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Community Highlights: Meet Claudia Lipinski of Cheese & Bees

Today we’d like to introduce you to Claudia Lipinski.

Hi Claudia, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
Back when I was a nutrition major and living in New York, I thought it might be practical to get a job as a cook at some local restaurant. I had been waitressing since I was a teenager and wanted to expand my horizons by learning the ins and outs of the kitchen. I ended up having an incredible experience working at a family-owned winery, where I cooked part-time while finishing my nutrition degree. Not only did my confidence in my culinary skills increase during my time there, but I also learned how to create and detail cheeseboards. Being an artistic person since childhood, I fell in love with designing grazing platters that embodied the perfect balance between salty and sweet foods. I grew more and more inspired when customers recognized my work at the winery and would even make charcuterie boxes in my free time. Although I felt lucky to work there, I had always planned on leaving New York when the time was right. After graduation, I decided to relocate to Grand Rapids and started my own charcuterie business, Cheese & Bees. I am also earning a master’s degree in clinical nutrition while exploring all that Michigan has to offer. 

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back, would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Being new to Grand Rapids, I certainly had to assess what would be the best ways to promote my business to locals. Social media definitely plays a significant role in getting your name out there, along with being somewhat of a virtual catalog for small businesses (especially Instagram). There is no doubt that creating artisanal charcuterie boxes is quite a niche, which is why I offer custom themes for any occasion. From birthdays to baby showers to wine tastings, I do it all. When it comes to things like planning out costs and inventory, I was fortunate enough to learn much of that from working at the winery. Nevertheless, I do sometimes struggle with how to market my business in an area that I am still getting familiar with. 

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know?
Let me start with the name itself. I chose the name “Cheese & Bees” when I realized my favorite part of grazing on a cheeseboard is opening up some honey and pairing it with nearly any cheese. This is why every Cheese & Bees box comes with a honeycomb and of course, a mini jar of honey. Its saccharinity and viscosity soften the intense flavors of most cheeses, creating an exquisite balance between salty and sweet. I also plan to donate 10% of all sales to the international charity, Bees for Development. Apart from my love for bees and honey, the nutritionist in me appreciates how much diversity a cheeseboard can include. Although cured meats and sharp cheeses aren’t the healthiest, incorporating fruits and vegetables into a delectable assortment allows people to sample foods they may have otherwise never experimented with. Cheese & Bees is also known for its signature “salami rose.” But above all, this charcuterie business specializes in catering to whatever customizations one may have for a specific occasion. Tired of sending flowers or celebrating a birthday at the office with a cake? We strive to design vibrant and detailed charcuterie boxes and cheeseboards that go beyond a customer’s expectations for any given occasion. 

Are there any apps, books, podcasts, blogs, or other resources you think our readers should check out?
When it comes to apps, there is no denying that Instagram has been my go-t0 for charcuterie inspiration and business promotion. In this day and age, it seems as if a small business cannot truly flourish unless it has at least 2 social media accounts. Of course, YouTube is often a saving grace when it comes to learning new things. When I’m not watching tutorials on how to perfect salami roses, I’m teaching myself how to make short videos of creating a cheeseboard through the app iMovie. 

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