Today’s Biz Ladies Profile comes from Ariel Kaye of the bedding company, Parachute. After coming upon the bedding of her dreams while traveling through the Amalfi Coast in Italy, Ariel went on an extensive search to locate the sheets she had such blissful sleep on. When she came up empty-handed, she decided to take matters into her own hands and create a line of quality bedding at an affordable price. Today she shares a bit about her path to founding her own business, building her brand from the ground up and sharing her vision with the public. Thanks for giving us this glimpse into your career journey, Ariel! —Stephanie
Read the full interview after the jump…
Why did you decide to start your own business?
I’ve always followed an unconventional path. My professional career has been guided by a sense of curiosity that kept me on a perpetual hunt for new environments where I could make true impact. Both of my parents have their own businesses, and I think that always made me realize I didn’t have to climb the corporate ladder to be successful. It wasn’t until I started working at an advertising agency that I found myself in a role that I really connected with and that satiated my creative spirit. A few years in, I started considering taking my brand-building experience to the next level: building my own brand from the ground up. I’ve been obsessed with home decor and interior design for as long as I can remember, so when it came time to think about starting my own company, it was a natural fit. Parachute was partially inspired by my travels in Italy, but also from my own terrible experience buying bedding. You spend 1/3 of your life in bed, and your sleep experience impacts every aspect of your life, yet buying sheets is such a confusing and frustrating process. I knew it could be done better.
When you first decided to start your own business, how did you define what your business would be?
My vision for Parachute was largely defined by my desire to improve the terrible experiences I’ve had buying bedding. The fact that most people make their purchase decision based on thread count, which is largely a marketing ploy, was enough fodder to get me thinking about what we could do to create a better experience – one that instills confidence and excitement in our customers. Ultimately, what we strive to do best is deliver the highest quality bedding at an accessible price. We’re all about quality and simplicity – I like to call us a luxury bedding basics brand. Parachute introduces sensible options and a modern design, so that buying bedding can be enjoyable! Our goal is to give people the best sleep possible and to create a business that connects with our customers.
Another defining aspect of our business is our partnership with Nothing But Nets. From inception, creating a socially responsible business was imperative to me. Parachute delivers great sleep for our customers, and in turn, provides safe sleep to families in Africa, by sending life-saving malaria nets to those in need. Every 60 seconds a child dies from malaria – we are thrilled to be making a positive impact to change that staggering statistic.
What was the best piece of business advice you were given when you were starting off?
Sometimes the simplest advice is the hardest to follow or takes the longest to internalize. For me, this was embodied in five simple words repeated constantly by one of my mentors: “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” When you are so deeply, emotionally invested in building something, it’s challenging to do anything but obsess over every mistake, delay or piece of criticism. You have to be focused, resilient and have a sense of humor. When you don’t sweat the small stuff, you can focus on the present, the progress you are making, and keep moving forward.
With that said, there is nothing more valuable than a strong support system. Especially when you are launching a business by yourself. I’m so lucky to have a family full of cheerleaders, friends who have shown patience and unwavering support, and mentors who listen, share tactical advice and just get how hard this process can be. There will always be moments of doubt, especially at the beginning stages, and having a community makes all the difference.
What was the most difficult part of starting your business?
Almost everything is difficult when you are starting your own business, especially as a first-time entrepreneur building a business alone. I quickly learned that raising money to launch a product-based e-commerce company presents an interesting catch-22. You need capital to develop a product and bring it to market, but investors often want to see real traction and revenue before giving you capital. I spent months having great meetings with potential investors that all ended with the same line, “I really like what you’re doing, but you’re still too early.” I heard countless no’s before I heard a yes. I had to get really good at shaking off the disappointment (easier said then done) and moving forward. There was no other option for me; I wasn’t going to give up. It can be so hard to find that person who will take a leap of faith and give you the resources you need to take things to the next level, but when you do (and you can!), it’s all worth it.
Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned in running a business?
I made my first hire almost a year after I started this business. During that year, I learned a lot about myself – that never ends. These realizations have been imperative to the success of our business. You have to know your weaknesses and hire the right people to complement your strengths. Building the right team is such an exciting part of the process – I’m inspired and impressed every day by our team. I learn so much from each of them!
Another good lesson is that everything will take longer than you think it should or expect it to. Sometimes this is extremely frustrating. Always be persistent, but also be patient.
Can you name a moment of failure in your business experiences?
There are so many unknowns when starting a business. Like many new business owners, I decided to err on the side of caution and only produced a limited run of inventory for our launch. Our projections were extremely conservative, and we ended up selling out of certain bedding sets very, very quickly – in our first weekend. Not being able to anticipate demand and realizing that we couldn’t fulfill orders so early on felt like a huge failure. On the flip side, we’ve used this experience to connect and communicate directly with our customers – we’re a small team and like to call our customers directly. It’s refreshing. I firmly believe that exceptional customer service is equally as important as delivering a high quality product.
Can you name your greatest success in your business experiences?
It has been such a dream to actualize this vision. Launching Parachute has been the hardest and most rewarding experience of my life – and we’ve only just begun. The process of building a business is a completely transformative experience. Each day that I get to do what I love, work with people who inspire me, and continue building this brand is a great success.
Receiving an email from a happy customer was a pretty incredible moment. Each message, tweet or instagram picture makes my heart swell so much you’d think it could explode!
The Parachute team recently moved into our first office space, a beautiful beach bungalow in Venice just steps away from the sand. Walking through those doors is a daily reminder of how far we’ve come in such a short time. I’m so, so grateful.
What business books/resources (if any) would you recommend to someone starting a creative business of their own?
In my opinion, more important than books is figuring out how to disconnect and clear your head. Find an activity that forces you to put your phone down and step away from email. Make an effort to do this every day. It’s so important to recharge and to take space – for me this is yoga.
In your opinion, what are the top three things someone should consider before starting their own business?
1. What problem are you solving? I think this question can be interpreted in a number of ways – but ultimately it’s important to consider what type of impact you are looking to make. And, if it’s already being done really well, how are you doing it differently?
2. Are you in it for the right reasons? 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. It’s not for everyone, but if it’s for you, then absolutely do it, and don’t look back!
3. Dream big!