Forth Favorites

Meet Paris312 by Carolyn Green

You know those moments when you're like, "Really? Me?!" That's how we felt when Paris312 reached out to us right before our Instagram workshop. They offered to provide all sorts of fun tableware, colorful decorations and yummy cupcakes for our guests to 'gram (and eat, in my case). Their setup was a huge success, and we were honored to have Paris312 come back again for our networking/shopping event at Madewell. Let's just say that some of us were finding confetti in places we didn't think possible for days

Paris312's mission to help its customers create intentional events is something we can totally get behind here at Forth, but I wanted to find out even more about the inspiration for this fun Chicago startup. So, last week, I sat down with Paris312 founder Niku Ghalkani and PR coordinator Susy Garcia Lucero (two of the most energetic, motivated gals I've ever met), to learn a little bit more about how Paris312 got started. 

Paris312 founder Niku Ghalkani 

Paris312 founder Niku Ghalkani 

Niku has been a creative entrepreneur since 2013, the year she began Paris312. Though her background was in biology, when she moved to Chicago from her hometown of Montreal, she had a choice: continue down a predictable route, or take a leap and go into something she truly loved. 

Niku and Susy reviewing some of Paris312's latest designs

Niku and Susy reviewing some of Paris312's latest designs

You’ll always doubt yourself, so why not just go for it?
— Niku Ghalkani, founder of Paris312

Niku had always been considered the unofficial party planner and expert hostess amongst her friends. When friends and family stayed with her, Niku made sure that they were treated like royalty. And when she only had four months to plan a wedding in an unfamiliar city, she pulled off a celebration so spectacular that it was featured in Modern Luxury Brides Chicago

Quickly, Niku realized that she wanted to bring what she missed most about home—a French flair and celebrating with loved ones—to Chicago. "I began with a simple question," Niku said. "If you were a Parisian, how would you celebrate?" 

With Paris312, Niku wanted to avoid cliches and the expected. "We try to keep Eiffel Towers to a minimum!" she joked. In reality, there's more than one way to #partylikeaParisian. Every Paris312 collection is designed around a specific personality. The Coquette theme, for example, was inspired by Zooey Deschanel's character in "New Girl"—flirty, but not over-the-top girly. 

Paris312 caters to every occasion, from birthday to bridal showers to bachelorettes. 

Paris312 caters to every occasion, from birthday to bridal showers to bachelorettes. 

The product Niku is most proud of is Paris312's serverware, which is included in the signature Paris312 party box. The design of the serverware was inspired by the elegant curves found in the furniture of Louis XIV. It folds flat, but it is strong enough to support the weight of an entire cake or tray of cupcakes. "We found that paper goods were most convenient for the customer," Niku said, "but we wanted to make sure that every piece was designed with intention." 

#PartylikeaParisian with some fun, French-inspired fans

#PartylikeaParisian with some fun, French-inspired fans

Since it started, Paris312 has graduated from operating out of Niku's brother's apartment to a (recently expanded!) space at Assemble Chicago. Wary of scaling too quickly, Niku continues to be smart about new business decisions, despite growing demand for Paris312's products. "I love that every day is different," she says. "I'll be on-boarding a new employee on Monday, doing a photo shoot on Tuesday, answering emails and making marketing connections on Wednesday, and setting up a window display at a local bakery on Thursday." 

Paris312 had a soft launch of its website in December, but stay tuned for a fully updated site, coming soon. I can't wait to see where this company goes, and I can't wait to see them back at a future Forth event! 

— Carolyn, 2016 Forth intern

All photos courtesy of Paris312

Forth Chicago Favorites: Fresh n' Free by Clare Johnson

Happy Friday, happy spring and happy weekend, Forth community! This week we're bringing you a map for you and your family. If you're looking for some fun and free activities to do with your family, take a note from our community and visit one or more of their favorite locations.

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Forth Chicago Favorites: Crafty Cocktails by Katie Kenney

Annnd we're back! We're anticipating warmer temps very soon and what better way to celebrate the arrival of spring than with a cocktail or two? Grab your girl friends and head to one of these city spots for a what will surely be a very happy hour.

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Forth Chicago Favorites: Must-see Concert Venues in the City by Katie Kenney

Taking a cue from Clare Johnson's Forth Favorites post last week, I digress from our eat-your-way-through-the-city maps and bring you some of Chicago's top places to catch your favorite band, discover a new group or just rock out to some live music. Not to worry, the food favorites will resume very soon, but until then go check out some of the coolest concert venues in the city.

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Forth Chicago Favorites: Coffeeshops & Cafes by Katie Kenney

Today, we're launching a new series on the blog of Forth Approved spots around the city! We wanted to roll up all of your recommendations from our 4xForth spotlights and package them into a nice little map (big thanks to Clare Johnson!) for your city-exploring adventures. And of course, we're starting the series with what's often the first thing on our minds each morning - coffee. Read on for reviews of 10 coffeehouses and cafes around Chicago and get exploring...But first, coffee.

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Forth Chicago 2014 Gift Guide Part 1: all women-owned businesses, all local, all awesome, all for the home by Lisa Guillot

Forth-Chicago-all-women-owned-businesses-Gift-guide-for-the-home It's that time of year again, and we've got you covered on the gift-giving front. This year, we've put together a guide to help you shop local and support Chicago - and more specifically the awesome women, all Forth alum, behind some amazing businesses! We're highlighting a handful of options in our two-part gift guide, with Part One focusing on items for the home - enjoy!

Sarah Drake Designs

Forth Alum, Sarah Drake, has turned a childhood passion into a full-blown super successful business. Sarah offers everything from linens to fine china to gorgeous bedding in her online shop and uses her design talents to create wedding invitations and custom family crests. Her work continually appears in the press and has been featured in Real Simple and InStyle magazines and is even recommended by design goddess Grace Bonney on Design Sponge.

SarahDrakeDesigns forth chicago gift guide

 We love: the collection of thank you notes! They make a perfect gift around holiday times, when people are most likely to pen their gratitude

For your friend who loves to play hostess: The Napoli Vintage placemats and table linens are divine - and can be monogrammed!

Rare Bird Preserves

Rare Bird Preserves serves up "bliss in a jar" for any foodie on your list. Forth alum Elizabeth Ferguson Madden takes the traditional preserving process and adds a twist with unexpected flavor combinations like Meyer Lemon Rosemary and Peach Lavender. Using the highest quality fruit and fresh ingredients, her passion for preserving is apparent in every jar. Available online

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We love: The Gift Box option and oh-so-badly want to taste test the Chocolate Fruit preserves!

For your friend with a sweet-tooth: The Chocolate Blueberry Preserves

Sugar Beet Co-op

Give the gift of health that keeps on giving all year long! Sugar Beet co-op is offering life-time membership to their community-owned store that will provide convenient access to fresh, local & organic food. Perfect for your friend who loves Michael Pollan's "In Defense of Food."


 We love: The Rum Barrel gift box from the Coop which Sugar Beet will sell when they open! The gift box includes the Rum Barrel sauce (enhanced with barrel aged, wild apple cider vinegar), Jalapeño Pork Sticks from Jake’s Country Meats, and a Wild Mary Mix to get your next bloody mary (or tomato soup) started.

For your friend who likes to grow her own garden: Co-Op Membership

Johanna Winter Harper Designs

Johanna Winter Harper, a Forth alum hailing from London, England, has her own line of whimsical linens -including tea and dish towels - and lovely prints with inspiring sayings available in her Etsy shop.

jwhdesigns forth chicago gift guide

We love: This Amy Poehler quote and want to hang it somewhere to read every day 

For your friend always whipping something up in the kitchen: The Berry Basket gift set

Paragraph Quilt Co.

Mary Bess Ser is a sensational seamstress who uses her talents to whip up everything from cloth napkins to intricate quilts. She's currently working on a variety of cloth napkins that would be the perfect accent to any holiday table setting - visit her site for contact info and check back soon for her creations on her site!



Hand & Cloth Designs

We love the story and mission behind Hand & Cloth, a group of textile enthusiasts who have started a business aimed to empower women through the traditional artisan skills they already possess. During her travels abroad, Forth alum Sarah Aulie, was mesmerized by the unique textiles and blankets sold by women in the markets of Bangladesh. She felt that their beautiful blankets, called Kanthas, needed to be shared with the rest of the world and founded Hand & Cloth in 2007. The non-profit now sells over 80 different blankets (how are we supposed to decide?!) and works exclusively with vendors that provide fair wages for women allowing them to send their children to school.

Hand and Cloth Forth Chicago Gift guideWe love: that when you purchase products from Hand & Cloth, you are protecting women in Bangladesh by providing dignified work. And the color combo in the Table No. 21 would surely brighten up any wintery day

For the office holiday gift exchange: the Kantha stockings - most definitely will be the most creative and thoughtful gift at the party!


Modern Sprout makes gardening for any urban city slicker a piece of carrot?? This brilliant company, founded by Forth alum Sarah Burrows, utilizes the innovative hydroponic gardening technique to provide self-sustaining plants..which means you essentially cannot kill your garden AND can have fresh herbs growing in your apartment despite the impending polar vortex!


We love: The Garden Sack - a practically fool-proof self-watering culinary kit for those of us with a normal-colored thumb

For the person on your list with a green thumb: Splurge on a plug-in planter or the 4 Garden Jar Kit 

Nourishing Notes

Nourishing Notes is an ode and celebration to all things food and has everything from kitchen towels to card sets. Forth alum Julie Morelli takes her passion for "design, writing, printing and baguette baking" with her co-founder Andy Schwegler to bring you punny greeting cards, unique kitchen towels, aprons, totes and prints perfect for your kitchen. We love all the clever spins that Nourishing Notes puts on standard kitchen products and think you will too!


We love: The "Trust your Gut, not the Recipe" print- words to live by! 

For your friend who loves a good pun: The "Going to Market" bag

Want MORE? Check out Part 2 of our gift guide with sweet options for the artsy charming bikers in your life!

Don't wait for Black Friday - go out and get shopping, friends, while supporting women-owned businesses in Chicago.