My Winthrop Experience

Elizabeth Parry '00
Reisdence: Houston, Texas
Degree: Fine arts in interior design
Occupation: CEO, Parry Botanicals and Elizabeth Parry Designs (formerly Elizabeth Koval Designs)

Her love of art, textures and materials drew Elizabeth Parry '00 to study interior design at Winthrop.

She could have picked any art school to attend, but Parry's quest for a design program that focused on core classes and a well-rounded curriculum led her right to Winthrop.

As a second-generation interior designer with both parents in the business and a long line of engineers, architects and builders in her family, Parry knew she was obligated to earn a strong education to carry on her family's creative legacy.

"If I was going to receive a design degree, I needed to be sure it was legitimate. I looked at several art schools and the thought of not having ˜core' classes and a good educational foundation troubled me. At Winthrop, you receive a well-rounded education including math, science in addition to all of this, I loved the fine art aspect," Parry said.

As an undergraduate, the South Carolina native flourished in courses that focused on joinery, sculpting, metals, art history, CAD (computer aided drafting) and hand drafting. Project critiques in the classroom were tough, but for Parry, that honesty primed her for the art industry and business world.

"Architects and designers would come from various firms and we would be expected to explain our design and were often challenged. It really helped prepare us for the real world," Parry said.

She took gems from professors like John Oliva, Curt Sherman and Lynn Smith that would prepare her to run her own interior design business, Elizabeth Parry Designs, and later launch her own natural beauty line, Parry Botanicals. The two business ventures blended her fascination with scale, proportion, texture and materials. More importantly, the beauty line grew out of a need to create products that were not toxic and harmful to the body and skin.

In early 2000 after suffering from her own allergies to beauty products, Parry began experimenting with making her first products with a KitchenAid mixer and giving them to friends, who loved them so much they wanted to buy them as gifts. Then the recession hit and she was forced to close that company. In 2015, another opportunity arose to get her beauty venture back on track. She felt confident she had the design background, business acumen and the economics lessons from the early 2000s to try her entrepreneurial hand again.

"When I decided to create Parry Botanicals, I used all of this knowledge and background to create something even better," she said. It's similar advice she gives to current undergraduates.

"I would say [to students] learn as much as you possibly can. No one can take your education away from you. Knowledge is power," said Parry, whose line is 100 percent natural and has garnered her accolades in a number of publications because she uses intentional products that cater to allergy and asthma sufferers as well as cancer patients and individuals with autoimmune and chemical sensitivities.

Last year as a candidate for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Woman of the Year, Parry raised over $60,000 to name a cancer research grant after her late friend and fellow Winthrop alumnus, Nate Cobb '99, who lost his battle to Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML).

"I thought it would be a special way to honor him and continue his fight for a cure, even though he is no longer with us here on earth. I like to think he was smiling down on me, his widow, their son and his sweet mama," Parry said.

Parry lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband, Robert, and son, Emerson.

Follow Parry on social media @parrybotanicals to learn more beauty and design tips.