Meet the Founder of Parachute Home
Can you share with us how a little about yourself and how you got started?
During my sophomore year at NYU, I spent six months in Italy. As a way to practice my Italian, I would go to markets and chat with the artisans about their beautifully made textiles. I’d hear stories from sons who were running businesses started by their great-great grandfathers. Then one night, I checked into a picturesque hotel on the Amalfi Coast. I pulled back the duvet, arranged the pillows to my liking, crawled into bed...and found perfection that I didn’t know existed. Those sumptuous sheets were softer than anything I had ever experienced.
Fast forward to 2012 when I went shopping for bedding and found myself surrounded by stacks and stacks of products that all looked the same. I wanted comfortable, quality sheets like the ones I had experienced in Italy, but I didn’t want to spend a fortune or settle for the cheaper options covered with synthetics and chemicals. There was no middle market.
I started to do some research. Many consumers remembered where they bought their bedding – a department store or big box retailer – but there wasn’t a brand that was connecting with customers and engaging with them past the point of purchase. I couldn’t believe there was no brand loyalty. As someone who built brands in advertising, I recognized a true business opportunity. In January 2014, Parachute launched with an assortment of Bedding essentials.
What was your original intent or goal when you first started?
My goal was to use my career to make an impact. I connected the dots between my interests in the home category and entrepreneurship and my professional experience in branding – and I focused my attention on the bedroom. You spend ⅓ of your life in bed, so your sleep experience matters! I couldn’t believe that bedding brands did not ask me how I slept. I wanted to establish a brand that enabled people to start and end their day feeling their very best. It was important to me not only to offer premium quality and accessible pricing, but also comfort and sound sleep. I witnessed a lot of my friends launch companies – and I knew that this would be incredibly hard work – but I was prepared to throw myself into a business that I believed could make a difference.
During the early days, what was one of the biggest challenges you faced, and how did you move past it?
Everything about starting your own brand is challenging, but one of the biggest challenges has been inventory. My background is in branding and marketing, but to launch Parachute I needed a crash course on inventory planning! I produced a limited run of inventory for the launch because I wanted to establish a product-market fit. My projections were extremely conservative, and I ended up selling out in the first weekend. Not being able to anticipate demand – and realizing that I couldn’t fulfill orders so early on – felt like a huge failure. It took about six months for me to have a solid understanding of how to project our inventory purchases. It’s an art and a science with many outside factors that can affect this process: seasonality, press, partnerships etc.
When you’re just starting out, it’s tempting to focus on the the pieces of the business that you’re more comfortable doing, but the big problems that have big implications on the business are often the least sexy...and unfortunately for me, often have to do with numbers.
When was the aha moment where you started to really believe in the business and felt proud and confident in what you were doing?
The feedback we received from our very first customers was inspiring – our customers shared that they had been waiting for a brand like us, that Parachute was enhancing their lives. I knew then that we’d found that product-market fit, that Parachute connected with people and was providing an experience that had been lacking. I made it my mission to grow the business with our customer’s needs in mind.
How did you know it was time to ramp up and hire people, and how did you facilitate that?
I started working on Parachute in January 2013 and spent a year building the business on my own. We launched in January 2014, and about two weeks in, I realized it wasn’t possible for me to continue doing it all on my own. I was taking investor meetings, packing boxes, answering the phone, responding to emails, packing boxes and more all at once. I couldn’t remember the last time I had slept – and I was selling Bedding! Two or three weeks after Parachute launched, I made the first hire – someone who was willing to take that risk with me and defer salary until we raised money. Looking back, I realized I waited too long to hire people and that there are plenty of people who want to be involved in the inception and early stages of building a business. It’s an invaluable experience.
After our first round of fundraising, we hired a few, key roles. At month six, we were a team of three, and at the end of Parachute’s first year, we were a team of six. By the end of year two, we were a team of 18, and today we’re a team of 30!
As a founder, one of the biggest problems I’ve seen other companies face is hiring too many people too quickly, which makes achieving profitability extremely difficult. We’re super conscious of this and do not rush into hiring new roles just to check boxes off of an org chart.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I like to wake up early and work out before I come into the office. Once I am at the office, I wear many, many hats. I read and reply to emails, meet with various teams, pop in and out of the Showroom Store to talk to customers, manage our investors...I am actively involved in every part of the Parachute brand. I am not above any task – and I don’t have an assistant. We’re a start-up and that hustle is what keeps me motivated to succeed. I take out the trash if that’s what needs to get done! Every day is different, which makes them always seem to fly by.
What advice do you have in regards to balancing work life with personal life?
Maintaining a work/life balance is an ongoing learning experience and challenge. When I started Parachute, I committed to making work my number one priority. However, a balance is critical to not burn out – there’s so much more to life than just work! My best piece of advice is to be self-aware. Acknowledge when you need to step away and recharge, even if that only means designating an hour of phone-free time to spend with a loved one or committing to not checking your email after 10pm. It’s also important to stimulate your mind with non-work related material and to make time for other things that you’re passionate about.
Currently what are you feeling most inspired by?
The feedback we’ve received from our customers since the beginning is my source of inspiration. Hearing someone say “because of Parachute I’ve had the best sleep of my life,” gets me through the challenging days.
I’m also inspired by the outdoors and the casual beauty of the Southern California landscape. Bike riding, sunset yoga or a quick walk to the beach keep me energized and focused.
What is your favorite part about being an entrepreneur?
Becoming a founder has been a completely transformative experience – and I love it! I left my career in brand development and advertising to launch Parachute when I realized what had been missing in my career was wanting to feel like I had made an impact. I wanted to build something from the ground up and solve problems. Creating something that people care about and that has that impact is my favorite part of being an entrepreneur. It’s certainly not easy, but growing and evolving Parachute is such a stimulating and rewarding job!
And as an added bonus, this experience has given me the opportunity to meet and work with so many interesting and talented people. There’s not a day that I feel bored. Ever!
Have your goals changed since you started? And what’s in the future for your company?
My goal since the beginning is for Parachute to be a household name – the brand people go to for comfort. We’re growing slowly and thoughtfully, ensuring we can deliver each product launch and brand extension with the utmost quality.
In 2017, we will be expanding our assortment of home essentials within the bedroom and the bathroom, and we will be introducing collections for other rooms of the house. We also recently finished developing our hospitality collection, exclusive for hotels, which will allow our customers to enjoy Parachute while traveling to their favorite destinations.
One of the things that we’re extremely excited about is bringing a physical and experiential version of Parachute to our customers in more cities around the world through additional retail spaces and another hotel. We want to be where all of our customers are. We’re dreaming big.
What is your go-to karaoke song?
I’m a huge karaoke fan, so picking just one would be impossible! My top three karaoke songs of the moment are: “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)” by Whitney Houston, “Oh! Darling” by the Beatles and “Africa” by Toto.
JOIN PARACHUTE AND CYL FOR A MEETUP IN LOS ANGELES ON JANUARY 19TH
Ariel Kaye Bio
Ariel Kaye is the Founder and CEO of Parachute, the fast-growing home essentials brand based in Venice Beach. Long intrigued by the interplay of design and wellness, Ariel established Parachute to fulfill consumers’ needs for high quality bedding and a good night’s sleep.
Within two years, Forbes declared that “Parachute Wins Over Millennials Tired Of Chain Store Bedding.” The brand has been called one of the “25 Hot Los Angeles Startups to Watch” by Business Insider, and has been featured in notable publications including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Architectural Digest and ELLE DECOR.
Prior to launching Parachute, Ariel spent ten years working in brand development and advertising in New York. Her experience yielded invaluable insight to consumer purchase behavior and the public’s growing interest in quality, craftsmanship and social responsibility – now tenets of the Parachute brand.
Ariel earned a Master's Degree in Media Studies from the New School, a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the Gallatin School at NYU. She is also a certified yoga instructor and aspiring surfer.
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