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    Parachute Home: Ariel Kaye

    Seeking assistance and connecting with others is crucial for success, even when it feels intimidating or lonely.

    enFebruary 05, 2024

    About this Episode

    In 2012, Ariel Kaye saw a tantalizing opportunity, but wasn’t sure she was the one to seize it. She’d never started a brand and didn’t think of herself as an entrepreneur, until she noticed how frustrating it was to buy bed linens in a big box store. Taking inspiration from Warby Parker and Everlane, Ariel quit her day job to launch a brand of DTC luxury sheets, made in Europe but exuding a California vibe, with photos of models lounging in semi-rumpled beds. As a solo founder, Ariel had to figure out everything herself, from manufacturing to supply chains to how to get through to investors. Today, Parachute Home offers a wide range of home goods and has expanded beyond its website to 26 physical stores across the U.S. 


    This episode was produced by Chris Maccini with music by Ramtin Arablouei.

    Edited by Neva Grant, with research from Katherine Sypher.

    Our engineer was Josephine Nyounai.

    You can follow HIBT on Twitter & Instagram, and email us at hibt@id.wondery.com.


    See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

    🔑 Key Takeaways

    • Competition can be challenging but also provides an opportunity to stand out and succeed by embracing your unique value proposition and persevering through challenges.
    • Follow your interests and be open to unexpected opportunities that may arise, as they can lead to success and recognition in your desired field.
    • Recognizing the importance of pursuing one's passion and joining a startup in its early stages to be part of the process of building something meaningful and innovative.
    • The direct-to-consumer model enables entrepreneurs to address market flaws, create authentic connections, and provide high-quality, eco-friendly products, ultimately reshaping industries and improving customer experiences.
    • It's not just about thread count - focus on high-quality fibers and proper weaving techniques for truly luxurious and comfortable sheets.
    • Building trust and offering a quality product are essential for success in the direct-to-consumer market. By providing high-quality products at affordable prices and being transparent, a business can establish itself in the industry.
    • Identifying customer needs and providing creative solutions is crucial in creating a successful business.
    • Starting a business requires persistence, determination, and the ability to overcome obstacles, skepticism, and doubts. Ariel Kaye's journey with Parachute demonstrates the importance of not giving up and believing in oneself.
    • Entrepreneurs need persistence, resilience, and a solid plan with evidence of market potential to secure investment and build a successful business.
    • Presenting yourself with enthusiasm and asking for help are key steps in making a strong impression and achieving success in entrepreneurship
    • Seeking assistance and connecting with others is crucial for success, even when it feels intimidating or lonely.
    • Ariel Kaye's innovative approach to creating a gender-neutral brand in the sheet industry, coupled with her strategic marketing efforts and adaptability, ultimately led to the success of Parachute.
    • Perseverance and enthusiasm are key in navigating the demanding startup phase and building a successful company.
    • Joining an accelerator can provide access to top investors and funding opportunities, but entrepreneurs must also manage challenges such as inventory shortages and pre-order mishaps. Effective communication and transparency are essential in maintaining customer trust and loyalty.
    • Building a successful brand requires patience, perseverance, and a strategic approach that prioritizes long-term growth and building trust with customers, rather than focusing solely on rapid expansion and profitability.
    • Advertising on podcasts can greatly impact business growth by reaching a specific audience. Learning from past negative experiences is valuable in leadership development. Humanizing a category can create a recognizable brand identity.
    • Parachute's success can be attributed to their genuine branding, offline store experiences, and responsiveness to customer feedback, enabling them to expand their product line and establish strong customer trust.
    • Achieving success as an entrepreneur requires sacrifice and determination, but finding a balance between work and personal life is crucial for overall well-being.
    • It is important to prioritize personal growth and seek support when facing challenges. Creating a space for vulnerability and offering support can lead to personal development and overall well-being.
    • Timing, perseverance, and a strong support system are crucial in launching a successful company. Being first to market can provide significant advantages, but it is still important to work hard and surround yourself with talented individuals.

    📝 Podcast Summary

    Embracing competition and building a successful brand in a crowded market.

    Competition is inevitable, but it doesn't have to be discouraging. Ariel Kaye's experience with launching Parachute Home alongside similar bed linen brands shows that there is room for multiple players in the market. While it may cause anxiety, it also presents an opportunity to differentiate and stand out from the competition. Ariel's success came from thorough research, smart marketing strategies, and a willingness to adapt and expand her product offerings. Additionally, her personal journey of pivoting away from a potential career in music highlights the importance of recognizing where one's true skills and passions lie. Overall, the key takeaway is to embrace competition, find your unique value proposition, and persevere through challenges to build a successful brand.

    From studying abroad to starting her own business, Ariel Kaye's journey in design and creating beautiful spaces.

    Ariel Kaye's journey from studying abroad to starting her own business was driven by her love for design and creating beautiful spaces. Despite not initially planning for it, she was inspired by the architecture, art, and craftsmanship she experienced while abroad, particularly in Italy. This exposure to the attention to detail and pride in even the simplest products motivated her to explore interior design. Through blogging about her own home decor projects and helping friends decorate their apartments, Kaye discovered her talent and passion for creating welcoming environments. Her success and recognition in this field, along with her background in media studies, eventually led her to establish her own company. This highlights the value of following your interests and being open to unexpected opportunities that may arise.

    Aligning Passions with Career Path

    Ariel Kaye realized the importance of aligning her interests and passions with her career path. Working in a corporate agency no longer fulfilled her, as she saw her friends joining startups and pursuing their own passion projects. She understood that joining a startup in its early stages would allow her to be part of the process of building something meaningful and innovative. This led her to actively seek out opportunities in the home and design industry, where she saw a convergence of her interests. The rise of direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands, such as Warby Parker and Everlane, further inspired her to pursue her own venture, recognizing the value of cutting out the middleman and providing quality products at accessible prices.

    Revolutionizing Industries and Empowering Customers with the Direct-to-Consumer Model

    The direct-to-consumer model can revolutionize industries by addressing the flaws and limitations of traditional retail. Ariel Kaye, the founder of a bedding company, realized the need for change when she observed the subpar quality and unsustainable practices of the bedding industry. She saw an opportunity to disrupt the market and provide customers with high-quality, eco-friendly products. This revelation highlights the importance of critically analyzing existing markets and understanding what customers truly value. The direct-to-consumer approach allows entrepreneurs to challenge established norms, eliminate unnecessary middlemen, and create authentic connections with consumers. By focusing on quality, transparency, and customer satisfaction, businesses can reshape industries, improve products, and offer truly life-changing experiences for customers.

    Rethinking Thread Count: Quality Beyond Numbers

    The thread count of bedsheets is not the only factor that determines its quality. Higher thread count does not always mean softer and smoother sheets. In fact, it can result in coarser and thicker fabric. Brands often use synthetic finishes to compensate for this, but it doesn't necessarily enhance the overall comfort. Ariel Kaye, the founder of a direct-to-consumer betting business, realized this and saw an opportunity to create better sheets. She embarked on a journey to understand the manufacturing process by visiting factories in Portugal and Italy. This experience taught her the importance of using high-quality fibers and proper weaving techniques rather than simply focusing on thread count. By choosing European manufacturers and prioritizing quality over brand recognition, Ariel aimed to offer customers truly comfortable and luxurious sheets.

    Trust and Quality in the D2C Market

    Building trust and offering a quality product are key to success in the direct-to-consumer (D2C) space. Ariel Kaye recognized that in order to attract customers and compete with established luxury brands, she needed to prove that her European textiles were of high quality and accessible in terms of price. By going directly to the factories in Italy and cutting out unnecessary markups, she was able to offer premium products at a more affordable price. Additionally, Ariel's background in advertising taught her the importance of trust in getting people excited about a product. By being transparent and building trust, she was able to establish herself in the industry. This story demonstrates the value of trust and quality in the D2C market.

    Innovative Bedding Solutions: Meeting Customer Needs

    Ariel Kaye's determination to start her own company led her to create a unique and innovative approach to selling bedding. She recognized a gap in the market and set out to offer customers the option to buy individual bedding pieces instead of complete sets. Through her research and visits to factories in Europe, Kaye discovered that a significant number of people do not use a top sheet, which further solidified her idea. When she presented her concept to the factories, they were finally able to meet the demand for a different type of bedding set. This takeaway highlights the importance of identifying customer needs and finding creative solutions to meet them.

    The Story of Parachute: Overcoming Challenges and Persevering in Business

    Starting a business from scratch requires persistence and determination. Ariel Kaye faced numerous challenges when she embarked on her journey to create Parachute, a bedding company. Despite having no business experience, no money, and facing skepticism from established manufacturers, she persevered. She traveled to factories, paid upfront for small orders, and worked hard to create a unique brand and design. Even after successfully launching her company, she still faces reminders of how she was initially seen as ridiculous and unlikely to succeed. Kaye's story is a testament to the importance of not giving up, even when faced with obstacles, skepticism, and naysayers.

    Overcoming Challenges in Starting and Funding a Business

    Starting a business and raising money can be a challenging process, even with a great idea. Ariel Kaye's experience of pitching her home brand concept for sheets shows that even in a booming market like direct-to-consumer, investors may still have doubts or hesitation. Being a sole founder and lacking a technical co-founder or partner also brought additional questions and concerns. Furthermore, investors wanted to see tangible proof of interest and commitment, such as a website and early sales, before committing their funds. This story highlights the importance of persistence, resilience, and the need for entrepreneurs to be prepared with a solid plan, resources, and evidence of market potential in order to secure investment and build a successful business.

    The Power of Confidence and Energy in Making a Strong Impression

    Presenting yourself and your ideas with confidence and energy can have a significant impact on how others perceive you. Ariel Kaye's initial approach of being laid-back and chill didn't resonate with potential investors, but when she showed up for a meeting late, sweating, and with bruises on her arms, she received phenomenal feedback. This experience taught her the importance of turning up the energy and showcasing enthusiasm in order to make a strong impression. Guy Raz also highlights the idea that authenticity doesn't necessarily mean being exactly who you are all the time, but rather finding different ways to present yourself and interact with others. Ultimately, Ariel realized that if she wanted something, she needed to ask for it and communicate her feelings. Asking for help was a crucial step in her entrepreneurial journey.

    The Power of Asking for Help

    Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but rather a superpower. Ariel Kaye, the founder of Parachute Home, realized the importance of seeking assistance when building her company. She acknowledged that she knew very little about what she was doing and needed guidance along the way. Connecting with other founders helped her feel less alone and validated in her entrepreneurial journey. However, building a successful company required immense sacrifice, with work always coming first and missing out on personal events. Additionally, Kaye's overwhelming to-do list highlighted the challenges of being a solo founder. Ultimately, her experience emphasizes the significance of reaching out for support, even when it may feel daunting or isolating.

    Creating a Unisex Brand in a Female-Centric Market

    Ariel Kaye recognized the opportunity to create a brand that appeals to both men and women in the predominantly female-centric category of buying sheets. This insight led her to the idea of Parachute, inspired by the movement of fabric when making a bed and the sheet billowing down like a parachute. With the launch of her website in 2014, Kaye faced the challenge of getting the word out and attracting customers. She utilized strategies such as sending emails, participating in trunk shows and gifting markets, and educating people about thread count. Despite initial setbacks, like building a costly custom CMS platform and later transitioning to Shopify, Kaye's determination and resourcefulness propelled her business forward, ultimately leading to success.

    The Power of a Strategic Launch for a New Brand

    A strategic and impactful launch moment can make all the difference for a new brand, especially in a competitive market with little innovation. Ariel Kaye recognized the power of a launch and hired a PR agency to create buzz and generate press coverage. The initial press attention led to an increase in orders, transforming Parachute from a small venture to a flourishing business. Despite facing challenges like managing the entire operations herself and dealing with limited profit margins, Ariel's dedication and enthusiasm allowed her to navigate through the demanding startup phase. This emphasizes the importance of perseverance and embracing the excitement and challenges that come with building a successful company.

    The impact of joining an accelerator on raising institutional capital and the challenges faced by entrepreneurs in managing increased demand and maintaining customer trust.

    Joining an accelerator like Launchpad can be a game-changer for entrepreneurs looking to raise institutional capital. In 2014, investors were actively seeking opportunities through accelerators, which gave Ariel Kaye access to top investors in major cities. This led to successful fundraising and a cash infusion of almost a million dollars. With increased capital, her PR efforts gained traction, but it also brought challenges. The high demand led to inventory shortages and pre-order mishaps, putting the business at risk. However, through effective communication and transparency, Kaye was able to maintain customer trust and loyalty. This experience taught her the importance of open dialogue with customers and the resilience required to navigate challenges in a growing business.

    The Importance of Patience and Strategic Growth in Building a Brand

    Building a successful brand takes time and financial discipline. Ariel Kaye, the founder of Parachute, faced challenges when competitors in the bedding industry were rapidly growing and gaining awareness through advertising. However, Kaye realized that despite the pressure to quickly build her brand, she wanted to focus on long-term growth, building trust with customers, and expanding into different categories. She believed in growing with her customers and prioritizing financial discipline to build a healthy business. This stands in contrast to the prevailing mindset in the startup and venture capital world, which often prioritizes rapid growth over profitability. Kaye's experience highlights the importance of patience, perseverance, and a strategic approach to building a brand.

    The power of targeted marketing through podcast advertising and the value of learning from negative experiences in leadership development.

    Advertising on popular platforms, like podcasts, can have a tremendous impact on business growth. Ariel Kaye shared that her company's decision to advertise on a podcast, specifically being the first podcast advertiser on Pod Save America, resulted in a significant boost to their business. This highlights the power of targeted marketing and reaching a specific audience who aligns with the brand's values and offerings. Additionally, Ariel's experience transitioning from managing a team of two to managing a team of twenty demonstrated the importance of learning from past negative experiences. Having clear examples of what not to do can be just as valuable in leadership development as having a prescribed model. Lastly, her strategy of humanizing the bedding category by showcasing relatable images of people using and enjoying their products helped create a recognizable aesthetic and brand identity.

    Parachute's Authentic Approach to Branding and Customer Trust

    Parachute's success stemmed from their authenticity and understanding of their target audience. They didn't rely on outside sources or agencies to dictate their branding and product choices. Instead, they captured the essence of their own lifestyle and incorporated it into their brand. This genuine approach resonated with consumers, leading to significant sales growth even in their early years. Recognizing the importance of offline purchases in their industry, Parachute ventured into popup stores to allow customers to experience their products firsthand. This strategy further strengthened their brand and customer trust. Additionally, Parachute's ability to listen and respond to customer feedback played a vital role in diversifying their product line, expanding from bedding to towels, rugs, furniture, and more.

    Balancing Entrepreneurship and Personal Life: A Story of Perseverance

    Entrepreneurship and personal life can be incredibly challenging to balance. Ariel Kaye, the CEO and founder of Parachute, experienced this firsthand. As her business grew and she raised millions of dollars in funding, she also got married, opened a store, and found out she was pregnant all within a short time frame. Managing the expectations and demands of both her business and personal life was tough, and she faced even more difficulties when her marriage broke up while trying to scale her business and raise two small kids. Despite the hardships, Kaye persevered, finding joy in being a mother and sharing her success with her children. This story highlights the sacrifices and determination required to be an entrepreneur and emphasizes the importance of finding a balance between work and personal life.

    Prioritizing personal growth and seeking support during challenging times.

    Prioritizing personal growth and asking for help is crucial, even during challenging times. Ariel Kaye reflects on how she kept her personal struggles separate from her professional life, feeling guarded and alone. Looking back, she wishes she had reached out for support and realized she was not alone in her experiences. She emphasizes the importance of creating space for people to fall apart and offering support instead of expecting them to be strong always. Ariel's decision to prioritize her personal development and step down as CEO provided her with the opportunity to focus on her own well-being and the aspects of the business she loves. She believes in continuous learning and growth, staying engaged in her work. While hard work contributes to success, luck also plays a role.

    The Importance of Timing, Perseverance, and a Reliable Team in Launching a Company

    Timing is crucial in launching a company. Ariel Kaye, founder of Parachute Home, highlights the advantage of being first to market in 2014. Back then, the market was not as saturated, making it easier to achieve significant growth with minimal marketing expenditure. However, she acknowledges that the business landscape has evolved drastically since then. Today, launching a company is relatively easier, but it still requires hard work and a strong support system. Ariel's journey has been a mix of hard work and luck, as she hustled while surrounded by talented individuals. With this insight, aspiring entrepreneurs should prioritize timing, perseverance, and building a reliable team to increase their chances of success.

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