Meet VIPER, the Hollywood Hospitality Agency From Female Entrepreneurs – The Hollywood Reporter

The ecosystem of entertainment industry events, especially behind the scenes, is difficult to navigate, clouded by smoke, mirrors, money and status. Former Bolthouse Productions interns Kelsi Kitchener and VIPER (VIP Event Relations) co-founders Celeste Durve saw through the lights and the fog and made the decision to bank on their vision for an accomplished team of young women to deliver bespoke hospitality form agency – focused on brand engagement and guest experience – without having to apologize for their age or looks.

Relatively quickly, the duo became a fixture in Hollywood’s hospitality industry, garnering accounts including the Bootsy Bellows Lounge and SoFi Stadium Nylon’s Coachella party, has headlined luxury events for HBO, Amazon, Hulu, Fendi and Nars and has worked with the likes of Kanye “Ye” West, Drake, Beyoncé, Kim Kardashian and Miley Cyrus.

Also Read :  Oct. 10 - NextCycle business competition

The offshoot of the duo Smart is sexya YouTube channel and podcast of the same name, now in its second season, offers a glimpse into the lives of Durve and Kitchener as they navigate entrepreneurship and dating and discuss topics from self-development to business to spirituality, including an occasional solo episode or guest interview.

Also Read :  Trinbago 2023 Commonwealth Youth Games on mission to change lives for the better

“Celeste and I were always put on the front door to check in for events, we had the personalities that you would definitely have [pick] to greet people. So we could really see what was needed on that front door,” Kitchener explains of her time as interns, who met in late 2014 in the Hollywood party planning industry. She and Durve both noted that the lack of a dedicated team and efficient tools impacted guests’ check-in experience upon arrival at key industry events, as well as the overall tone of the night. “We got together and thought: “There has to be a better system for that that we can easily build.” Bring a group of girls, our own friends, or people we know and streamline this whole process.”

Also Read :  A Swedish Entrepreneur Once Donated $1.2 Million Just to Meet MrBeast

So the two friends and entrepreneurs followed their intuition that improvements are possible and launched VIPER in the spring of 2016 when Kitchener was 24 and Durve was 20.

“We were able to take over a process that would normally be carried out by a PA or an intern. And put the ‘VIPER process’ on this front door,” says Kitchener.

VIPER Hospitality Group

Courtesy of Nick Wilkinson

Part of their approach to improving the guest check-in experience at the door was to modernize the now-archaic style of crossing out names with highlighter, paper, and clipboard. The duo brought technology like iPads, new software and hotspots to run WiFi, and found things got easier – and the events more successful – as a result.

“When you’re moving that fast, especially at work events where the guest list is over 2,000 people, you can come across a lot of things, like you’re constantly adding names to a guest list during an event, but it can’t be synced across the board . So that’s really where we started: we looked at the front door as a whole. [Asking] Where can we do this better and more efficiently for clients who are spending millions of dollars on an event,” says Kitchener, adding, “Your first impression sets the tone for the entire event and for the guest experience throughout the event . So when we started VIPER, it was really important for us to make sure we create a seamless experience from the start – so that the guest never got frustrated upon entering and enjoyed their experience.”

In summary, VIPER provides front-of-house logistics and operations for events. They have a staff of independent contractors, about 120 young women (along with a management team of 13) who all have a certain aesthetic that wouldn’t be an uncommon sight at an industry party or in the private section of a club (read: they’re good – dressed and with good make-up), who not only occupy events, but are also available as brand ambassadors and mood models.

“We found that people were just a lot more excited to talk to these beautiful, smart girls and give their information — we collect guest data on-site on behalf of our clients — than they were with the men who own the business,” says Durve . “That’s the only thing women can have in this world: It’s more exciting to talk to us. So we started playing on it.”

Earlier this year, VIPER handled 11 events over Super Bowl weekend (with a rare four in one night requiring a crew of 130 on deck). Two of these were for Revolve and h.wood’s “Homecoming Weekend” Super Bowl parties, which welcomed (and set tables for $40,000 to $100,000 sold).

VIPER Hospitality Group

Courtesy of Nick Wilkinson

This fall, VIPER continues its presence at SoFi Stadium, one of the retainer clients advising Durve and Kitchener on the VIP guest experience; The group manages the Bootsy Bellows pitchside lounge for every Rams home game and concert, providing all staffing from host to bottle service. And next, starting October 6th, VIPER will be curating guest experiences for some participating designers at LA Fashion Week.

“[Consulting] is one of our favorite things to do because we get to be really creative and speak our minds, which is so unique because Kelsi and I are sitting at the most unique vantage point in the nightlife industry,” says Durve. “I always tell my clients that if you work with a nightclub company or someone who owns restaurants or hotels, they only work with their own brands. But since Kelsi and I focus on the guest experience, we collaborate [different] Brands and celebrities across the board, which really broadens our view of the industry. It expands our network, it expands our knowledge. We are not limited to just one industry.”

The jump from what the duo considered a side business to a serious hospitality agency hasn’t necessarily been a straight line. Says Durve: “It wasn’t easy. We were super young but I think being so young and being a bit naïve about what it takes was actually so beneficial to us because we just chose to move on. We really just did things – they didn’t have to be perfect. We both just decided to make this sacrifice to make a long-term commitment to it. So if we got money from events, we would put it all back into the business and reinvest it.”

Durve says there was initial skepticism about her venture (critics predicted it would take three months), noting that “the nightlife is such a man’s world, women just didn’t have a place in it.”

“You could be a bottle servant or you could come in with a promoter,” she says. “But that’s really where it ended for you.” In the beginning, Durve and Kitchener, who often work 12- to 14-hour days, closed events at 2 a.m. and sat in a diner until the wee hours strategizing how to improve their business. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, they had to go back to the drawing board and decided to expand their team’s services: cocktail service, consulting, brand ambassadors and the like.

“We didn’t take salaries for four years and instead paid our team very competitively because it’s important to us that women also earn good money in this industry,” says Durve. “Because we did that, they’re happier at work now… Their on-site energy is really good, and so customers actually get a better product.” The company’s employee retention rate is high: Many of the women who work for VIPER and can always be seen in the outfits of the “VIPER Black” brand have been with Durve and Kitchener for about five years.

The company is also relatively racially diverse, which is still considered unique in the Los Angeles luxury lounge and club world. “As the VIPER brand grew, we started deciding what’s cool,” says Kitchener. “We all knew how bad racism is in this Hollywood nightlife. But now when you enter a VIPER door, the whole team is diverse. We actually reversed that [trend]which is really amazing and important.”

Kelsi Kitchener and Celeste Durve from VIPER Hospitality Group

Courtesy of Danielle Hans

Although the company has no office space, it does have a content studio for filming and a number of other projects. Recently, VIPER launched its own line of business offering brand casting, video and photo shoots, and content creation with their own talents.

Interestingly, and perhaps ironically, Durve and Kitchener aren’t really interested in socializing in LA nightlife. “As two young girls, we didn’t have the luxury of being party girls and running a business at the same time,” says Kitchener. Her idea of ​​a fun night out is dinner and drinks at one of her favorite restaurants in town: Pace, Marvin, Gjelina or Sunset Tower Bar.