The ecosystem of entertainment events, especially behind the scenes, is a difficult one to navigate, obscured by smoke, mirrors, money, and status. Onetime Bolthouse Productions interns Kelsi Kitchener and Celeste Durve, co-founders of VIPER (VIP Event Relations), saw through the lights and fog, and decided to bet their vision on a group of women savvy young people to form an agency-specific hospitality – focusing on brand interactions and guest experiences – without apologizing for their age or appearance.
Relatively quickly, the duo became celebrities in Hollywood’s hospitality industry, amassing accounts including SoFi Stadium’s Bootsy Bellows Lounge and Nylon’s Coachella parties, curated luxury events for HBO, Amazon, Hulu, Fendi and Nars, and worked with the likes of Kanye “Ye” West, Drake, Beyoncé, Kim Kardashian and Miley Cyrus.
Peripheral supply of duo Smart is sexya YouTube channel and podcast of the same name, currently in its second season, is an insight into the lives of Durve and Kitchener as they navigate entrepreneurship and dating, discussing topics ranging from self-development. personal, business to spiritual, occasional solo rehearsals or guest interviews.
“Celeste and I are always at the front door to check in for events, we have personalities that you are sure to love. [pick] to greet everyone. So we were really good at seeing what was needed at the front door,” explains Kitchener of the time they were interns who met in late 2014 on party planning work. in Hollywood. She and Durve both found that the lack of a dedicated team and effective tools affected the guest check-in experience when they arrived at major industry events, as well as the overall tone of the night. “We came together and thought: ‘There has to be a better system for this that we can easily create.’ Let’s get a group of girls, our friends or people we know, and streamline the whole process.”
So these two friends and businesswomen followed their intuition that improvement was possible and launched VIPER in the spring of 2016, when Kitchener was 24 and Durve was 20.
“We can do a process that is normally run by a PA or an intern. And brand the front door with a ‘VIPER process,’ says Kitchener.
Part of their approach to improving the guest experience at the door is to modernize the old-fashioned style of crossing out names with markers, paper, and clipboards. The duo has brought technology like iPads, new software, and hotspots to run WiFi, and as a result, things are getting easier – and events are getting more and more successful – so.
“When you move too quickly, especially work events where the guest list is over 2,000 people, you can run into a lot of things, such as when you are constantly adding names to the guest list. in an event but that might not be synchronized across the board. So that’s really where we start: look at the entire front door. [Asking] Where can we do this better and more efficiently for customers who are spending millions of dollars on an event,” says Kitchener, adding: “Your first impression is to set the tone. for the entire event and for the guest experience throughout the entire event. So making sure we’re creating a seamless experience from the get-go – so guests are never disappointed when they walk in and enjoy their experience – was really important to us when we started VIPER. “
In a nutshell, VIPER provides logistics and front-of-house operations for events. They have a staff of independent contractors, around 120 young women (along with a management team of 13), all with a certain taste that wouldn’t be an uncommon sight in a industry party or private area of the club (read: they are well-dressed and well-dressed) who are not only event staff but also ready to serve as brand ambassadors and models atmosphere.
“We’ve found that people are just more excited to talk to these beautiful, smart girls and provide their information – we collect visitor data on the site on behalf of our clients — than with the men who own the company,” says Durve. “It’s like a must-have for women in this world: We’re more fun to talk to. So we started playing on it. “
Earlier this year, VIPER handled 11 events during Super Bowl week (rarely four events in one night, requiring a crew of 130 staff on deck). Two of those are for h.wood’s “Homecoming Weekend” Super Bowl parties, which welcome A-list names like Drake, Adele, Kendall Jenner, Megan Thee Stallion and Justin Bieber (and there are tables for sale). for $40 to $100K).
This fall, VIPER continues to be present at SoFi Stadium, one of the staying guests that Durve and Kitchener advise on the VIP guest experience; The consortium manages the Bootsy Bellows on-site lounge for every Rams home game and concert, staffing everything from hosting to bottling service. And next, VIPER will curate the guest experience for some of the designers participating in LA Fashion Week, which begins October 6.
“[Consulting] is one of our favorites because we have to be really creative and give our opinions, which is very unique because Kelsi and I sit at the most unique vantage point in the industry. nightlife,” said Durve. “I always tell clients, if you work with a nightclub company or someone who owns a restaurant or a hotel, they just work with their own brand. But because Kelsi and I focus on the guest experience, we work with [different] brands and celebrities, which really expands the way we see the industry. It expands our network, it expands our knowledge. We are not limited to just one area. ”
The leap from what the duo thought would be just a side hustle and into a genuine hospitality company isn’t necessarily a straight road. “It’s not easy,” Durve said. We are very young but I think being young and being a bit naive about what it will really benefit us since we just decided to move on. We really operate by just doing things – they don’t have to be perfect. We both just decided to make that sacrifice to commit to a long-term relationship. So when we earn money from events, we put it all back into the company and reinvest. “
Durve says skepticism about their venture was high at first (detractors predicted they would last three months), noting that “nightlife is a man’s, woman’s world. There’s just no place in it.”
“You can be a bottle server or you can go to a promoter,” she said. “But that’s really where it ends for you.” Initially, Durve and Kitchener, who typically work 12 to 14 hours a day, would wrap up events at 2 a.m. and sit down for dinner until midnight, mapping out a strategy for how to improve operations. 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 offered: cocktail servers, consultants, brand ambassadors and the like.
“We didn’t take a salary for four years and instead paid our team in a very competitive way because it’s important to us that women also make a lot of money in this industry,” says Durve. “Because we did that, they are happier now to work… Their energy on the site is really good, and so the customer is actually getting a better product.” The company’s employee retention rate is very high: Many of the women who work for VIPER, always wearing the brand’s “black VIPER” outfit, have worked with Durve and Kitchener for about 5 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 interesting,” says Kitchener. “We all know how bad the racism is in that Hollywood nightlife space. But now when you walk into a VIPER door, the whole team is very diverse. We actually reversed that [trend]that’s really great and important. “
While the company doesn’t have an office space, they do have a content studio for filming and a bunch of their other projects. Recently, VIPER opened their branch of business, providing casting services for brands, video recording, photography and content creation using their staff’s talents.
Interestingly, and perhaps ironically, Durve and Kitchener don’t really enjoy socializing in LA’s nightlife scene. “As two young girls, we don’t have the luxury of being party girls or running a company,” says Kitchener. Their idea of a fun night out is to have dinner and drinks at one of their favorite restaurants around the city: Pace, Marvin, Gjelina or Sunset Tower Bar.