U.S. Markets closed

How I became the founder & CEO of Parachute: Ariel Kaye

Susannah Hutcheson
Parachute’s founder and CEO Ariel Kaye sought to fill a gap in the market while pursuing her passion for home and interior design.

Our series “How I became a …” digs into the stories of accomplished and influential people, finding out how they got to where they are in their careers.

From buttery linens in sun-soaked rooms to fuzzy robes fresh out of the shower and soft towels meant to wrap around you and last for years, Parachute’s founder and CEO Ariel Kaye sought to fill a gap in the market while pursuing her passion for home and interior design. Starting as a one-woman team after Kaye decided to take the leap and leave her full-time job in advertising, Parachute has now expanded from an online-only business to a brand with brick-and-mortar stores across the country.

USA TODAY caught up with Kaye to talk about everything from the benefits of joining an accelerator program to the importance of learning how to get out of your own way.

Question: How did you get your start in your career?

Ariel Kaye: I went to college in New York, went to grad school in New York, and lived in New York for many years. I worked in a number of different jobs until I ended up in advertising, which was great. I was on the strategic side of creative, but I’ve always been obsessed with home and interior design. I had an interior design blog way back when and was helping friends and family decorate for fun. Really, spending a lot of shopping in the home category and felt a lot of passion for the space. I just had a good eye, and so in 2012, I wanted to do something different. I was ready to move on to a new type of role, more entrepreneurial. I wanted to make a bigger impact and was kind of over the agency world and that grind. I decided that this could be a time to merge my interests of home, design, brand building, and connecting with people through cool campaigns. I originally thought I would join a company that was in the earlier stage of doing something in the home space and realized there really wasn’t much going on. I started to think more critically about where the opportunity was, and what was missing in the market, and that was what really brought me to Parachute. The idea initially was to start small, with sheets and basic essentials for the bed, but always the vision was to be this much larger home lifestyle brand, and that’s what we are today. I’m not a textile designer by trade, but I’ve had quite the education by building this brand and being involved in factories, really seeing how it all comes together.

Q: What was the process like with building Parachute?

Kaye: I talked to a lot of people. I really leaned on a network of friends and friends of friends and people who had experience, whether it was direct or indirect, and applicable to what I was doing. Really, when I decided to truly take the plunge and leave my job, the first thing I did was go to Europe and visit factories to see how these products were made. There was just something about understanding the supply chain, which was something that was so above my wheelhouse, and seeing how the products were made – how long will they take to arrive, all of that, was pretty critical for me to figure out how to get this thing up and running. So, I spent a couple of weeks visiting these factories, which was eye-opening, and I got home even more inspired and more determined to get this thing off the ground. I moved to LA, and then spent the next year figuring out how to get a website up and running, how to import goods from Italy, and how to raise some capital so that I could buy inventory – I really had to learn just about everything. Apart from the branding and the way that I wanted to communicate the narrative, I was learning everything on the go. I ended up joining an accelerator program, which was really helpful for me as a sole founder and, at that point, a team of one. I was able to learn a lot, get connected to the investor and mentor community in LA, and really get support and get an office (which was helpful, because sometimes being in your apartment when you’re having to-do lists of one million can get really lonely).

Q: What does a typical workday look like for you?

Kaye: There’s really nothing typical about my workday, but I start my mornings quite early, especially now that I have a baby. Pre-baby, I worked out every morning, now I try to work out at least two or three times a week when I have the support and can get out of the house. I try to get to the office by 9 or 10, and by the time I’ve arrived, I’ve already gone through emails, been sure to respond to anything pressing, assessed what my schedule looks like for the day so I can map out when I’m going to continue to look at emails or find time to chat with people I need to chat with to ensure things are moving along. Then, a number of meetings, which can range from anything about whether it’s a product for the product team to review, new design samples, meeting with our executive team to talk about business objectives and our roadmap, reviewing UI for new design – we’re looking for a new design framework for our site – I mean, really no day is the same. That’s what makes it so fun. But, I do try to make sure that I am connecting with folks on the team, that I am present in the office, that I’m accessible, and that I’m just really present just period while I’m at work so when I can get home that I can be present while I’m at home. That’s been my biggest shift post-baby.

Q: What’s your favorite thing about entrepreneurship and your job?

Kaye: I’ve always really been happiest professionally when I can actually make an impact. Of course, I can make an impact within the organization, but we also as a brand are making an impact, and for me, that’s been really rewarding and inspiring and keeps me so motivated. Creating products that people really love and use, and really can change their lives – as silly as it sounds, having a great night of sleep is so important – and being part of that experience, and people being part of creating an environment that’s welcoming and nurturing and for customers and their home is something that’s just really amazing. That part never gets old, and it always makes me feel so grateful that I get to do something that I love that also helps others and adds value into other people’s lives. Also, just working with the team. The Parachute team is so smart and so creative and constantly pushes me to grow as a person too, and I’m truly happy to pull up to our office every day knowing I get to work alongside people that I really admire.

Q: To what do you credit your success?

Kaye: I’ve been pretty resilient just as a human, and that has definitely been really helpful. Growing a business is hard, and I’ve consistently and continued to hear ‘no’ more often than I hear yes in so many ways, so really being able to show up every day and fight through challenging moments and let those challenges be things that fire me up and keep me engaged. It’s hard. It’s not easy, and I think that’s a big part of it. Also, being really open to learning. So much of building a business is solving problems, and I like to view that more as embracing opportunities. You’re constantly putting out fires, and that’s not fun for some people, and I find it to be extremely exciting.

Q: How do you balance work, life, and such a busy schedule?

Kaye: I think the biggest thing is just being able to ask for help. I don’t do it all myself, and I delegate at work. I’m fortunate to have the support of family and my husband’s family nearby. Learning how to really ask for help and make sure that I prioritize myself so that I can be the best mom and best friend and best leader and all of that is really important. I have to remind myself constantly to do that, but definitely not doing it all is the best way to do it all, in many ways.

Q: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned as an entrepreneur?

Kaye: There’s no such thing as perfection. Don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s always about moving forward, and so anything that is going to get in your way of progress and moving forward is not going to serve you, and you can be your own worst enemy in so many ways. For me, it’s all about momentum, it’s all about continuing to move forward, it’s all about letting go of the idea that things have to be one way in order for it to be the right way, and just continuing to move.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

Kaye: Do it, or don’t. It’s not easy, and I learned early on that to build a brand or have a business, it has to be your priority. Spend time thinking about what you want and what you’re really looking for. Make sure that you’re doing something that feels different or unique or is a new spin on something that’s been done before. Don’t sweat the small stuff – don’t get in your way, get out of your way and focus on moving forward. There’s nothing that has been more transformative in my life, so I think, go for it. But if it’s not for you… it’s not for everybody.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Parachute’s Ariel Kaye lives her dream while pursuing interior design.