Emmy Rener might seem like an average college student, but she could probably teach her professors a thing or two about the art of entrepreneurship.
Rener runs Sophisticated Spreads, a small business that sells boho-inspired cheese boards in Southern California.
With the help of social media, celebrity endorsements and some crafty marketing, Sophisticated Spreads has grown into a successful catering business that earns her six figures as a sophomore in college.
Check out Rener’s rise from high schooler to businesswoman.
How did Rener start selling charcuterie boards?
Rener’s start as a young entrepreneur is the epitome of turning lemons into lemonade.
Like many, the COVID-19 pandemic threw her life for a curveball. Still a teenager, Rener elected to take a gap year before starting college. The time allowed her to turn a side hustle into a full-fledged company earning six figures.
“I loved making charcuterie boards for friends and family and then I thought it could maybe be something that I just kinda did locally and it blew up on TikTok and now here we are,” she said.
Rener eventually enrolled at the University of Southern California, where she’s about to start her sophomore year studying business and entrepreneurship.
She describes responsibilities as three-fold — full-time student, content creation and events.
How does Rener balance all of her commitments?
Rener might be the face of Sophisticated Spreads, but she’s quick to credit her support system for making it possible for her to maintain her business as a college student.
“We have a team that’s also doing charcuterie boards on a daily basis,” she said. “I’ve found a sweet spot I think now just having a team that I really trust and rely on, which is really nice.”
What was a breakthrough moment for her business?
A true Gen-Z hustler, Rener built a following through micro-influencers who helped her reach different demographics of customers. Eventually, she struck gold in the form of actress Jessica Alba.
Rener said she woke up one morning to an Instagram notification from Alba, who had posted about how much she loved Sophisticated Spreads. Next thing she knew, she was getting business from A-listers throughout Hollywood, including Sofia Vergara.
“Through word of mouth, we’ve been able to really hit the celebrity market, which was amazing and it’s been really fun,” she said.
How much does a charcuterie board from Sophisticated Spreads cost?
Charcuterie boxes from Sophisticated Spreads range from $60 to $270, depending on the size and type of tray used.
Does Sophisticated Spreads have options for customers with dietary restrictions?
Gluten-free and vegan friends need not feel left out. Sophisticated Spreads has a solution for you.
All charcuterie boards come with an option to customize for vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free diets. Customers can also order boards with extra meat and cheese.
Where can you order a charcuterie board from Sophisticated Spreads?
Customers can order their own charcuterie board from Sophisticated Spread online. They ask that all orders are made 24 hours in advance and will accept orders up to six months ahead of time.
As of now, the company only serves the Los Angeles and Orange Country area, but is looking to expand in the future.
What challenges did Rener run into when launching Sophisticated Spreads?
Starting a small business as a teenager in the middle of a pandemic wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns.
Rener said she faced some challenges, particularly as a young female entrepreneur in the food industry.
“I remember when I first started, I was at the farmer’s market and people would never guess that I was only 18 years old.”
Rener said in the early stages of building clientele and establishing relationships with vendors, she’d sometimes pretend to be in her mid-20s.
What advice does Rener have for young entrepreneurs looking to start a business?
Rener’s experience building a successful small business has provided her two key takeaways for young entrepreneurs looking to follow in her footsteps -- take chances and develop a niche.
When asked about the decision of when to launch her company, she said she “fully sent it,” even though she had “no idea what that meant in reality.”
“I think it’s important to kind of just go with it because you’re never going to feel like you’re fully prepared, even if you are,” she said. “I did, and then the pieces all fell together. You’re going to run into challenges regardless, so you might as well get a head start on it.”
One of those challenges Rener ran into early in her launch of Sophisticated Spreads was competing in a saturated market. She said the key to ensuring the success of any small business is finding a way to differentiate your product.
For Rener, she found a niche by exclusively partnering with artisanal creameries, many of whom she knows personally.
“I think just finding something to really stick out, and also just leaning in to social media,” Rener said.
Rener hasn’t invested any money in advertising, instead opting to spread the word through social media -- namely, TikTok.
“My videos have reached millions of people, which I’m so fortunate that the algorithm has worked to my benefit,” she said. “So I think it’s just important to just get out there and start posting and spreading the word about whatever you’re passionate about.”
What is Rener’s favorite part of running a small business?
For Rener, running a small business is all about the people.
“What I love is just meeting people every day in my business because I’m not just seeing customers and clientele, but I’m also meeting with wholesalers and meeting the cheesemakers, so there’s such a wide variety of people I’m introduced to on a daily basis,” she said. “So I think it’s just been fun. I’m a super extroverted person so it’s been a wonderful journey to really, I don’t know, make a name for myself but also for the brand.”