be an advocate for change, so law to me, was the way to facilitate that.
But, I quickly realized it wasn’t for me. Instead, what really brought me joy at the end of the day was helping people, even if that meant making them feel beautiful. So I began doing hair for my friends and family at weddings. Eventually, that led me to Los Angeles to go to cosmetology school. After a few years, I met my now husband and moved to the small town of Wilmington, NC for love.
The consistent changes in toxic products, lifestyle, and environment wreaked havoc on my skin. At the time, my husband and I frequented an essential oils shop downtown. We loved going in, buying different oils, and experimenting with them. We quickly became obsessed with educating ourselves on natural ingredients and their benefits. I learned the importance of how even the products we use to remove our makeup had on our complexion.
From makeup removers, to beard oils, to toners, and face oils--there wasn’t something we didn’t make and didn’t fall in love with making. Our friends and family quickly became obsessed with what we were using and the results they themselves were receiving. We realized we were onto something and researched what it took to make a website and the rest is history!
What led you to start TOWN & ANCHOR? What was the turning point that drew you to starting your own business?
I think the turning point was really seeing the results the products we made were having for myself and those around me. I saw that we had something and that there was a demand for it, so I took the leap of faith. I always knew I would own my own business, but I honestly never thought it would be in the beauty industry. I’m very proud of how far we’ve come and I’m really honored this has become my fate. We’ve helped so many people naturally heal their skin and it’s a dream come true every single day to be able to say that.
What are the values behind TOWN & ANCHOR?
TOWN & ANCHOR offers effective, affordable, luxury skincare, without sacrificing sustainability or animal rights.
We believe beauty doesn’t end with skin. For us, it’s not only about the quality of the products we are creating, but about the footprint they are leaving on our planet. Therefore, consciousness — a state of being awake & aware of one’s surroundings— is the foundation of our brand, from the recyclable packaging to the responsibly sourced, cruelty-free, 100% natural and organic ingredients we use.
As TOWN & ANCHOR expands, we hope to create more awareness, more consciousness, and more compassion for our ourselves and our beautiful planet, and that our products educate and encourage others to do the same.
As someone in the beauty industry, what changes would you like to see made on a larger scale?
As an environmentally conscious beauty brand, I firmly believe in these ideals and the importance of creating great products, without sacrificing sustainability or animal rights. But the issue is, there’s still a lack of transparency in our industry. Moving forward, I’d like to see a change in this and in the “greenwashing” that has become so prominent in consumer marketing, especially in the beauty industry.
There is a much larger issue here in terms of ineffective regulation, but there’s still so much that we, as leaders in the industry, can do to make positive change. At TOWN & ANCHOR, we really want to further this conversation on sustainability and are dedicated to using our platform to create real change. To initiate that, we recently launched BIDE Market, which will be Chicago’s first entirely sustainable, luxury market. Beyond the market itself, we want to create an inclusive community where we talk about these issues, ask important questions, and offer resources to one another.
In addition to TOWN & ANCHOR, you recently launched BIDE Market. What inspired you to start your own market?
From the beginning of my business, I’ve dreamt of a market I could call my own. While markets are a great time to meet consumers in person and speak about our products and their skincare needs, I always felt there was something missing. There wasn’t really a curated space for vendors that had similar core values and, from a sustainability standpoint, I’m always hyper aware of the waste produced by these kind of events. That is why this market will not only be entirely vegan and cruelty-free, but also plastic-free.
With BIDE, I wanted to create a shopping experience for both the consumer and vendor to truly connect. Sustainability is a crucial component of our core brand ethos – BIDE offers consumers the comfort of knowing all brands are creating a positive impact on the world and I hope it creates a community of like-minded vendors who are passionate about the same things.
What can people expect to find at BIDE?
BIDE will be Chicago’s first sustainable, luxury shopping experience. The first BIDE Market will be at Exchange312 in Wickerpark on September 15, 2019, with plans to continue seasonally along with holiday pop-ups. We believe that curating will be what really sets us a part from the average market and plan to source only from incredible and conscious (vegan, cruelty-free, plastic-free) brands that include jewelry, beauty, apparel, and so much more.
We call BIDE a shopping “experience” because it will offer more than what a typical market does. We will have hands on experiences like guided meditation as well as sought-after speakers and presentations in an entirely sustainable venue.
Both of your businesses focus on sustainability, who are some people doing great sustainable work that inspire you?
Ashlee Piper is a major inspiration to me. Ashlee is a political strategist, turned vegan and eco-lifestyle journalist and recent author of Give a Shit: Do Good. Live Better. Save the Planet. I met Ashlee a few years ago and was severely motivated by not only her passion for the planet, but her nonjudgmental approach of educating her community. So often we find ourselves taken back by those trying to make a difference because they come from a place of judgement and ridicule. I think it’s crucial for those of us who are trying to spread the word about sustainability be careful about their approach. The minute you appear judgmental is the minute you make someone feel guilty and guilt does not inspire, but compassion and empathy will.
Fellow conscious brands like CLED, who creates gorgeous jewelry made from upcycled glass, are proof that luxury can be sustainable. Looking at brands like this and knowing that they’re growth is mirrored by their compassion for the earth is truly the most inspiring and motivating thing.
So often we fear that sustainable choices will mean sacrificing a brand’s budget or luxury, but BIDE will be proof that not only can brands make sustainable products, they can do it effectively and successfully.
What makes you passionate about the work that you do?
As a business owner, I’m very conscious about what I’m putting out there in the world. I believe our business can be used as a source for good, not only in the products we produce, but on the planet as a whole. It is no surprise that around the same time I became pregnant with my daughter we decided to be a plastic-free company. The thought of her, or any child, coming into a planet that is heavily saturated with waste terrified me. It’s unfair to think that our future generations won’t have the same beautiful planet we had growing up. The thought of that alone equally brings tears to my eyes and angers me and that’s ultimately why we do what we do.
What are some of the setbacks or challenges you face?
For a product based company it can be really difficult to source sustainable options when it comes to packaging. We’ve had our fair share of setbacks, but determination has been what gets us through it. And a lot of Googling! I also have found value in the community around us and have finally put pride aside and learned when to ask for help. Early into our business it was hard for me to seek advice or help from other brands, but I learned that doesn’t get you anywhere. If I have any advice for a person looking into starting a company it would be to side aside your pride and know that help is not a weakness, it is an advantage.
What are your some of your short/long term goals?
Launching BIDE has been by biggest goal for a while now! I’m so excited to see this market come to life in September can’t wait to see all we’ll be able to accomplish moving forward. We already have amazing brands, sponsors, and partners that have raised their hands in excitement over this event and we can’t wait to delve deeper into partnerships with them moving forward. We also launched an ambassador program for BIDE comprised of individuals who want to make a difference personally. Our ambassadors have joined BIDE for not only day-of market opportunities, but also community involvement. We had our first community event focused on teaching the importance of buying in bulk and how to do it successfully. In the future we plan to also incorporate clothing swaps and neighborhood cleanup initiatives to name a few.
At The Glossary, we believe in women working together and helping one another. Why do you think it is important for women to support each other?
If it had not been for the incredible support and advice from a few other female-owned brands, I would not be where I am today. Or it definitely would have taken me longer than it has. Most of the entrepreneurs I know in Chicago are women and I think that says a lot. Often times a person starts a business because they see a gap in the industry and believe they can fix it. It takes a lot of gumption and courage to say, “I’ve had enough and it’s time I do something about it.” But remembering that it we don’t have to do things alone and that fellow women can be a source of support and encouragement is so important. There are definitely (dark) days where no orders come in and seeing women come together in their darkness to be a source of light, whether it be simply sharing that they too have dark days and that brighter days are ahead, can move mountains.
We have a series called Purchase from Women - what women-owned businesses are you encouraging with your dollars?
This one is difficult because I wouldn’t even know where to start, but an interesting fun fact about BIDE is that our first BIDE Market is almost entirely comprised of women-owned businesses that I either do already shop from or plan to. You can find our full vendor list here.
What are you trying to learn right now or what is something that you are wanting to learn?
I would be lying if I said I practiced what I preach when it comes to self-care. At TOWN & ANCHOR we often express the importance of taking care of yourself, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. I’ve had a lot of trouble finding that balance as I continue to feel things pile on top of each other with deadlines, meetings, emails, packages, etc. I would love to learn how to successfully accomplish my career goals, passion for the planet, spending time with my family, all while focusing on the things I not only need, but deserve as a human being to thrive.
What are some of your favorite places in the Chicago area?
Myopic, a used book store has been my favorite places for decades now. I love the feeling I get when I’m inside and have found some of my most cherished pieces of literature there.
I’ve also really enjoyed having our business meetings at The Hoxton Hotel this summer and feel like that won’t be changing as the weather gets cooler.
How can people become involved in BIDE?
We’ve been using the hashtag #comeBIDEwithus and that’s really symbolic of the fact that we’re trying to welcome an inclusive community. Please reach out – email, DM, comment and let us know what you’d how you’d like to contribute to our mission. Our Ambassador program has been growing by the minute and it’s extremely reassuring to know that so many people not only believe what we’re doing, but believe the impact we can make by working all together. And of course, it goes without saying, come to the market! I’d love to meet all of you and share the incredible brands helping us put it together!