Meet VIPER, Hollywood’s Hospitality Agency for Women Entrepreneurs – The Hollywood Reporter

The ecosystem of entertainment industry events, particularly behind the scenes, is complicated to navigate, clouded by smoke, mirrors, money and status. Kelsi Kitchener and Celeste Durve, former Bolthouse Productions interns, co-founders of VIPER (VIP Event Relations), saw through the lights and the fog, and made the decision to go with their vision of a smart team of young women to form a tailored hospitality. agency, focused on brand engagement and guest experience, without having to apologize for their age or their appearance.

Relatively quickly, the duo became an integral part of the Hollywood hospitality industry, amassing accounts including SoFi Stadium’s Bootsy Bellows lounge and Nylon’s of Coachella, managing luxury events for HBO, Amazon, Hulu, Fendi and Nars, and working with the likes of Kanye “Ye” West, Drake, Beyoncé, Kim Kardashian and Miley Cyrus.

The duo offspring offer smart is sexya YouTube channel and podcast of the same name, now in its second season, is an inside look at the lives of Durve and Kitchener as they navigate entrepreneurship and dating, discussing topics ranging from personal development to business and life. spirituality, with an occasional solo. episode or guest interview.

“Celeste and I were always put in the front door for event registration, we had the personalities that definitely [pick] to greet people. So we got really good at seeing what was needed at that front door,” Kitchener explains of their time as interns who met in late 2014 in the Hollywood party planning business. Both she and Durve noted that the lack of a dedicated team and efficient tools affected guest check-in experiences as they arrived at major industry events, as well as the overall tone of the evening. “We got together and thought: “There has to be a better system for this that we can easily create.” Bring a group of girls, our own friends or people we know, and it streamlines this whole process.”

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

“We were able to take on a process that was usually handled by a PA or an intern. And he marked that front door with the ‘VIPER process,’” says Kitchener.

VIPER Hospitality Group

Courtesy of Nick Wilkinson

Part of his approach to improving the guest check-in experience at the door was to modernize the now archaic style of crossing out names with a highlighter, paper, and clipboard. The duo incorporated technology like iPads, new software, and hotspots to run Wi-Fi from, and found that things were getting easier and events more successful as a result.

“When you move so fast, especially at work events where the guest list is over 2,000 people, there are a lot of things you can run into, like constantly adding names to a guest list during an event, but that can it won’t sync across the board. So that’s where we really start: taking a look at the front door as a whole. [Asking] Where can we make this better and more efficient for clients who spend millions of dollars at an event? Kitchener says, adding, “Your first impression sets the tone for the entire event and the guest experience throughout. the event. So making sure that we were creating a seamless experience from the start, so that the guest would never feel frustrated walking in and enjoy the experience from them, was very important to us when starting VIPER.”

In short, VIPER offers logistics and customer service operations for events. They’re staffed by independent contractors, some 120 young women (along with a 13-person management team) who have a certain aesthetic you wouldn’t be uncommon to see at an industry party or the private section of a club (read: they are well-dressed and well-made-up), who not only cater events, but are also available to work as brand ambassadors and ambient models.

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

Earlier this year, VIPER handled 11 events over Super Bowl weekend (with a rare four-in-one night, which required a team of 130 on-deck crew members). Two of them were for Revolve and h.wood’s “Homecoming Weekend” Super Bowl parties, which welcomed A-list names like Drake, Adele, Kendall Jenner, Megan Thee Stallion and Justin Bieber (and the tables were they sold for $40-$100K).

VIPER Hospitality Group

Courtesy of Nick Wilkinson

This fall, VIPER continues its presence at SoFi Stadium, one of the regular clients that Durve and Kitchener consult about the VIP guest experience; the group runs the Bootsy Bellows Ballroom next to the field for every Rams home game and concert, and is staffed with everything from hosts to bottle service. And then VIPER will curate guest experiences for select participating designers at LA Fashion Week, beginning October 6.

“[Consulting] it’s one of our favorite activities because we get to be really creative and have our say, which is unique because Kelsi and I sit at the most exclusive vantage point in the nightlife industry,” says Durve. “I always tell clients, 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 work with [different] brands and celebrities across the board, which really broadens the way we look at the industry. Expand our network, expand our knowledge. We are not limited to a single sector.

The jump from what the duo thought would be just a side job and became a bona fide hospitality agency was not necessarily a straight path. Says Durve: “It wasn’t easy. We were very young, but I think being that young and being a bit naive about what it would take was actually very beneficial to us because we decided to move on. We really just operated by making things, they didn’t have to be perfect. We both decided to make that sacrifice to commit for the long term. So when we got money from the events, we put it all back into the company and reinvested it.”

Durve says skepticism about her venture was initially high (detractors predicted it would last three months), noting that “nightlife is a man’s world, women just didn’t have a place in it.”

“You could be a bottle server or you could come with a promoter,” she says. “But that was really where it ended for you.” At first, Durve and Kitchener, who often work 12-14 hour days, would close events at 2 am and sit in a restaurant late into the night, strategizing to improve their business. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, they were forced to go back to the drawing board and decided to expand the services their team offers: cocktail servers, consulting, brand ambassadors and the like.

“We take no salary for four years and instead pay our team very competitively because it’s important to us that women also make good money in this industry,” says Durve. “Because we’ve done that, they’re happier at work now… Their energy on site is really good, so customers get a better product.” The company’s employee retention rate is strong: many of the women who work for VIPER, who are always seen in the brand’s signature “VIPER black” suits, have been with Durve and Kitchener for about five years.

The company is also relatively racially diverse, which is still considered unique in the world of Los Angeles luxury clubs and lounges. “As the VIPER brand grew, we started to decide what was cool,” says Kitchener. “We all knew how bad racism was in that space of Hollywood nightlife. But now when you walk into a VIPER door, the whole team is diverse. In fact, we have reversed that [trend]which is really amazing and important.”

Kelsi Kitchener and Celeste Durve of VIPER Hospitality Group

Courtesy of Danielle Hans

Although the company doesn’t have an office space, it does have a content studio for filming and a variety of its other projects. VIPER recently launched the branch of its business that offers casting for brands, video and photo shoots, and content creation using the talents of its staff.

Interestingly, and perhaps ironically, Durve and Kitchener do not like to socialize in the Los Angeles nightlife. “As two young girls, we didn’t have the luxury of being party girls on top of running a company,” 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.

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