When one thinks about nightlife in America, one thinks about models and bottles. Exclusivity and status drive the American nightlife scene from hole-in-the-wall dive bars to glitzy, glamorous clubs. Where there is money, there is power. In the nightlife industry, power is usually found in the hands of men. Women fight for its leftovers, if any at all. Women are commonly seen at these events as venue hosts, bottle girls, dancers, or behind-the-scenes staff. Many enjoy the nightlife, but few exist as owners within it. Celeste Durve and Kelsi Kitchener saw the status quo and have changed it with their company called VIPER. VIPER is a “bespoke hospitality agency” working with prestigious brands, individuals, and venues such as Fendi, NARS, Jeeter, Tyga, Kim Kardashian, SoFi Stadium, etc. The lifestyle company is based in Los Angeles, California.

Darren Yan, Chief Talent Officer of FaZe Clan and adviser in VIPER, says, “Beyond the incredible business that they have built and bootstrapped over the last few years, it was their hustle, conviction and ability to create a strong all female business in a traditionally male dominated industry is what drew me to work with them. Further, it isn’t easy to build their type of business and brand in a city like Los Angeles where everything seems superficial, but they’re the real deal. They’re showing what young women are capable of especially when looking at it from a business lens.”

Men’s domination of the nightlife industry means that it ultimately caters to their desires and wishes. Thus, women must fit the male vision of their role in nightlife, not as owners, but as props, eye candy and ultimately currency. A club is only seen as hot if only the hottest girls are there as guests, hosts or bottle girls. The dynamics of the American nightlife industry are driven by who spends the most money under the influence of alcohol in a single three to four-hour period at night (or longer, depending on which city you happen to be partying in). It’s no wonder there are often complaints ranging from mistreatment to criminal actions lodged by women in the dark, murky industry. There’s no internal organization within American nightlife to lobby for women’s interests and representation. The only way for women to change their status, and thus their experience, in the opaque nightlife industry, is to own their share of the massive market.

Durve explains, “Nightlife is a money-driven male-dominated industry, and it has its own set of politics at play which can lead to an unsafe environment for women. This can look like women being sexually harassed, assaulted, or unknowingly given date-rape drugs like GHB or Roofies. VIPER does everything it can to combat this and make the industry a safer space. We take care of our girls, and their safety is our priority. We had left events when the girl’s safety was compromised, no matter how prominent the client was. In 2020, we launched our “Last Call” Initiative calling on nightclubs and bars to implement safer practices for women’s safety.

“I love being the founder of VIPER because we’re so disruptive. We have an endless market size because of the way we continue to push boundaries and evolve. What began as just doing doors expanded into brand ambassadors, which expanded into data, and now we’ve launched Viper Casting and continue to evolve the brand in new ways. The event industry alone is a billion-dollar space, and that’s only 1/4 of what we do, so our opportunities are endless. The Covid 19 pandemic showed us the benefit of being a young company by demonstrating our resilience and durability. For us, the sky isn’t even the limit; it’s just the view.”

The American nightlife industry generated $26 billion in revenue in 2021. At the consumer level, over twenty million individuals went to bars, nightclubs, or casinos, spending on average $20 to enter a venue, and over seven million of them purchased and consumed alcoholic beverages during their time there. The power in the market lies with those who own the venues where events are hosted, which is overwhelmingly men. If women are going to change that, they need to put themselves on a path to becoming owners of popular or up-and-coming venues that guests frequent often. Durve and Kitchener long recognized that ownership was the only way to level the playing field for women in a male-dominated industry.

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Kitchener adds, “Nightlife is where all industries intersect, so to hold power were so many people come together has opened different doors for us and allowed VIPER to be creative in how we expand. Nightlife used to be the industry we wanted to own, but VIPER is so much bigger than that now. As we move into the casting and consulting areas of the company, we lean on the relationships we formed in the early days to break into other industries that need to evolve. VIPER is always adapting and evolving; we have barely skimmed the surface with what we will do.”

VIPER initially started in the event hosting subsector of the larger nightlife industry. The VIPER girls under Durve and Kitchener operate as a full-stack hospitality service team. From checking-in guests to supplying woman-power to operate key venue areas, VIPER orchestrated events from start to finish. Their collaborations with powerful corporations like Amazon and Google and Drake and Billie Eilish made the difference between being another service brand and becoming a top-tier, best-in-class hospitality agency recognized by name throughout Los Angeles, the media and entertainment capital of the world. However, the two cofounders quickly realized that while events hosting is a profitable business, it does not scale well. Durve and Kitchener aimed for ownership within the industry, and what they realized was that the foundation of such ownership lay in the data they collected from running all of these events. VIPER could reach the scale and impact that the two female cofounders could only dream about by a savvy pivot from nightlife to facilitating casting services and building a complimentary media business.

VIPER’s evolution to becoming a data-driven talent marketplace and media business was seeded in their struggle to scale themselves and their team to be everywhere at once. Tending to every guest’s need in real-time is limited by space and time. Creating a marketplace where brands and sponsors can select intelligent, attractive female talent to partake in product advertisements is not. Through its success in the nightlife industry, VIPER naturally sat at the intersection of female talent and brands and sponsors splurging on events. Instead of manually facilitating these events at night, they leverage data to mix and match these two groups for projects completed in the day. Beyond the marketplace product they are building, the two female cofounders continue to develop their podcast, “Smart is Sexy.” As they build VIPER, they are capturing their growth and development as entrepreneurs and women navigating a world that did not envision them in the first place. Their raw honesty, humor and open-mindedness resonating in their voices as they discuss their successes and failures in business and dating will win over the most skeptical men who can’t imagine working alongside women as equals in the nightlife industry.

Durve and Kitchener make a formidable team. Durve, a Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree, has extensive experience in the nightlife industry. Kitchener worked in various roles ranging from a hostess to a marketing assistant. She has her degree in Merchandise Marketing from the Fashion Institute of Design and Marketing. Together, the two today make women smarter and sexier through their entrepreneurial pursuits. Tomorrow, women all across America won’t be afraid to be VIPERs in male-dominated industries they seek to own.

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