Building a profitable business is no easy feat, especially when that business involves highly perishable and pricey meats and cheese. Charcuterie boards have experienced a remarkable surge in popularity thanks to their creative and artistic presentations, making them perfect for Instagram-worthy dinner parties (not to mention the irresistible appeal of cheese!).
Like the rest of us, Sofia Dedola fell in love with the charcuterie craze. But she took that love a step further. Sofia turned her hobby into a buzzing business, Olive and Nectar, and then created The Graze Academy to teach charcuterie lovers how to turn their hobby into a business. Not only is Sofia the brains and talent behind her one-of-a-kind displays, she also helps fellow charcuterie enthusiasts become the food entrepreneur they’ve always dreamed of being!
Just like crafting a jaw dropping charcuterie board, finding the perfect balance between pricing and profitability is an art in itself. Without a careful understanding of the expenses involved, overhead costs of a charcuterie venture can quickly lose its flavor and struggle to turn a profit. Getting your pricing right is the secret sauce for attracting customers while ensuring the business remains financially profitable. Set those prices too high, and your delightful offerings might scare away potential customers — but set them too low and your hard work may not turn a profit.
Sofia suggests starting small and working your way up from there. Don’t take on too large of an order for your first go around and accidentally charge too little, resulting in a loss of profit. Instead, try your hand on a smaller order to get a feel for pricing and build from there. In the world of meats and cheese, staying competitive and keeping a keen eye on expenses are the keys to crafting a recipe for success and creating an irresistible spread that leaves everyone coming back for more!
We got the inside scoop from Sofia to see what it takes to turn a cheesy dream into a tasty (and profitable) reality. Here’s what she had to say:
Q: What’s a mistake that you see business owners making when it comes to running their business?
A: The number one mistake I see happening is people buying the wrong quantity of food. They either buy too much food, overestimating the amount it takes to fill a space, or not enough food, underestimating how big their space is. Both of these issues can be solved by following a proper food formula which I teach in my modules!
Q: What’s the number one reason you think business owners don’t make a profit?
A: I think it’s hard to stay on a budget when you are creating something as artistic as a board or grazing table. That’s why it's so important to make sure your prices reflect your budget and to stick to it. It’s easy to get carried away!
Q: What’s your method for determining pricing? How do you choose a rate?
A: I tell people to look at what other entrepreneurs in their field are charging. If you’re brand new to the industry, charge between $3-$5 less than them. That way you’ll get the clients that didn’t want to pay your competitors’ rate. (Plus you get experience… it’s a win-win.)
Q: What kinds of costs should someone expect when starting a charcuterie business?
A: One of the best parts about having a charcuterie business is that the costs are really just food and maybe a board. If you’re just getting started, keep it simple — I don’t want anyone spending money on anything until they’re sure this is the right move for them. If they decide to move forward with starting a charcuterie business, the first thing to do is set up their permit and meet with a business mentor like me to show you how to do things the right way to make a profit.
Q: Is it possible to make six figures selling charcuterie boards? How do you get there?
A: Charcuterie boards might be tricky, but with grazing tables, absolutely. Let’s say you book a wedding grazing table every Saturday for the rest of the year (so four times a month or 52 Saturdays per year). If your invoice was around $4,500, which is so doable for weddings, that is about $276,000. So yeah, it’s possible.
Q: What advice would you share with a charcuterie business owner who wants to charge more and attract higher-end customers?
A: I would first look at the product. If you’re buying the everyday products we see at our local grocery store, then I would suggest elevating your products.
Maybe you switch to buying organic or you start creating your boards and tables to look more sophisticated. Once you start showing you can create these higher-end products, the prices will follow.
Q: A lot of business owners feel like they “can’t” or “shouldn’t” charge high prices for their products. What do you say to them? How do they get past that?
A: I get it! When I first charged an invoice with 4 digits I flipped out. I literally stared at the screen because I was like “no way is anyone going to pay this…”
We all have that little ‘no can do’ monster in our head. Tell that monster to sit down and have some cheese because YOU ARE WORTH IT. It’s all about starting out at a lower rate then gradually charging more. Trying having a flash sale every now and then — this will help soothe the notion that no one will buy. But they will. Remember, you have to charge your value, and if you don’t find yourself valuable, no one else will.
Q: If someone is considering taking their business full-time, what do you think they need to have in place? What are signs that they are truly ready to go full-time?
A: Going full time is exciting and nerve wracking. I decided grazing tables were my focal point because they paid so much more and I didn’t have to push out a lot of volume to create them. Find what works for you!
Create a list of some things you need to pay for and how you are going to do it with this new stream of income. I suggest using this business model for a minimum of a year to feel comfortable. Some quit their day jobs sooner, and some wait until later.
You want to be charging for your time correctly. You can do this by adding line items on your invoices, upselling, constantly booking events further out, etc. If you want to do boards in addition to tables, maybe find an ongoing client or winery. Or better yet, start doing in person workshops. Those are SO FUN and can make good money.