The road to entrepreneurship is not linear. Jillian Levin who is known on the internet as Jilly Hendrix, took on the roles of comedian, DJ, viral meme creator, and brand consultant before she invested in startups and became a founder. Oozing with sarcasm, balanced by an unusually sensible demeanor, the now founder and CEO of low-ABV spirits company BODY and 8x investor, leveraged a decade of foundational knowledge as a cultural trendspotter and content creator.
At 21, Southern California native Hendrix got a job at talent agency CAA, in Los Angeles, with the desire to get into the entertainment business. “I was filing papers in a closet,” says Hendrix, “and soon they realized I was so good at filing papers that I was made a second assistant.” With an agency launch pad and visibility into the business of entertainment, Hendrix went on to teach herself how to DJ by watching YouTube videos, quickly making a name as a celebrity DJ in Los Angeles and New York. “Through the agency and then DJing, I learned first-hand about the business side of entertainment,” says Hendrix, “I just really liked that you could create the vibe of the party as a DJ.”
DJing at clubs as both an entertainer and promoter, Hendrix was embedded into the early influencer rotation along with her childhood pals from the MTV’s Laguna Beach, Lauren “Lo” Bosworth and Lauren Conrad. Making connections with emerging and established cultural brands as a DJ and influencer, Hendrix was quickly elevated to the role of talent and then brand consultant working with brands like Chandon, Sweetgreen, Bumble, Hinge, Outdoor Voices, and more. “I’ve been building relationships with tastemakers and brands for my whole life it seems,” says Hendrix.
A seemingly natural progression, Hendrix partnered with emerging direct-to-consumer startups who were looking for digital strategies and unique cultural [meme] content to tell their stories. Learning the ins and outs of the startup ecosystem from both the financial and founder perspectives, Hendrix went from receiving $100 brand checks to upwards of $25,000 for projects as a consultant. “Some of the memes I made helped grow startup brands and it was through this work that I became super knowledgeable about early-stage startups and how to target consumers online.”
Getting an inside look at the startup ecosystem as a consultant drove Hendrix to start investing. “I went from being creative to entering the business realm,” says Hendrix, “I’d already been helping grow accounts and wanted to get into the next level – the next level is the piece of the pie.” After building her consultancy, Hendrix was able to qualify as an accredited investor, the simple yet crucial step needed to invest in a company. Hendrix went on to start Jilly Ventures and has invested in 8 companies including Ghia, the cult-classic non-alcoholic aperitif brand, Instagram-aesthetic cookware brand Great Jones, and Fanhouse, a creator platform competitive with OnlyFans and Patreon. With checks starting as low as $10,000, Hendrix’s investments strategically occupy a varied portfolio encompassing the food and beverage industry, the creator economy, and women’s health and wellness.
In the midst of the pandemic, Hendrix saw an opportunity in the over $100 billion beverage market to create a low-ABV spirits company to start BODY. “If it wasn’t BODY it was going to be a fund,” says Hendrix with a smile. With rising trends in alcohol-alternatives and low alcohol products hitting the mainstream, BODY launched in late 2022. The premium vodka is 10x distilled and has 25% less alcohol than the standard 80 proof vodka – a desirable concoction for the health conscious and lower alcohol-curious.
Leveraging a decade-strong relationship rolodex and in less than a year, Hendrix’s BODY is now stocked in over 50 New York locations, including the luxury 5th Avenue Manhattan Aman hotel, chefs Jeremiah Stone and Fabian von Hauske’s downtown Michelin star Wildair, chef Ignacio Matos’ LODI apertivo bar and cafe in Rockefeller Center, along with Pebble Bar, Flower Shop, and the American Bar in Greenwich Village. The company announced a first-of-its-kind partnership today with Next Century Spirits, a tech-enabled spirits company with a distributor network spanning the country, making BODY an official customer and part of Next Century Brand Group’s portfolio.
To date, BODY has raised over $1,000,000 in a pre-seed round led by Curate Capital with participation from Cami Tellez, CEO of Parade, Lauren Bosworth, CEO and founder of Love Wellness, Sarah Levy of Y7 and others and will announce an official seed round in early 2023. “I love connecting people and helping brands, and if I could, I would do that with every single brand that exists,” says Hendrix. “Everyone should be successful – there are so many amazing products out there now. There is room for everyone.”