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JottShots founder says Las Vegas startup scene a boon

When Dorian Levy decided to launch JottShots, he knew Las Vegas’ party-city reputation and high tourist volume made it the perfect market for the prepackaged, ready-to-drink gelatin shots.

It was a massive career jump for the former Wall Street banker, but he said it was the right decision. JottShots launched in July 2017 and today can be found at more than 70 locations across the valley, catering to tourists and locals at places such as The Venetian and Lee’s Discount Liquor stores.

If plans pan out, locals might see them pop up in cannabis dispensaries.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

How did your finance background help your jump to entrepreneurship?

I started off in the derivative world at JPMorgan in 2000 before I moved over to the Lehman Brothers at the institutional equity desk. One of the really cool things about institutional equity job is you get to experience all sorts of industries.

I was at Lehman Brothers in 2008 when it went bankrupt, and then Barclays came and bought it. I had time to step back and think, is this the path I want long-term for my life? Ultimately, I decided it wasn’t. I was figuring out what am I good at, what do I like. And the answer didn’t lie with staying in a finance role. I had a few ideas for different businesses, first and foremost this one. After a year and a half, I decided to make the jump.

How did you get the idea for this product?

The idea was born in New York. I used to throw a party every year with a couple of friends. One year, there were 800 people at our party, and we made 1,500 jello shots. They were gone in an hour and a half at most, and it took a day and a half to make them. It seemed strange that this was the only item I could think of that most people know about and you couldn’t find commercially.

Why did you decide to move the company to Las Vegas?

One of the things that was very important to me was to establish JottShots as a fun brand. There’s no other place in the world that can claim to be the capital of adult fun like Las Vegas. It’s an amazing launch city and is remaining consistent with our brand. The primary thing we’re doing is selling fun.

When I first moved here in February 2017, my expectation was I’d do a drive-by, set up the market and then vamoose. We’ve gotten more involved with the community, worked with institutions and gotten to know different people operationally and socially. Las Vegas has given us opportunities that we wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else, and I think it’s a good startup town. The way that locals embrace Las Vegas-based companies is unique. It’s been a real advantage for us.

What are your plans for the company’s future?

Last year, we sold just under 40,000 shots. This year, it was 106,900. There are two things I see for the company’s future. The first would be market expansion. We’re talking with two companies, primarily discussions about expanding our geographical footprint and adding another region. We would do that working with a more established player. On the alcohol side, just growing the base and getting the message out wider, getting a more recognizable brand.

Second, we’re also an (intellectual property) company. We have innovation on our gel, our packaging and our production. The one that’s been occupying a lion’s share of Jottshots is on the cannabis side. People are asking if they can license our packaging, and they would infuse it with cannabis.

What sort of demographic uses your product?

Our initial expectation is, we were going to be targeting tourists.Once we got into local areas, that’s probably been our most pleasant and biggest surprise. We’ve been embraced by the community, and it’s evident there’s a support for Las Vegas-based companies, which is extremely heartening.

Some of our bigger venues — Lee’s, Liquor World, which are primarily catering to locals — we built up a loyal customer base. Beyond that, Vegas has been a really great spot for me. There’s a large pool of people available to work short notice on any sort of condition. It’s been refreshing to find.

Contact Bailey Schulz at bschulz@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0233. Follow @bailey_schulz on Twitter.

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