As the founder and CEO of Parachute, Ariel Kaye is setting out to revolutionize the way we sleep. Actually, make that the way we live. The Venice-based brand’s offerings of bedding, towels, robes, and décor strikes a signature SoCal balance between laid-back and luxe. And we just can’t get enough.
Give us the short story on how you got your big break in the design space.
"In 2012, I went shopping for bedding and found myself surrounded by stacks and stacks of products that all looked the same. I wanted comfortable, quality sheets, but I didn’t want to spend a fortune or settle for the cheaper options covered with synthetics and chemicals. I started to do some research. Many consumers remembered where they bought their bedding — a department store or big box retailer — but there wasn’t a brand that was connecting with customers and engaging with them past the point of purchase. I couldn’t believe there was no brand loyalty. As someone who built brands in advertising, I recognized a true business opportunity.
"I joined Launchpad, a Santa Monica-based startup accelerator, to develop this direct-to-consumer bedding concept and brand idea. I was quickly introduced to investors, mentors, and other entrepreneurs who were all extremely helpful in getting my business up and running and who continue to support me today. Soon after joining Launchpad, I received my first investment. In January 2014, Parachute officially launched with a small assortment of bedding essentials."
What’s been the most rewarding project you’ve worked on to date?
"Opening a retail space was something I had envisioned from the brand’s beginning, and bringing it to life was a major milestone and extremely rewarding. Bedding is such an intimate part of a person’s daily life, so our Showroom Store enables customers to touch the products and discover their quality firsthand. These tactile experiences are challenging to accomplish when confined to only a digital space.
"The Showroom Store allows us to meet our customers in person and to discover how they physically engage with our products. We’ve already learned so much through this face-to-face interaction, and our goal is to continually implement these findings and improve the customer experience.
"It’s also such a beautiful space. It’s extremely rewarding to see all the photos people post of it on Instagram and social media. We created a welcoming environment, and I love seeing people enjoying time in the store."
What do you love about the design space?
"There’s a phenomenal interior design movement happening here in L.A. — world class architects, artisans, decorators. It’s exciting to be a part of such a creative community. I am also very inspired by my fellow Los Angeles-based startups. It’s a small community, so supporting each other is essential. I can email a question to a friend and immediately get connected to five people willing to talk, brainstorm, and offer their support or assistance in any way. That's something for which I am grateful and happy to reciprocate.
"We also want to educate customers on proper labeling, as many misnomers surround the term 'organic.' Companies frequently manipulate the term when labeling their textiles. Fibers grown organically — but processed with toxic chemicals — may still carry the organic label. 'Wrinkle free' or 'permanent press' labels should be avoided because manufacturers treat these fabrics with formaldehyde resin, a toxic chemical. Instead, you should look for bedding that is Oeko-Tex certified, meaning no harmful chemicals or toxins are used. And yes, all of Parachute’s Bedding is Oeko-Tex certified!"
What other professions did you consider and why?
"Prior to launching Parachute, I spent ten years working in brand development and advertising in New York. During my tenure, I led strategic endeavors including product development, content, digital campaigns, and user experience with a focus on the consumer goods and luxury categories. My research yielded valuable insight to customer behavior and enabled me to better understand the consumer’s mindset, intention and motivation. If I didn’t have such a strong desire to create my own brand, I likely would have stayed in advertising. It’s a very cool and interesting business."
What advice do you have for people trying to enter the design space?
"If you’re an aspiring design entrepreneur, my advice is this: Do it and don’t look back — or don’t do it at all. Trust your instincts, because when you’re doing something you love, you can’t imagine doing anything else. Starting a business is the wildest ride imaginable. Every day is full of incredible highs and challenging lows. You’ll work tireless nights, feel overwhelming stress, and must be willing to put the company first.
"At the end of the day though, there’s nothing more rewarding than doing what you love and believe in. Our positive customer feedback makes all the hard work and sacrifices worthwhile."
Is college needed — yes or no?
"While I enjoyed college and truly discovered my passions during grad school, I think that real-world experience is the most valuable commodity in the current job market. Learning first hand how a business operates is some of the best schooling available.
"Around 2011 to 2012, I had many friends join early stage start-ups or launch their own companies. I was inspired by the all-encompassing nature of these ventures and what it meant to truly build something from the ground up. It was amazing to see their hard work and satisfaction — I think this type of experience can be more motivating than any time spent in the classroom."
What’s next for Parachute?
"We will be expanding our assortment of home essentials within the bedroom and the bathroom, and we will be introducing collections for other rooms of the house. We also recently finished developing our hospitality collection, exclusive for hotels, which will allow our customers to enjoy Parachute while traveling to their favorite destinations.
"One of the things that we’re extremely excited about is bringing a physical and experiential version of Parachute to our customers in more cities around the world through additional retail spaces and another hotel. We want to be where all of our customers are. We’re dreaming big."
See the full list of Lonny’s design disruptors here.