The Parachute Story: How Ariel Kaye Navigated Life as a Solo Founder

The Parachute Story: How Ariel Kaye Navigated Life as a Solo Founder

The Parachute Story: How Ariel Kaye Navigated Life as a Solo Founder 1600 900 33Voices

Satya Patel, a Co-Founder and Partner at Homebrew, recently wrote a post about how difficult it is to be a solo founder. 

“Building a great company is hard enough. It’s even harder to do it alone,” he shared. 

In “Startups are Hard. Don’t go at it alone,” Satya cites idea validation, pressure to perform, and skill diversity among the benefits of having a co-founder. 

More importantly, he highlights the reassurance of having a sounding board for the highs and lows of life as an entrepreneur. 

“Co-founders lie awake at night worrying about the same things as you. They’re just as committed to the mission as you. So they will challenge you, scold you and push you (and often hug you) unlike anyone else at the company can or will,” he explained. 

Whether it was finding a manufacturer or overcoming fundraising challenges, the most significant thing Ariel Kaye missed starting Parachute was having a partner to brainstorm with.

Parachute, as Ariel describes, is a luxury brand for bedding basics. The Venice Beach startup manufactures and sells three sets of Italian sheets (you can buy separates too) in bundles starting at $89; A breath of fresh air compared to quality sheets that cost upward of a thousand. 

After exposing fallacies in the bedding industry, such as sheets not actually being organic and misconceptions surrounding thread count, Ariel was confident she could deliver an honest and less fragmented experience. 

Choosing to start fresh in Los Angeles, Ariel describes her flight from New York as “a serious adrenaline rush.”

“Nothing could have stopped me at that point,” she asserted. 

Ariel’s drive was vital to surviving the early days. Working behind the scenes, she sought to make new connections in LA (joining Launchpad was very helpful!) and ensure that Parachute had the highest eco-textile certification before bringing the product to market. 

When friends asked her what she did every day, she’d say: “The better question is ‘What am I not doing?’ 

Shortly after launch, which was so successful that the sheets sold out in two days, Ariel identified her weaknesses and brought on three team members to accelerate Parachute’s growth.

Today, 13 team members are working together to make beautiful sleep a reality for everyone. 

The Parachute team works out of a two-bedroom home in Venice Beach. Groceries are delivered on Mondays for freshly cooked lunches, and they can even shower after their workouts. 

You can get a glimpse of their home here.

Despite life at Parachute sounding dreamy (Pun intended!), Ariel is hyper focused on cultivating meaningful startup culture. 

The greatest benefit of working in a small space is the ability to react quickly when issues arise. 

To solve them, now you’re really going to think it’s dreamy, the team goes on beach walks to disconnect and refocus. 

If there’s something that needs to be resolved we go after it and resolve it.

To maintain the responsiveness, Ariel’s highest goal is to be available as a founder. If a team member is stressed and needs to re-energize, she’s the first to suggest unwinding in a spin or yoga class. It’s important to her that the team knows she’s in their corner. 

“Building culture and making sure my employees are happy is what keeps me up at night. It’s what this whole thing is all about; Creating a place where people love to work,” she shared. 

Ariel prioritizes disconnecting for her team and herself. Although it may feel impossible to leave your phone behind for a 90-minute yoga class or a night out, Ariel cites “refreshing and re-energizing as important to keeping it together while you’re at work.”

“I want people to feel like they have a life and then some,” she explained.

You’re only as productive at work as you are happy.

With that in mind, Ariel’s adamant about celebrating team accomplishments. 

“After a long week or a product launch it’s great to walk away from the computer and just connect…We aren’t just coworkers who come and clock in,” she shared. 

You spend so much time at work that if you’re not having fun and enjoying it what’s the point?

With over a million dollars in sales – They’re set to triple that this year – a summer pop-up shop on Abbott Kinney and their first resort partnership with Hotel Covell in Los Feliz, it’s hard to believe Ariel struggled raising capital. 

As she shares, fundraising for an e-commerce startup is a Catch 22. Without the resources to source and manufacture the sheets, she was unable to demonstrate product market fit. 

Two years later, she’s raised $3.75 million in venture funding from Upfront Ventures, Queensbridge Venture Partners, and New York angel investor Joanne Wilson to name a few. 

Ariel cites these three lessons as game changers in her fundraising endeavors. 

1. Release your inner fire!

The most important advice Ariel received during her first year in LA is from Sam Teller, the Managing Director at Launchpad, when he shared that investors were concerned that she didn’t have the ‘fire in the belly’ characteristic to visionary founders.

A few weeks later, running late to an investor meeting, Ariel arrived carrying boxes from their storage unit. 

“I was a little bit all over the place and frazzled,” she explained. “That little bit of craziness was the tipping point.” 

This isn’t a job where playing cool works. Playing badass works.

“I internalized that. How do I really show people what’s going on inside of me; That I’m full of this excitement, and I’m not going to give up. How can people see that and feel it in a room?”

Ariel’s advice to other founders is: Sit up straighter. Look into people’s eyes longer. And bring the intensity you feel inside, out. Let them know that you’re a fighter; “A person with persistence, confidence, and a vision. If they want to be here and go with you, do it. If not, move on and find the person who is.” 

2. Practice

Whether she was pitching her parents, mentors or even going through her deck in the mirror, Ariel was adamant about always improving her pitch. She continues to work on it today.  

3. Demonstrate that you’re listening to and implementing feedback. 

“People appreciate persistence. I’d take the feedback that I got in those meetings and put it to work. Then I said ‘Hey! I’m back, and I listened.’ They have to pay attention to you,” she shared.

Citing the above Catch 22, Ariel created a Splash page, brought samples to meetings and conducted focus groups to make it clear that customers were interested in the sheets. 

She sums it up best when she says “Always be persistent, but also be patient.” 

As she urges her team to recognize and appreciate incremental progress, Ariel also shares a lesson one of her personal mentors imparted to her during the early days: Don’t sweat the small stuff. 

“It’s easy to make a very small thing so big that you stop moving forward. Like any startup, we’ve got fires to put out. I realized that the moments I was sweating the small stuff I wasn’t able to focus on other things, see progress, or cut myself a break…As long as you keep learning and improving, and make sure that things in the past don’t happen again, you’re able to resolve them faster,” she explained. 

It’s hard to make transformative changes. Working on little things adds up to the big things.

Reflecting on the six-hour flight from New York to Los Angeles and her role running Parachute today, Ariel credits each of these experiences as playing an enormous role in her personal growth. 

“I feel like I’m a completely different person. This has been the most transformative experience of my life,” she shared. 

To learn more about Ariel’s life running Parachute and how the company’s evolved since she took the leap in 2013 tune into her episode 33founders and follow her on Twitter here.

This is what you can expect: 

  • How Parachute’s uncovering misconceptions in the bedding industry 
  • How to not sweat the small stuff 
  • Simple ways to cultivate meaningful startup culture 
  • How to channel your inner fire
  • Parachute’s future projects – Including their summer pop-up on Abbot Kinney 

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