In TZR’s franchise Scare-Free Sundays, industry leaders discuss the all-too-common weekend anxiety (aka Sunday Scaries) that can rob one of the relaxation and rest they so desperately need to properly take on the week ahead. Here, we sit down with Ariel Kaye, founder of Parachute, for her tips on how to keep work stress at bay.
Way back in 2014, advertising executive Ariel Kaye noticed a big hole in the lifestyle space. An avid fan of home interiors and decor, she had difficulty finding high-quality luxury bedding that was reasonably priced and, most importantly, comfortable. In her personal shopping experiences it seemed one of these attributes was always missing. “There had to be a way to have better quality products,” says Kaye to TZR. And in the midst of this conundrum, Parachute was born.
Kaye created the small direct-to-consumer label that specializes in premium bedding designed in a clean, minimalist, and modern aesthetic. In launching her new venture, the fledgling business owner had no idea what to expect or the challenges that would face her in this uncharted territory. “I had so much passion around the idea and so much excitement around the opportunity, but I had no experience actually getting a product to market — I really didn't know what I was doing,” she says. “[...] I think being self-aware about what I was good at and where I needed to bring on other people who were experts and who really helped drive the ship was definitely key. But I was learning as I was going.”
It seems the long days, sleep-less nights, and persistent pavement pounding has paid off. Fast-forward nearly a decade later, and Parachute has evolved into a full-blown lifestyle empire, adding furniture, clothing, home essentials, and mattresses to its lineup, not to mention over 25 brick-and-mortar stores across the U.S. Not too shabby for a small bedding brand, right?
At this point, you’d think Kaye’s stress-filled days of brand-building would be well behind her. But the founder and mother of two explains that a rapidly growing company brings fresh challenges each day, and navigating those stressors never really ends. “I think when you start a business and then as you scale, you're always going after these milestones. It's like you want to get to this much of revenue, you want to open this store, you want to do that, and they just keep getting bigger and harder,” she explains. “I would say, now, there’s the ever-changing marketing landscape, acquiring new customers in light of it, managing hundreds of people and employees and doing it in a relatively remote environment since we're not all in one place, trying to just push to evolve and stay really focused on the customer.”
So how does one find some semblance of balance or even time to recharge and take a breath? Ahead, Kaye explains her strategy for staying inspired, focused, and rested in the midst of a thriving career.
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Can you walk TZR readers through a typical work day/week? Do you allow yourself days off?
Well, my days start pretty early. I've got two toddlers at home, so I've got a four-year-old and a two-year-old and I'm up as soon as they are. And they are very demanding, as most toddlers are. So my mornings are really dedicated to getting them fed, entertaining them, maintaining chaos, and just keeping those little dictators happy.
And then as I transition into focusing on work, my days look different every day. I mean, some days I'm in back-to-back meetings, focusing on business objectives and strategy and thinking about how we're going to achieve our goal, where our roadblocks are, what we're coming up against. Are we hitting budget? Are we hitting plan? How's our inventory looking? I’m meeting with key stakeholders to really discuss how things are going. I spend a lot of time, because I'm really passionate about our physical product and our creative, with our chief commercial officer, our chief creative officer, as well as our VP of brand and creative, thinking about campaign ideas and new product launches and collaborations and how we're really going to tell our story. I would say that that's where I gravitate towards most. That's where my experience is and that's where I feel I have the most leverage.
I try to make sure that I'm spending time also just fulfilling my own creative curiosities and staying inspired, staying tuned into what's happening as far as trends go and what's happening in the industry, and making sure that I'm pushing myself to always learn and grow as a leader and as a tastemaker within the home community so that we're positioned well.
Do you allow yourself days off? What does that look like for you?
I was just talking to a founder the other day who's in earlier stages of building her brand — she's part of our mentorship program. But I was saying how very hard it was for me to take days off in the early days. I wanted to be connected to everything, every decision, every conversation. I didn't want to miss anything. Now I see how valuable taking time off is for me personally, as a way to refresh and just get reconnected and inspired and sleep and do all of these things.
But I also think it's so important for the team to have autonomy to be able to make decisions without my input. I found, especially in the early days, when I got comfortable taking time off I saw the business thrive and our team thrive in a way that was really rewarding. It's like you don't want to make yourself scarce or invaluable, but you also do in some ways. I think as a leader, if you can surround yourself with people that are smarter than you and more talented and experts in their field, I mean, everyone gains and everyone benefits.
What are some common or typical anxieties or concerns you face ahead of a busy work week?
I think for me, I feel a lot of pressure when the business is... if we've had a hard week, we need a revenue rise or we're going softer to plan, or if things aren't working or if there's a challenge with an employee, or if something's happening contextually in the world. I feel the pressure very singularly. I take everything very personally and feel a lot of weight when things aren't going well or when there's a problem or challenge or any sort of stressors that impact the business.
I also want to protect our team from any of that. And so I find myself carrying that burden in a way that can definitely feel intense and extreme. It's something that I'm actively working on and have been working on. But yeah, I mean, I try to really identify when I'm feeling those feelings and acknowledge them and allow myself to process and feel and know it's OK to be anxious or stressed and then give myself some space to feel and then try to, as soon as possible, shift to what can I do to help me resolve, or what can I do to help me navigate those feelings.
How have you/do you combat those types of intrusive thoughts?
Whether it's literally getting into bed and taking a nap, watching reality TV just to clear my mind, going on a walk, going to hot yoga, playing with my kids, putting my phone away and just not checking in for a bit, taking a bath. I mean, there's a lot of things that I found — getting a massage, a facial — just things that allow me to connect with my body and breath and just rest tend to be really helpful in those moments. But yeah, I mean this business, I care so much about the business and our customers and the whole end-to-end experience and our team that it's hard for me to say... I get worked up and I get carried away sometimes in those emotions because that's just who I am as a person.
Speaking of TV, what programming allows you some much-needed escape?
Love Island. It just never ends. What other series has 100 episodes? It’s just addictive. I think for me, I'm pretty exhausted most of the time, and so I find that shows that require more thought [don’t always work for me in that state]. I can be in a general state of not entirely conscious and watching reality TV helps.
What does your Sunday evening routine look like? Do you do anything in particular to mentally prepare yourself for the week ahead?
I mean, I try not to work on the weekends. I definitely will spend time clearing my inbox, looking ahead of what I have for the week, making sure that I'm scheduling in workouts if I know that I have a really busy day, putting that hold on my calendar so that I don't miss it, thinking about how I can best show up for my team and for myself. And so there's definitely things that I will try to do in anticipation of the week just to get my bearings, but I really do try to make the weekends about me and my family and friends and tuning out of it when I can.
Do you have any strict rules you abide by during the weekends or OOO days to avoid working or thinking about work?
I'm guilty of, during the weekdays, picking up my phone when I wake up and looking through emails, so I try to make sure that at least on the weekends my phone usage and email does not happen before noon. I really give myself the time and place to just be. I know that people will text me if they need to reach me, if there's an emergency.
I try to make sure Sunday evenings are definitely a big family dinner. I try not to over-plan for the weekend so that I can be a little bit more spontaneous and just enjoy the moment without having to think about all the things that need to get done or places we need to go. One of my favorite things that's become pretty weekly is, with a few other friends, we'll do an early Sunday dinner with a bunch of kids and families, and that's just a really nice way to end the weekend and also just have a little bit of fun before gearing up for the week.
When do your Sunday Scaries creep in? What are they like?
I see a lot of association with checking my email and digging into what's going on and stress creeping in. All of a sudden, I'll look at my phone and I've got 800 emails that need to be scanned through, and it's hard not to associate that with just anxiety. It feels like I looked away for a minute and all of a sudden I have to climb a mountain. But yeah, I think the evenings can tend to be a time where anxiety creeps in, it's that just anticipation of what's to come and how we're going to get through another week. I would say it's the late afternoon, early evening zone where things can start to derail a little bit.
How do you overcome them?
I definitely try to connect to my breath. That's something that has been a really big focus for me, I would say for about the past year. Someone once told me that when you're at home or going anywhere, look at doorways as a time to take a deep, big breath in and a big breath out just as a reset. As you move in and out of rooms, you can take that moment [for yourself]. And I try to practice that, especially when I'm feeling more stressful, it is just a reminder.
In the moments where things are starting to feel really stressful or overwhelming, that's when I'll say, "OK, I need to step away from whatever I'm doing with the kids and the family, and I'm going to go take a walk. I'm going to go get a massage, I'm going to just do something for me." Because in those moments when anxiety or stress is really at that bubbling up point, it's hard for me to focus on anything else. And so for me to be a good mom, for me to be present for my kids, I need to take a beat. And so I'll do my best to find an outlet that allows me to really just get back to a good healthy zone.
Any secret power product/practice/mechanism you call upon?
So since I've had kids and really in the last two years I've actually been prioritizing trips with friends, girlfriends, and a crew of some other female founders. We’ve started to regularly, once a quarter, go on an overnight or a few nights to Mexico or something like that, where it feels like a great way to have the opportunity to talk about work with people that really get it, and then also just decompress because we all need that. I've got a similar mom crew that I've been traveling with more often, but my trips have been really focused on quality time with my girlfriends.
Do you have anything coming up that you’re planning?
I'm actually going to do The Ranch Italy in June! And I'm doing that by myself, which I'm very excited about. It's like a solo moment. Last year, I did a week-long retreat by myself, and I decided that once a year I would do a solo trip that was focused on myself, just a way to really disconnect and be more health and mindfulness focused versus lots of late nights, so this year I'm doing The Ranch. It'll be a nice way to just have some me time, process thoughts, write a lot, read a lot, and hopefully sleep.