- Emmy Rener was a senior when she turned her passion for charcuterie into a business.
- Now the proud owner of Sophisticated Spreads, the 20-year-old charges clients up to $25,000.
- From a childhood hobby of making cheese boards to bringing home six figures, this is how she did it.
Emmy Rener said she can pinpoint the moment she thought her charcuterie passion could become a full-fledged career.
The 20-year-old University of Southern California student told Insider that she grew up making cheese boards for family parties. But it wasn’t until March 2020, when a friend’s father offered to pay to fly her to Miami to help organize his 60th birthday, that she began to look at her childhood hobby as a business.
When she arrived at the venue, Rener — then a high school senior — said she remembered meeting a private chef who had also been flown into town to deliver food. When she tried to ask him about the use of a nearby table, she said he told her, “Oh yeah, don’t touch it. The charcuterie artist is coming in to do a display there.”
When he saw her start to put together a spread, Rener said he quickly went over to apologize. And not only that – he said she should consider starting a business. “It was such serendipitous timing,” Rener said. “He planted that seed in my head.”
Fast forward two years, Rener is the proud owner of Sophisticated Spreads, a charcuterie business she said brings in six figures a year.
Her clients ranged from neighbors to celebrities such as Sofía Vergara
While Rener said she now charges up to $25,000 for charcuterie spreads, her business had humble origins.
In the wake of the pandemic, Rener said she put college on hold to pursue Sophisticated Spreads on her own.
During the first year, Rener employed a few high school students whom she paid in cash to deliver boxes of charcuterie. Most of them are still involved in the business today, she added.
The next big leap was going from delivering to neighbors to targeting Los Angeles-based influencers with a large following. “It was all pro bono. I was just like, ‘Hey, if you want to support me and if you want to post about it, great. If not, no worries,” she said. “It took off like wildfire. I mean, people were so happy to post about it.”
Another way Rener made her name was by creating her @sophisticatedspreads TikTok page in December 2020. The page has over 239,800 followers as of Tuesday and includes videos of Rener critiquing store-bought cheese boards and sharing customer stories — like the time she says she accidentally arranged a wedding with 100 guests.
The site has helped Rener develop more interest in her business, she said. In an Aug. 4 TikTok video explaining how her business “broke up,” Rener said she got a shout-out from Jessica Alba, delivered charcuterie to Sofía Vergara, and now “randomly” delivers to “celebrities on a regular basis.” .”
How Rener stands out in a “saturated” charcuterie market
For Rener, it was a process to find a niche in the charcuterie world.
“When you’re in the cheese world, you know there’s competition,” she said. “It’s definitely a saturated market.”
In order to stand out, she focused on the quality of the products she sourced for the spread. “A lot of the people who make these boxes literally get everything from Costco or Sam’s Club or Trader Joe’s,” she said.
Instead, Rener reached out to cheesemongers throughout California to learn more about the process and educate herself on the food group she said she considers the star of any charcuterie board.
Doing the research has meant that all the cheese used in a Sophisticated Spreads tray comes from artisan creameries, the owners of which she now knows well. “It’s about buy-in and what you put on the board,” she said. “If you use the right ingredients, you’re 90% of the way there.”
Despite her success, Rener says she is still not motivated by money
After spending a year starting Sophisticated Spreads, Rener said she enrolled in university as a public relations major with an emphasis in entrepreneurship.
To get her degree and keep her business running at the same time, she said she relied heavily on her father, who is her “sounding board for everything.”
“I’m the creative person. And he’s definitely the more organized person,” she said.
With Sophisticated Spreads in safe hands, Rener said there are a few things she’s considering to take her career to the next level, including possibly opening a store in the future and studying abroad in France to learn more about the art of charcuterie.
Whatever she decides, one thing is certain – Rener will not be motivated solely by money.
“I’ve never really been driven by finances for this business,” she said. “It’s always been more of a labor of love.”