Parachute founder, Ariel Kaye has had quite a year.
Launched in 2014, Parachute has become one of the fastest-growing home essential brands in the market with no signs of slowing—in fact quite the contrary. Just in the last several months, Kaye and her team have opened three new brick and mortar stores in New York City, Silverlake, CA, and San Francisco and closed the brand’s $30-million dollars in Series C funding.
Kaye, who was previously an advertising executive, tells me, “I have never really followed a conventional path”, when I asked what made her take the leap from advertising to entrepreneurialism, Kaye continues, “Advertising was the one place where I found my home that allowed me to be creative and analytical. I was working in a big agency and there are a lot of highs and lows with a lot of politics and red tape. I began to feel less inspired and wanted to make a bigger impact. I had already started getting involved with SXSW. I was drawn to the start-up lifestyle and was kind of jealous of my friends who were starting businesses with impact and not going out to stay at work.”
On why she chose the home goods category, Kaye shares, “My passion for home has always been there. My house was always the place where friends and family congregated and I am happiest at home facilitating this experience for others. When I was in graduate school I started a design blog. I spent my free time helping my friends and family design their homes. In 2012, when I decided to make this leap and leave the ad world, it was one of those a-ha moments—home and interior design are true passions of mine. It brings me great joy. I saw this opportunity for myself to create something inspiring and to inspire others. My experience as a super consumer made me realize that there are a lot of brands selling direct to consumer and making inroads that spoke to my friends and myself. Once the idea was solidified, there was no turning back. I had never felt this way. My path became clear.”
In speaking with Kaye, her passion for delivering comfortable California-style living home essentials is evident. Kaye has been a catalyst for redefining the conversation about how creating a more comfortable home can lead to a more fulfilling life and she built this brand from the ground up. With so many brands coming to market with several founders I wanted to know what is was like to be a solo founder?
Kaye tells me, “I was living in New York City and when I quit my advertising job I decided to move to Los Angeles. I was on a solo journey leaving a city I had lived in for ten years. I had incredible support. Some were a little concerned for me for the right reasons. But, they could see how passionate I was about this business. In the first year of building the pre-launch while meeting with investors and potential advisors, I did get a few people who suggested that I find a partner for the tech side or operations. I considered the suggestions, but I did not have the money to pay for it. I realized I wasn’t going to have a co-founder. It’s funny. Now that I talk to people with other partners, I see their struggles. There was a lot more I could do as a solo founder.”
Despite differing opinions on the future of brick-and-mortar retail, Kaye always new it would be an essential aspect of her brand and now has six locations with more planned. “Having physical stores was something that I wanted to do from the get-go. We always thought it was so valuable. There will always be people who want to touch and feel items especially for the home. We wanted to learn more about customers in real time and in person to build new relationships. So, we opened our first store in Venice Beach and it immediately took off and from there we decided to include retail in a bigger part of our strategy. We offer workshops and speaker series to bring people in to connect with other brands and neighborhoods. We wanted to be in neighborhoods, which drive more revenue and allow us to get to know our customers in different ways. There is so much noise online. We have to keep rethinking about the customer journey and how people are living”, states Kaye.
With a new and robust round of funding, I asked Kaye where the brand was headed in the next three-five years? Kaye responds, “For us, the vision was always to be in every room in your house and be a ubiquitous brand in the home. We are thinking about new categories and product lines. In the next two years, we hope to do twenty stores. We want to be a brand that is accessible to people and beloved and one that grows with our customers and not one that customers grow out of. We try to be thoughtful, focus on quality and that our expectations with out customers are clear. We really want to be a one-stop shop where each room can be touched by Parachute. You can never get lazy. We really push ourselves to think both in and out of the box.”
I not only love Parachute’s products, I loved speaking with Kaye. There was no pomp. She’s a down to earth woman who is also highly introspective and her thoughtfulness definitely flows into each and every one of her products. She tells me, “I think one of the things you have to do as a sole founder is to be self aware. I had to really dig down deep to address my own insecurities. I learned that I shine with the vision and the creative and I love being involved with anything consumer facing—those are the parts of the business that come natural to me. But, I love to keep learning because I want to be a smarter, more well rounded person.”
When I ask her what the best part of her journey has been so far, Kaye continues, “Having a customer tell me that they’ve never slept better or had no idea that getting out of the shower could be so enjoyable. I love getting to know our customers and growing with them. Building a team has taught me new things everyday. We are now nearly fifty-five people in our headquarters. These people are of the most brilliant people that I have ever met and they are helping me make my vision even better then I could’ve ever dreamt of.” On whether her proverbial grass is greener, Kaye tells me, “I would never change this journey—the highs and the lows are what have made me who I am, for better or for worse. What I have learned is that it doesn’t get easier—it gets harder. It takes work. If you want life to be easier then it won’t be greener. If you love to learn, challenge yourself, and expand—then, yes, the grass is greener.”
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