15 Minutes with Ariel KayeAuthor:Lindsey Shook
Building a design industry empire is no doubt challenging, but Ariel Kaye makes it look easy. During a successful stint as an advertising and brand executive, Kaye gained an astute skill set for understanding where opportunity exists. In came Parachute, a lifestyle-driven home brand that produces sustainable bedding and goods. Now with over 30 retail stores slated to be open by the end of this year and a robust e-commerce business, Parachute has defied the assumption that the retail industry is dead. We wanted to know more about how Kaye got here and where she is going.
-What inspired you to launch the business with a focus on bedding? Before launching Parachute,
I spent a decade working in advertising and brand development in New York. I was also a huge design enthusiast with an interior design blog, and I frequently helped friends and family decorate their homes. I spent a good amount of time browsing the aisles and realized much was left to be desired when it came to home textiles we use daily.
Specifically with bedding, I noticed a major gap in the market. I couldn’t find a single brand that was affordable and easy to buy. What I found was the same plastic-wrapped brandless products covered in toxic chemicals and labeled with various marketing gimmicks like “thread count” or “wrinkle resistant.” The other big thing I realized was that friends could tell me the store where they begrudgingly bought their sheets, but no one could tell me the brand that they were excited to purchase. As someone who spent a decade building brands and meaningful relationships between brands and customers, I recognized a true business opportunity. In 2014, I launched Parachute as an online-only, direct-to-consumer company focused on high-quality sheets, duvet covers and pillowcases that would bring comfort into your home.
-Owning a retail business in this market presents challenges. What do you think is key to Parachute’s success? I’ve always seen significant opportunity in brick- and-mortar retail and the power of creating an experience to bring our brand to life and build deeper relationships with our customers and the communities we are in. We’re continuing to expand our retail presence across the U.S. Our stores are set up to look more like homes rather than storefronts, offering design inspiration and allowing customers to touch, feel and engage with products, which helps them purchase with tremendous confidence—and often find more than they even came in to buy! We also see an amazing halo effect in cities where we open stores and see our conversion rate online increase measurably in
areas where we have stores. This unique approach is key to our retail success.
–Share more about the new furniture line that is out now! We launched our first furniture collection with upholstered bed frames, which seemed appropriate given we are known for our textiles. Since our launch, we’ve expanded our furniture offerings with thoughtful finishing touches for the bedroom and beyond. The Bluff nightstands and benches are inspired by the beauty of our California home, from the curves of Laurel Canyon to the dunes of the Mojave.
-What is one piece of advice you would give female entrepreneurs who wish to start a product company? Ask for help and talk to everyone. You never know who is going to point you in the right direction or make an important introduction that could have a major impact on your business. Being an entrepreneur can feel very isolating and lonely. It’s imperative to seek out a network of other entrepreneurs who understand the processes, the nuances and the pressure that we so often
feel. There are a lot of highs and lows and being able to share your experiences and hear about others has been a lifeline for me! You have to be your own biggest advocate.
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