- Rachel Barac
Celeste Durve & Kelsi Kitchener cofounders, VIPER
Meet Celeste Durve and Kelsi Kitchener, creators of the first front of house logistics team to exist; disrupting a male dominated industry and reinventing what it means to be a woman working in the nightlife industry.
They've built one of the most sought after client networks making VIPER a brand that is in high demand.
Tell us about VIPER by KCH and the backstory for coming up with the concept.
In April it will be 4 years since we launched the business. We met during an internship at a place called Bolthouse Productions which was an event company and nightclubs. We would often be put on Front of House together because we’re both very personable.
After working a 12 hour shift we were both then put on Front of House for a big event where the client had spent US $1,000,000. We wondered why there was no plan for the door. If a client is spending this much money how could there be no plan for Front of House?
We went to our employer and said that we could handle the door and that we could put a system together. We had ideas for using iPads and other technology. But all we got back were reasons why it wouldn’t work. Eventually we decided to start our own Front of House business as a side hustle to make a quick buck. We were thinking we could just get friends to help out. Our employer told us it would never work.
After working a few jobs, the word spread and we kept getting more clients. Eventually we left our job to work on our side hustle full time.
Did the two of you share the same vision for Viper from the start?
No! We fought a lot. There was an undercurrent of competition between us even though we didn’t really know what the competition was about.
We worked really hard on our dynamic. We realised we had to align our goals. We did this on our own without enlisting external help. We knew we would need to put each other first if we were going to make this thing work. It was just like working on a healthy marriage. Our relationship is now solid because of the work we put into it.
What has the response been to having an all female team in what has traditionally been a male dominated industry?
In the beginning we were asked really basic questions at meetings. This might have been partly due to our young age, 19 and 22 years old. However after acquiring some big name clients we became well respected. And now having an all female team is a positive point of difference. We provide an experience for our clients that is professional and personable. Surprisingly, the toughest people we have experienced working with are women from the corporate sector. We have felt some resentment from this demographic which has made it challenging to work with.
How important is it for Founders to be open and honest about their experience building a business?
We’re really big on founder wellness. Often people don’t want to share their failings because they’re worried about how they’ll be perceived. However we believe it’s important to be transparent about what’s worked and what hasn’t. We’re happy to share our failings and our triumphs. Social media can be so deceiving and can cause great anxiety and even contribute to depression because everyone else’s life seems so perfect. But what has really helped us is hearing stories from people who are in the same boat as us. People who have experienced challenges and are open to sharing what they’ve learned. We want to open up the dialogue about the challenges we all face in business.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced while building and scaling VIPER?
What haven't we faced? Haha.
We’ve faced being broke, being underestimated, being naive, being too trusting. We’ve handled things wrong, we’ve lost relationships, we've made so many mistakes. We’ve had to operate with little to no money, we’ve been late on bills, or struggled to make rent. But ultimately everything leads us to success and growth. It's important to us to always look at ourselves objectively that way we can assess and get better. We have failed a lot but we’ve done our best to always fail forward and get back up.
Where do you draw your motivation from when times are challenging?
We are motivated by our team, we really want to provide a platform for them to flourish and we connect with this when times are challenging. We also rely heavily on each other when times are hard. There are times we both feel stressed, overwhelmed or unhappy so our first priority is always to listen and lift one another up. Because we operate as a team, we’re able to navigate difficult times together.
Who are some of the biggest clients you’ve had?
Apple, Amazon, Google, Kim Kardashian, Kanye, Drake, Fendi, ESPN to name a few!
How do you support other female entrepreneurs to follow their dreams?
We speak on lots of panels, and we’re really big on connecting people. Down the road we’d love to fund other female entrepreneurs as well. In the meantime, we spend time finding out what our team is passionate about outside of VIPER, hiring them for other roles and paying them competitively.
We like to remind other female entrepreneurs to ignore the narrative in the media about struggle, and instead connect with their purpose.
If you would like to find out more about VIPER by KCH you can find them at: