Here at MyDomaine, we’re champions of female-founded, -owned, and -operated businesses—after all, our company was founded by two fearless women. That’s why we’re collaborating with Who What Wear on Female Founded, an editorial series that dives into the stories of those who launched their own businesses. Here, you’ll discover who these women are, what they’ve accomplished, and how they style pieces from our own Who What Wear collection at Target.
These days, it's hard to consider buying luxe bedding without thinking of Parachute. In just four short years, the L.A.-based company has positioned itself as one of the leading purveyors of quality bedding and bath products. A far cry from more buttoned-up, traditional luxury bedding brands, Parachute is all about understated, relaxed comfort and style—an ethos that goes hand in hand with the company's birthplace: Venice Beach, California.
Behind the brand is Ariel Kaye—a fierce entrepreneur with a savvy business mind and an acute knowledge of modern customers' wants and needs. With over 10 years of experience in brand development and advertising in New York City under her belt, Kaye was well groomed to make the move into entrepreneurship, but her extensive experience alone didn't guarantee a ride without road bumps.
In retrospect, however, Kaye's earliest career mistake might also have been her biggest blessing. Within the first few months of business, the company saw unexpected, exponential growth, resulting in back-ordered stock across her entire inventory. While many would have crumbled under the pressure, the young entrepreneur saw an opportunity in this miscalculation—one to connect with her customer on a personal level.
Kaye told us all about the experience—and how it shaped her business model—when we caught up with her, also sharing her insights on entrepreneurship, success, and the best career advice for a first-time entrepreneur. Take it from one who built a cult brand in a noisy interiors market. It's not an easy game, but it's a rewarding one.
What company did you start? What is its purpose?
I launched Parachute in January 2014. We make modern bedding and bath essentials for a more comfortable home. Born in Venice Beach, our products are designed in Los Angeles and responsibly manufactured by the world's best artisans.
Fill in the blank. "Before founding Parachute, I was…"
I spent 10 years working in brand development and advertising in New York. During my tenure, I led strategic endeavors including content, digital campaigns, and user experience with a focus on consumer goods and luxury categories. My research yielded valuable insight into customer behavior and enabled me to better understand the consumer's mindset, intention, and motivation.
What are three things you always do before 10 a.m.?
I cuddle my dog, Lox, first thing in the morning before we go on our walk. I also like to work out in the morning. It gets my creative juices flowing and leaves me feeling energized for the day. I like to prioritize me in the morning before I prioritize my business for the rest of the day.
What were some of your biggest career mistakes, and what did you learn from them?
Oftentimes, you learn the most from mistakes and when starting a business it’s more likely that you aren’t going to get it right the first time. After our launch – and much to my surprise – we grew faster than anticipated. As a result, we didn’t have nearly enough inventory to keep up with demand. All of our premium quality products are manufactured in Europe and have long lead times.
Within three months, we completely sold out of everything, which felt like a huge mistake. Many people who ordered had to wait several months to receive their bedding. I thought we had failed our first customers – the people who had taken a shot on a new brand – and that there would be no way to recover.
However, our mistake provided an opportunity to connect with people in a unique way. I personally reached out to each back-ordered customer, explaining the circumstances and thanking them for their business and support. We quickly learned that honest and open communication is essential, and being able to listen to our customers' feedback is one of our biggest advantages as a direct-to-consumer company.
What is the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
The best advice I've received is to always put the customer first. We're always striving to learn more about our community through testing, research, and focus groups. I strongly advise budding entrepreneurs to truly listen to customer feedback and use these takeaways to keep growing and evolving with the customer.
What is your biggest piece of advice for female entrepreneurs?
Trust your instincts, because when you're doing something you love, you can't imagine doing anything else.
If you could have your 12-year-old self over for dinner, what words of wisdom would you share with her?
Don't sweat the small stuff. When you are so invested in building something, it's challenging to do anything but obsess over every mistake, delay, or piece of criticism. Wasting energy on every small detail hinders momentum. Keeping a positive, solutions-minded attitude and focusing on the big picture are imperative to moving forward.
Who are some of your mentors, dead or alive, famous or ordinary?
My parents are my greatest mentors. They both have their own businesses and supported my decision to follow my passion.
What career accomplishment are you most proud of?
Scaling the Parachute business has given me the opportunity to meet and work with so many talented people – from our manufacturers in Portugal to our team here in Los Angeles. I've learned so much and grown with the company.
What's something you've yet to accomplish but would love to achieve in your lifetime?
It would be amazing to open a hotel that is completely outfitted in Parachute essentials.
What type of clothing item always commands respect?
I like a great leather jacket. It always makes me feel put together.
What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind?
My goal is to build a brand that positively impacts people and their day-to-day lives. I want people to remember us or know us as a brand that is consistently great, avoids shortcuts, and always delivers the best home essentials.
What's next for Parachute?
We will continue to focus on building the best direct-to-consumer shopping experience for our customers. We want to be a part of the rituals in every area of the home and offer products to outfit your entire space. Retail is going to be a huge part of our growth strategy. We currently have four brick-and-mortar locations and plan to open 20 stores by 2020!
Head to Who What Wear for more on Ariel Kaye, and shop workwear essentials from the Who What Wear collection at Target below.
Photographer: Paley Fairman | Photo Assistant: Anthony Espino | Stylist: Yasi Moshtael | Makeup Artist: Dana Delaney | Hairstylist: Ian James