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Consumer

Ariel Kaye

Founder, Parachute Home

“Let’s set the record straight: Thread count doesn’t matter,” sighs Parachute Home founder Ariel Kaye. “It’s a marketing gimmick.”

This is just one of the discoveries 32-year-old Kaye made when, while working as an account planner at Digitas, she spent free hours obsessively researching bedding. Dissatisfied with her own sheets and uninspired by her day job, she wanted to know why a product that spends (hopefully) eight hours against our skin gets so little attention.

“Most people can’t even name their sheets’ brand—at most they’ll remember the store where they bought them,” Kaye continues. “It seemed like a golden opportunity to reinvent a product everyone needs, but which inspires no brand loyalty whatsoever.”

So, she quit her job in 2013—sooner than she would have “in retrospect.” (Gotta love those paychecks.) Kaye’s dream? A direct-to-consumer, e-commerce business that approached home goods the way then-newcomer Warby Parker approached glasses. Basically, bedding that was chic, durable and affordable.

In this article, Kaye reveals how she’s raised $10M in funding to date (and tells you how to do the same).

Direct to consumer bedding for the Millennial set

Sounds like you had a pretty nice job at Digitas. Why quit? Did you HATE the 9-5 life?
“Unlike a lot of other entrepreneurs, I wasn’t miserable in my ‘prior’ life—but I had reached an impasse. Advertising people can empathize: You pour your heart into creating and pitching this work, but only a tiny fragment sees the light of day… and what does has passed through so many hands, it barely resembles the idea you had in the first place. I don’t mind long hours and hard work, but I need to see the results of my actions.”

Say… results in the form of tangible bedding.
“I’ve always been into interior design—even wrote a blog about it back in the day. But suddenly I was spending my spare time researching bedding like a creep. I realized: There’s no brand loyalty in the category—no interaction beyond the point of purchase. That felt like an opportunity.”

What else did you want to disrupt about the industry?
“For one, I wanted to dispel the idea that thread count is an indicator of quality, because it’s not. But I was also determined to create a product filling the middle ground between Bed, Bath & Beyond and high end brands like Frette… And if I could do away with synthetics and toxins in the process, all the better.”

Conceiving the idea.

There's no brand loyalty in the category—no interaction beyond the point of purchase.”
I was... determined to create a product filling the middle ground between Bed, Bath & Beyond and high end brands like Frette.”

Did you quit Digitas right away?
“Not right away, but almost. In retrospect, I probably should have waited another six months. But I had this idea that it was going to be so easy to raise money—that I would raise $100k in say, three months. I’d watched other startups do it, but it proved much more difficult than I’d expected.”

Why do you think it was so difficult for you to raise money?
“Fundraising was the most humbling experience of my life and I’m not going to sugarcoat it. Sometimes it takes 100 meetings before your first yes, or a deal falls apart at the last second. There were days when I couldn’t get out of bed because I genuinely thought Parachute wasn’t going to happen. It’s most difficult for first time founders—especially when you’re pre-product and have no customers.”

Were there any pivots that made your pitch more effective?
“I’m from Los Angeles; my company’s from Los Angeles. So, when pitching, I tried to give off this laid back, Venice Beach vibe. And I got feedback that it made investors question my abilities as a founder. Then one time I was stuck doing inventory and rushed in late to a meeting with a potential investor—frazzled, mind everywhere. And even though my pitch was all over the place, the investor saw my dedication and gave us money. Fundraising is a whole song and dance, but don’t play it cool. The best advice I’ve gotten and the best advice I can give is: No one can sell your company but you.”

Quitting the day job.

I probably should have waited another six months [to quit my job]. But I had this idea that it was going to be so easy to raise money.”
The best advice I've gotten and the best advice I can give is: No one can sell your company but you.”

So, what did you do?
First, I joined an accelerator, Launchpad, which immediately expanded my network. (Side note: It also gave me a place to work with other entrepreneurs where I didn’t feel like a freak sitting there eating 4AM snacks over my laptop.) But, more importantly, the accelerator helped grow my network… Another helpful thing is that once you get one big investor involved, a lot of other deals will fall into place.”

Any other advice on raising capital?
“Actually stay in touch with people. You’ll have a million meetings where people say, ‘This isn’t a fit for us right now, but keep us in the loop.’ Well, I actually kept them in the loop—would follow up and say this is where we are now, these are the new products we’re launching. And more than a few times those people have ended up investing.”

Any other other last piece of advice? (We’re totally annoying, but you just raised $10M!!!)
“Don’t be afraid to admit when you don’t know something. There were times in meetings, often with investors, where I’d be asked a question I couldn’t answer and would start scrambling all over the place, spouting out gibberish that didn’t mean anything. All you have to do is smile, say you don’t know and offer to get back to them. Trust me: It looks better when you’re honest.”

Raising dat dough.

In case you can’t tell from the photos above, Parachute has expanded beyond bedding in the world bath, laundry, decor and plenty of other goodies. Feel free to visit their website for purchase, or stalk Ariel via Twitter for more of her stellar entrepreneurial advice. She’s lucky we don’t have her cell number…

How to Get Involved.

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