How a homecoming dance inspired this Overland Park teen to create a charcuterie business
Shawnee Mission West senior Bella Messmer launched Bubba’s and Bella’s Boards after her homecoming dance last year. The business specializes in charcuterie boxes, charcuterie cups and grazing tables.
Curating colorful boards of meats, cheeses, nuts and fruits always came natural to Bella Messmer, she shared; it wasn’t until after she started her charcuterie business that she learned that passion was passed down from her grandmother.
“In the ’70s, Bella’s grandmother would host these lavish parties among other Miami socialites, and she would make these incredible charcuterie boards,” recalled Martina Messmer, Bella’s mother and co-founder of Bubba’s and Bella’s Boards. “The kids were supposed to be upstairs in our rooms, but I would sneak out and fill a plate with caviar and the little stinky cheeses. Bella didn’t know about the stories of her grandmother until we started the business.”
Bubba’s and Bella’s Boards is a family-owned charcuterie business in Overland Park, Kansas. The business specializes in charcuterie boxes, charcuterie cups and grazing tables delivered straight to one’s special event, the Messmers said. Bubba’s and Bella’s Boards officially launched in 2022 after Bella’s homecoming dance.
“My friends and I were going to homecoming, and we wanted to have a little get together afterward,” said the senior at Shawnee Mission West. “I decided to make a charcuterie board, and my friends really liked it. They encouraged me to start a business; so I brought the idea to my mom, and she was on board.”
The mother-daughter duo is joined by Bella’s older brother, Alex (nicknamed Bubba) who helps with deliveries and set up.
“It is fun we are able to do this as a family,” Martina said. “For all of us, this is the first time starting a business, and I’m glad they have such an entrepreneurial spirit at a young age.”
“Well, this is my first business to actually take off,” Bella interjected, laughing. “In elementary school, my mom would bake cookies, and I would go around the school trying to sell them for a dollar. … My mom has pushed me to be independent and self-made. Combining my passion with work feels very fulfilling.”
Booking business between schoolbooks
Balancing high school, another part-time job and Bubba’s and Bella’s Boards is no easy feat, Bella admitted, but she has discovered ways to make it work.
“Managing time is important,” Bella noted. “I’ve also built partnerships with a lot of my teachers. If you openly communicate with your teachers, a lot of times they will understand because they want to see you succeed. The same goes for [my other job]. I let them know ahead of time when I will have commitments for Bubba’s and Bella’s Boards.”
Outsourcing marketing and website design has also helped the business grow, Martina said — noting that many of their early struggles stemmed from a lack of technical expertise. She hired Stratton Terrace Marketing based in Orange County, California.
“It was a challenge to grow an audience on social media, and we are still working on building our online presence,” Martina said. “But having someone else getting everything up and running for our website and online orders was a huge relief.”
The 2022 holiday season put the newcomers to the test, the duo said, noting that they felt both the excitement and stress of being booked.
“We had a lot of last-minute box orders because people wanted them as gifts,” Bella said. “There were quite a few grazing tables as well where we would go to their house and set up a big spread. It was a lot of work, but it is really rewarding looking back at it.”
A future in charcuterie
Charcuterie board making is an outlet for artistic expression, Bella said.
“I love the creative freedom I get through designing the boards,” she shared. “I remember we made a grazing table at this customer’s house, and the mother just kept saying, ‘This is art! This is an art piece you’ve created.’ I love viewing this in that way.”
With a handful of other charcuterie businesses in the area, Bubba’s and Bella’s Boards differentiates itself by emphasizing a customer’s individuality through their order.
“One of the main things we love to do is let people add their own kind of personality,” Bella said. “If you’re a big cheese person, we can make the majority of the board cheese. We cater to their taste buds and interests.”
“Sometimes we will go to three to four different grocery stores just to get a special cookie or specific ingredients,” Martina added. “A lot of passion and love goes into our work.”
After Bella graduates from Shawnee Mission West, she plans to attend Johnson County Community College where she can explore her various interests. She also expects to continue making charcuterie for Bubba’s and Bella’s Boards — with ideas to innovate the business, she teased.
“I’m interested in [studying] journalism,” Bella said.
“We are looking to start a monthly newsletter where we highlight other charcuterie companies and local Kansas City businesses that are a part of the charcuterie process, whether that is a baker or event planner,” Martina explained. “Everything charcuterie! It is a way to let Bella explore this other interest.”
With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, Bella and Martina encouraged the community to think about gifting a loved one with a charcuterie box.
“People’s faces light up when they receive a box, so I think it would be a really nice gift,” Bella said. “People love receiving them, and we love making them.”
This story was originally published on Startland News, a fellow member of the KC Media Collective.