Marc Kessler, '17

April 18, 2022
Alumnus' family business inspires his own celebratory entrepreneurial endeavor.

Nothing good happens after midnight, so the saying goes. But for Marc Kessler, ’17, a night spent celebrating with friends sparked the beginning of an eventful and successful entrepreneurial endeavor. 

Kessler’s family owns and operates the country’s oldest tavern, The Bell in Hand, in Boston, Mass., and having grown up in the hospitality space, he saw firsthand the dedication required to run a thriving business. “You’ll see my grandma there most days,” he said. “It is truly a family affair.”

“This platform offered a unique vantage to understand the industry,” Kessler said. “I always viewed myself and what I was working on as an expansion of my family’s business.”

At age 18, Kessler began work on FeelTheVibe, a hyper-local identity management platform that aggregates users’ social networks, during his first year at UR.

“The ultimate vision was to enable venues to connect with consumers in real-time,” he said. After a successful round of seed funding, Kessler came to an inflection point—whether to continue raising funds or partner with another developer. After graduation, he received an offer to join forces with Fomograph, a software that collects and manages media content at events and arenas and backed by leading investors including Mayfield Fund and Lars Rasmussen, the creator of Google Maps. Kessler accepted and moved to Los Angeles.   

At the same time, another concept that Kessler was developing kept resurfacing. This idea began during a project his junior year in a marketing course with Jeffrey Carlson, associate professor of marketing. Students were tasked with providing strategy recommendations to Lickinghole Creek, an agritourism event venue and brewery in Goochland, Va., to help differentiate their products in an over-saturated market.

“Our ultimate recommendation was to create a tea-based beer,” Kessler shared. “We concluded that they needed to include unique, and functional, ingredients—caffeine, nutrients—in order to set themselves apart.”

It is with this in mind and his entrepreneurial spirit that he began looking for ways to further grow his family’s business.

After graduation, he began crafting a cocktail for friends who raved about the taste but led to a sluggish morning. “There were new products emerging but all were still bloating and artificial,” Kessler said. “I knew I could make something different, better, and potentially hydrating.”

Kessler reworked his original cocktail using coconut water and “immediately began looking into how to commercialize it.” When he arrived in Los Angeles he presented his beverage concept to his two close friends, Tim Demirjian and Tomas Crowe, who would go on to become co-founders and bring the business to the next level.  They raised $750,000 to create the first lab product, and Dezo was born.

Formally launching in July 2020 with the largest liquor distributor in the U.S., Dezo is a canned superfruit cocktail made from Coconut Water, Cactus Water, and Watermelon Water and blended with Gluten-Free Vodka. “Our tagline is ‘Respectfully Wild,’” shared Kessler. “It embodies the product’s origin—we want consumers to have a great time while also being respectful to their bodies, balancing socialization and productivity. Our product is additive, providing value at the point of consumption with naturally occurring antioxidants, vitamins, and electrolytes.”

Since its launch, the three founders have raised $3M in funding with Dezo available in major liquor stores and entertainment venues across the country. A surreal moment for Kessler? Serving Dezo at his family’s bar Bell in Hand, with Gillette Stadium a close second. They have partnered with top nightlife groups in Los Angeles and Boston, and are preparing for this summer’s product launch in Las Vegas and Florida with the country’s largest electronic music event promoter.

Around the recent momentum, Kessler notes, “This has been an incredible journey for all of us involved and only the beginning of empowering people to live more balanced lifestyles.” Dezo is growing quickly and hiring in new markets around the country.  Kessler concludes, “At the end of the day, all we have is our health.”

Cheers to Dezo’s continued success!