Welcome to The Quality Makers, an interview series highlighting pioneers in the direct-to-consumer space. Join us as we get an inside look at the world of digital shopping through the eyes of the individuals shaping it…
Ariel Kaye’s entrepreneurial journey started with a passion for interior design, professional expertise in advertising and brand strategy, and a dream. Amidst the hustle of the city that never sleeps, she created Parachute –– a company that ensures that you do, and damn well.
Parachute’s signature clean, laid-back aesthetic and extreme focus on high-quality bedding makes it a standout in the homegoods category. I challenge you to look at the company’s Instagram without being immediately transported to whichever beach, cloud, or childhood pillowfort that occupies your workday fantasies.
I recently spoke to Kaye about her experience as a solo founder, the importance of community, and how Parachute made its way from “aha” moment to industry giant.
Can you tell us a bit about your background? What inspired you to create Parachute?
AK: Before launching Parachute, I had an interior design blog and I frequently helped my friends and family decorate their homes. I was a super consumer of home goods, and when it came to bedding, I couldn’t find a single brand that was high quality, affordable or easy to buy. As someone who built brands in advertising, I recognized a true business opportunity – there was a serious void in the market. This is when I had my “aha” moment and, in 2014, I launched Parachute as an online-only, direct-to-consumer company focused on creating impeccable bedding products.
Before Parachute, you were working in brand strategy and advertising in NYC – a city fundamentally and structurally at odds with a good night’s sleep. Did that background contribute to your focus on home and the bed as a sanctuary?
AK: Everyone in New York City is constantly going a million miles a minute. Amidst the endless distraction and overstimulation I quickly realized that I needed to find a way to recharge in my own space. My love for design flourished alongside my love of hosting – creating these welcoming and comfortable spaces for friends to gather. I felt a lot of pride creating a space for friends to meet up, have dinner, and relax after a long day, and this was where my love for intentional design and living really started.
Can you describe your experience launching a company, particularly as a solo founder?
AK: Being the sole founder of a company is challenging, and fundraising with investors is tough. When I started talking to investors, I received feedback that the way I talked about Parachute was too relaxed so I tweaked my pitch to show my hustle, drive, and unrelenting passion. I wanted every potential investor to leave the room feeling my intensity and excitement. I was determined, and although starting a brand is extremely challenging, they needed to know I was never going to give up. I met so many investors, mentors and other entrepreneurs along the way who were all extremely helpful in getting my business up and running and continue to support me today.
Amidst all the chaos that comes with founding a brand, what was the moment when you realized that Parachute was really taking off?
AK: There were a few moments along the way that really stand out:
- After we launched, there was a very steady ramp of orders. The day I realized people outside of my circle of influence were buying Parachute was a great moment of celebration.
- When we started getting our first bit of customer feedback. People emailed us to say they had been dreaming of a brand like Parachute, and that really motivated me to keep building this brand.
- When we sold out of all our inventory months before we expected to!
The Parachute color palette relies on these incredibly evocative neutrals; it just oozes calm and ease and serenity to me. Aesthetically speaking, where do you draw inspiration from?
AK: We get inspiration from the world around us. It could be a walk out in the woods or a great coat we saw at a vintage market. We make sure to give each color the special Parachute touch, which helps the palette feel cohesive and able to mix and match.
Though you started as an online company, Parachute now has almost 20 store locations. What aspects of the DTC ethos have you carried into your brick-and-mortars?
AK: Though Parachute started as a DTC online-only brand, I’ve always felt retail was important for us to explore. Customers want to touch and feel our products before purchasing them, and our stores are set up more like homes to allow for that direct product engagement – we see so many people who come in to feel fabrics and go home to order online. By using our stores this way without the pressure of immediate purchase, Parachute has seen a conversion rate that is up to 50% higher in cities with stores.
One thing we love about DTC companies is the sense of community that they’re able to build online. How would you describe Parachute’s community? How do you engage with them?
AK: The Parachute community loves exploring new ways to make their space their own by getting creative, and always staying cozy — we love seeing how they style their favorite pieces when they tag us in their #MyParachuteHome shots and videos and watching how it impacts their fellow community members. It’s an inspiration to them and insightful for us.
Our social media and community management teams are a great group of people who know the importance of putting community first and who truly enjoy creating a positive and inviting experience for everyone. We listen and talk to our customers daily and we prioritize creating working relationships with our community. It’s there where we find our top content creators and brand ambassadors, and where we’ve fostered our longest and most fruitful relationships. We wouldn’t be who or where we are without this community.
Take us through your bedtime and wake-up routines. Any favorite products or rituals?
AK: I love to end the day with a hot shower, there is nothing more relaxing to me. I love using our OSEA shower mists which immediately create a spa-like feel. I keep my products pretty simple and minimal, so after I get out of the shower I spray a few spritz of the Violette_FR Boum-Boum Milk followed by C’est La Cream.
The mornings are a bit more hectic and my focus is on my two kids. I’m reading books, listening to music, playing games, getting breakfast going and packing lunch boxes before I get a moment to think about myself! I have been loving Cometeer coffee every morning, which makes it so easy to get a delicious cup.
You’ve continued to expand in the home goods category, from focusing on bedding to other household goods and linens. What dreams do you have for the brand as you continue to grow? Any plans to expand beyond the home?
AK: I’m excited to continue expanding our retail footprint, and I see such a huge opportunity to make meaningful connections with our customers through these spaces. We’re not looking to expand beyond the home just yet and are still focusing on launching new categories within the home – like furniture. My vision is to grow the company to offer high-quality, comfort-inspired products for every room in the home.
Any advice for people who are struggling to prioritize sleep in their daily lives?
AK: My advice is to create a new routine and stick to it for 5 days. See how much better you feel! It will make it easier to make good choices after those first 5 days.