In Just Five Years, Ariel Kaye Created the Most Coveted Bedding Brand on the Market

She raised $30 million, opened a new 17,000-square-foot HQ, and plans to open her 20th store by 2020. Meet the brains behind Parachute.

By Callie Schweitzer

Ariel Kaye

Explain Parachute in a sentence.

Parachute is a modern lifestyle brand committed to making you feel at home.

A lot of competitors to Parachute have sprung up over the last few years. What makes you different?

While a sheet may simply look like a sheet, or a towel may just look like a towel, there are nuances to our products that are uniquely Parachute. We are a textiles-first brand. We’ve created a product assortment that supports the wants—and needs—of modern shoppers in terms of quality and aesthetic. And we use data to develop products that keep people coming back.

Our home essentials are made by the world’s best. We travel the globe to locate expert craftspeople, delivering a premium quality product that upholds the high standards and heritage of that region. We believe the design makes the difference. Instead of focusing on shifting styles and trends, we design each item to complement our entire assortment of home essentials. We take a modern approach to design, offering timeless pieces in a neutral color palette that are intended to be layered, mixed, and matched. We also consider thoughtful details, such as the back envelope closure for our pillows. Today, people are designing their interior as a whole, not room by room, and our design philosophy reflects that.

You’re based in Los Angeles. Is that a differentiator? How has the startup scene there been a competitive advantage for you?

There’s a phenomenal interior design movement happening here—world class architects, interior designers, craftspeople, etc. It’s exciting to be a part of such a creative community. I am also very inspired by my fellow Los Angeles-based startups. It’s a small community, so supporting each other is essential. I can email a question to a friend and immediately get connected to five people willing to talk, brainstorm, and offer their support or assistance in any way. It’s a competitive advantage to have that type of access, and I’m happy to reciprocate with my fellow founders.

"I had to develop my own style to convey my brand message enthusiastically, yet authentically."

You’ve talked about how, when you started meeting with investors, you got feedback that the way you talked about Parachute “was too relaxed and my overall energy was too chill.” As a result, you changed your approach and shifted the pitch to show your “hustle, drive, and unrelenting passion.” Did you see a gendered element in that feedback?

Whether you’re a man or a woman, showing passion, commitment, and drive is crucial. “Pitching” comes more naturally to some than others, and I had to develop my own style to convey my brand message enthusiastically, yet authentically. I took the feedback I received in stride and came to the realization that the determination I felt internally needed to be better seen and heard on the surface.

What is the biggest misconception people have about what you do or about your industry?

Some might be surprised to know we’re in a category where, historically, 90 percent of the products are bought offline. It’s important for us to consider how customers prefer to shop and create sensory experiences that allow them to touch and feel our products. While we’ve been very successful online, brick and mortar retail was part of my vision from the start. We are happy to now have seven stores across the country, with more to come!

With venture there’s often a pressure to scale as fast as possible. From interviews, it sounds like you were more intentional about that at Parachute. Did you have to push back against your investors?

Startups are often measured by the speed of their growth, but growing a brand does not happen overnight. I was, and still am, very adamant about how we scale the business. It’s important to me to protect our company culture. Luckily, I work with a supportive team and investors who are aligned with our vision and strategies.

The Parachute office was famously located in a two-bedroom home for two years. How did that affect your culture and how you built a team?

The relaxed, laid-back vibe and sense of community in Venice Beach are integral to Parachute’s brand aesthetic and work culture. I am always inspired by Venice Beach—the casual beauty, the natural colors of the beach landscape, the wellness-focused lifestyle, and the small town community vibe. These became the pillars of the Parachute brand.

Our new HQ follows the same ethos, with comfort and community being of top importance. We have cozy seating areas, a large dining space, airy conference rooms, and communal desks that create an inviting and collaborative atmosphere. We’ve definitely created a culture that mimics the brand we are building: There’s value placed on work/life harmony, sleep, health, and happiness.

"The relaxed, laid-back vibe and sense of community in Venice Beach are integral to Parachute’s brand aesthetic and work culture."

What have you found to be the most effective form of advertising for Parachute? Your competitors are all over podcasts, the New York City subway, Instagram…

We’ve had success using multiple channels. We’ve grown and connected with customers through our highly publicized out-of-home campaigns, advertising on top podcasts, our robust social channels, insightful press stories, and our expansion into brick and mortar stores. Our stores are designed to feel more like gathering spaces than traditional retail environments. We want to create spaces where our customers can find inspiration and enjoy special events that foster a feeling of community.

What’s one bad habit you’ve had to break on your entrepreneurial journey?

Being “on” constantly. When I first started Parachute, I thought that I needed to respond to every email immediately—regardless of what time it was. I was so entrenched in the nitty gritty of the business that I felt like I didn’t deserve boundaries. Through self-reflection (and the help of my executive coach!) I’ve learned to set aside time for work and play.

What productivity tool would you be lost without?

My calendar! I know it’s pretty basic, but I put everything in my calendar, from weekend activities to when it’s time to move my car for street cleaning.

What’s your process for working on yourself while building a business?

I like to set aside “me” time on a daily basis. Reading for 30 minutes, listening to a podcast, or working out has become a way for me to relax and practice self-care. There are a lot of demands when building a business and I’ve found it’s extremely important to dedicate time to doing something that is 100% for me on the regular.

What’s your favorite female-founded product?

The Robe from AYR. It’s the perfect color and shape and I always feel chic when I put it on.

Invest in a woman. Check out Parachute here.

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