Raegan Hartley got a taste of entrepreneurship this summer. She and her mother, Alisia Cubberly, started Montana Picnic Company right after Raegan’s 18th birthday in July.
A few months after Raegan made his first deli board, his small business took off. She put everything together, from standard-sized cutting boards full of meats and cheeses to huge 8-foot-long displays.
“We are making 8 foot boards out of the wazoo,” she said.
The mother-daughter duo specializes in charcuterie boards for events like weddings and corporate meetings. They also offer a full catering service, right down to flower arrangements and tablecloths.
But although their business serves an upscale custom market, Montana Picnic Company has humble roots.
“I started with $ 100 in child care money,” Raegan recalls. She herself learned the skills that make her planks special: she learned charcuterie techniques, like making roses with meat, from TikTok. She gained an appreciation for artistic layout and flavor profiles from reading books. In fact, she hasn’t even tasted many of her own creations, as her diet doesn’t include meat or cheese.
But Raegan received help from family members along the way.
“She comes from a family of entrepreneurs,” explained Alisia.
Alisia works as a professional photographer and she believes that her business acumen and artistic eye have helped to influence her daughter. Raegan’s uncle, Tyler Wells, is one of the brains of a local private chef company known as The Chef Guys. Raegan currently operates in their kitchen and her first client came to her through Wells.
Eventually, Raegan said, she hopes to spread out in her own kitchen.
But first, the young businesswoman will have to finish high school.
She is in the middle of her final year of distance school while starting her small business.
Raegan began studying online before most of her peers, as she spent her childhood between Montana and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In both locations, she worked in restaurants, gaining the culinary experience she needed to start her own business.
Now she brings several individualized spreads to life each week. Since mid-July, Raegan has said she has been hosting an event almost every day.
“It takes weeks to prepare and get the ingredients,” she said.
These include a range of meats, cheeses, nuts, berries, vegetables and sweets that are carefully selected and meticulously organized for each customer.
“I’m still in the process of changing it,” Raegan said. “No charcuterie board will be like the following one. They are one of a kind.
Its arrangements can include brie, manchego, cheddar and mozzarella, as well as salami in sweet, candied and peppery varieties.
Raegan carefully places each item in odd numbers, as she has learned that the human eye is drawn to unequal groupings. She follows the famous “rule of thirds” to divide her planks into three sections, and she arranges her pieces in a zigzag pattern rather than a straight line.
“I follow the rules of artistic composition,” said Raegan, whose favorite school subjects are art and math.
Outside of the peak summer season, Raegan and Alisia are always planning catering events. They recognized that their schedule might be a bit slower and that they will have to modify their approach to suit the interior settings. But the enterprising couple are already thinking about making arrangements for next summer.
Montana Picnic Company is available online at: http://www.montanapicniccompany.com.
Journalist Bret Anne Serbin can be reached at 406-758-4459 or [email protected]