A Successful CEO Shares the Biggest Mistake New Employees Make
In honor of our co-founders Hillary Kerr and Katherine Power’s new book, The Career Code: Must-Know Rules for a Strategic, Stylish, and Self-Made Career ($13), we’re kicking off an interview series featuring 17 questions (to parallel the book’s 17 chapters) about the work lives of inspirational female leaders who are at the top of their fields. We last spoke with Fitcode’s CEO and co-founder, Rian Buckley, and this week another startup maven is making waves under the lifestyle umbrella—meet Ariel Kaye, founder and CEO of Parachute home, the bed and bath company that's going above and beyond.
Ariel Kaye has a black belt in building brands, and she’s using it to put you to sleep. The founder and CEO of Parachute, the fast-growing home essentials brand based in Venice Beach, California, spent 10 years working in brand development and advertising in New York before launching one of the most watched (and lauded) startups on the West Coast. Two years after its launch, Parachute has been called out by a who’s who of venerable publications in both the lifestyle and business realm, including Forbes, Business Insider, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Architectural Digest, and Elle Décor—–but who’s counting.
The CEO holds a master's degree in media studies from the New School and a bachelor of arts from the Gallatin School at NYU. She’s also a certified yoga instructor and a surfer. Her pedigree makes her the perfect poster child for the holistic wellness–meets–competitive business model. Born out of Kaye’s instinctual eye for trend forecasting and keen market sensibility, Parachute’s eco-friendly, direct-to-consumer business model is disrupting the textiles marketplace one good night’s rest at a time. The idea for the company sparked when Kaye’s insight to consumer purchase behavior and growing public interest dovetailed with her own personal life. Simply put, she noticed her friends and contemporaries had zero brand loyalty when it came to where they bought their bedding.
With a company ethos that merges design and wellness, quality and craftsmanship, Parachute makes premium-quality home essentials that won’t break your wallet. The bedding and bath collections are built on one tenant: Starting and ending your day well leads to a happier, healthier life. We couldn’t agree more. In person, Kaye is charismatic, wildly articulate, and enormously informed. She’s also not above rolling up her sleeves and jumping into any task when it comes to her business. After you hear her take on startup culture and boldly striking out of your own, we think you’re going to walk away with a bit of a crush.
“I’m the founder and CEO of Parachute, a direct-to-consumer home essentials brand based in Venice Beach. My role is to guide the creative development and strategic vision of our brand. I also like to say I’m in ‘the comfort business.’”
“I wear many, many hats, from overseeing the construction of our new office and working as a sales associate at our newly opened flagship store to answering customer service emails and managing our investors. I am actively involved in every part of the Parachute brand. People may find it surprising, but I am not above any task, and I don’t have an assistant. I take out the trash if that’s what needs to get done!”
“When I landed my first job interview, my mom flew to NYC to take me shopping for “business” attire. We went to Theory and bought all the essentials—trousers, pencil skirts, and button-down blouses. I appreciate that my mom celebrated the start of my professional career and wanted to make sure I had the look to match my eagerness for success.
It’s funny looking back, because we’re way less formal here at Parachute. We make home essentials that are designed to be enjoyed and lived in, and our office is an extension of that laid-back and welcoming brand ethos. Now I wear T-shirts and overalls to work!”
“I’d love the opportunity to talk with President Barack Obama. I bet that with his insight and experience, he could teach me a lot about leadership and overcoming adversity in just 30 minutes.”
“I enjoy keeping up with what’s new and emerging, but keep my sources brief for the sake of time and efficiency. Go-to resources include The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and TechCrunch. Instagram has become a great channel for creative inspiration—I like to see what certain influencers and brands are sharing. And to keep up with lifestyle and design world, I enjoy MyDomaine, Remodelista, The Chalkboard Mag, and, of course, the Parachute Blog! I’m endlessly inspired by the content that our own team here at Parachute is producing.”
“I used to have a professional wandering eye. My first few jobs right out of college were brief—one lasting only three months before I moved to the next. I was often restless and trying to make a bigger impact. Now I realize that committing to a job for an extended period of time would have allowed me to learn more. It’s hard to see the potential of what’s in front of you when you have one foot out the door!”
“The top five qualities I look for during an interview are kindness, integrity, a sense of humor, intellectual curiosity, and a self-starter, hustle attitude.”
“I always dress like myself no matter the occasion. If I wouldn’t wear the outfit to dinner with friends, then it’s not in my closet. Comfort is my highest priority. Style and confidence require knowing yourself and wearing what you feel best in—and that’s powerful.
My go-to outfit includes a crisp, white tee on top paired with a soft leather jacket. On the bottom, I prefer soft jeans or tapered slacks, and I almost always complete my look with a pair of leather flats or ankle boots.”
“I force myself to take a quick break when I feel in a rut; it’s amazing what a quick walk around the block and fresh air will do to clear my head. I live and work steps from the beach, so I often go there for renewed inspiration and motivation.
In addition, I make weekly goals and create daily to-do lists with actionable steps to accomplish those larger goals. It helps me keep momentum and measure progress. Finally, when in doubt, I cuddle with my pup, Lox.”
“First and foremost: The best way to quit a job is respectfully and with gratitude. Always take the high road. If you have constructive feedback for your boss, team, or company, share it with them in a kind and courteous manner.
I also recommend resigning on a Friday. This gives those involved the weekend to process your conversation. By Monday morning, sensitivities around the subject have hopefully passed, so you can focus on wrapping up and moving on.
Finally, you never know if and when you might cross paths with your current employer or how their connections will be able to help you in the future. It’s always best to maintain a strong professional network filled with positive relationships. Avoid burning bridges or creating unnecessary tension or drama.”
“Some of my favorite restaurants in Los Angeles are walking distance from our new Showroom Store and office, located on Rose Avenue in Venice.
Currently, my three favorite lunches are the following:
- Easy and delicious deli salads from The Rose Café-Restaurant
- I Am Whole from Café Gratitude. This bowl is packed with macrobiotics for a wholesome and healthy lunch.
- The avocado toast from Groundwork Coffee Co. I dream about it. They top the toast sweet corn, cotija cheese, and hard boiled egg. Trust me—it’s everything.”
“For entry-level employees, I often see them not having enough confidence to share their point of view or being too nervous to ask questions. This makes you appear uninformed. Startups are often a sink-or-swim environment and resources are lean, so jumping in with an eager to learn attitude is key. My advice: Take notes. Ask for clarification. Make yourself a cheat sheet. Then review it! Stay positive—it can be exhausting, but the rewards are also great. Enjoy this experience and absorb everything you can.
My peers: One of the mistakes I see happen among the startup community is the urgency to grow too fast.”
“@unfoundation—We take great pride in our partnership with the United Nations Foundation's campaign Nothing But Nets, an organization that shares our interest in providing safe sleep to those in need. Their Instagram feed will inspire anyone to give back.
@hotelcovell—A major highlight of 2015 was partnering with Hotel Covell, a boutique property here in L.A. All five rooms feature our bedding. You’ll probably want to book a room immediately after browsing their feed.
@venice_sunsets—This feed shares the most gorgeous images of our hometown at sundown. Add beautiful sunsets to the number of reasons why you should come visit our new Showroom Store.
@consortdesign—Consort knows how to keep a room visually appealing, which is evident in their Instagram account. Or head over to the cutting edge interior design firm’s first store in L.A, where Parachute bedding is on display.
@etrine—The creative director of Eric Trine Studio’s feed is brimming with interesting textures, pops of color, and geometric shapes that inspire his design aesthetic. We’re so excited to have two of his signature Rod+Weave chairs featured in the Parachute Showroom Store. His Friday dance is something to look forward to each week!”
“Outside of the office, I have a few basic bedtime rituals to ensure I get a good night’s sleep, which is essential for having a productive next day! I take a hot shower to soothe my muscles and cleanse myself of the day’s stresses. I try to minimize portions close to bedtime and cut back on caffeine and spicy foods late in the day. As bedtime nears, I drink a cup of chamomile tea to relax.
In the morning, I make it a priority to get up early. I find that I am much more productive on days where I exercise and eat a good breakfast before work. Starting the day right keeps me energized and focused.”
“Don’t sweat the small stuff. Often the simplest advice is the hardest to internalize and follow. It’s easy to get worked up over every little detail or misstep. Instead, let it go, move forward, and focus on the solution instead of the problem. You’ll get so much farther!”
“We just opened our first retail store, which is truly a dream come true. We’re also working on developing a hospitality collection and have some very exciting hotel partnerships in the works.”