Massachusetts Small Business Development Center Network


Sidekim Foods


Peter MikedisWhen Peter Mikedis came to me in October of 2007 with his business plan for Sidekim Foods in Lynn, "I was struck by the plan's clarity and thoughtfulness. I don't get a whole lot of business plans like that," observes Walter Manninen, Senior Business Advisor with the MSBDC's Northeast Regional Office at Salem State University's Enterprise Center.  

A 20+ year food and service management professional in corporate, senior, childcare, and K‑12 dining, Mikedis figured that the time was right to leverage that experience in his own business. "I was determined to offer my customers' preschool and school-age children and senior citizens' high-quality meals with wholesome natural ingredients and no short-cuts in preparation. That meant offering meals like those before the era of high-fat, high-sodium, processed foods. At the same time, I was convinced that Sidekim could achieve that while running an efficient operation and controlling costs."

Sidekim does as much sourcing as possible from local farms and other local producers. The objective, Mikedis emphasizes, is to use the freshest possible ingredients—ingredients that are never dehydrated, instant, or processed. That means no canned vegetables as well. School lunch cafeterias, for example, frequently employ instant potato mixes. Not Sidekim, which prepares its own potatoes from scratch. Sidekim also extends VIP treatment to the preparation of chicken fingers. In that dish, it seasons the fresh whole muscle chicken breasts; flash fries them, and then bakes them. The process takes longer, but locks in more moisture and flavor than alternative methods.  

"From the first month, Peter hit the ground running," recalls Manninen, who served as a sounding board for Sidekim's business plan and financial assumptions. Manninen helped Mikedis create a marketing strategy that identified, within a 25-mile radius, 6,000 potential clients in three groups' schools, senior citizens centers, and day care centers. He also helped Mikedis adapt his plan for presentation to different funding sources. Successful funding included a loan from the City of Lynn that allowed for the purchase of a truck and a $150,000 credit line from the Massachusetts Community Development Finance Corporation.


Sidekim FoodsFinancing and Managing Growth.  Above all, the loans have fueled spectacular growth. When it opened shop at the beginning of 2008, Sidekim had two full-time employees and a part-time driver. It prepared 197 meals each day. By the beginning of 2010, it had 27 employees and nine delivery vehicles. It prepares 4,200 meals each day and 21,000 meals each week. That dynamic growth has required steady expansion of Sidekim's industrial space in Lynn.  

"Realizing that Peter had what it takes to make his ambitious plan a reality, I recommended at our first meeting that he secure first right of refusal for the space that adjoins his operation," recalls Manninen. That additional space has been critical. Sidekim expanded by 3000 square feet in September of 2009 and just added another 2000 square feet in May. "I'm also building my own bakery next door," notes Mikedis, who expects that operation to crank out 7,000 rolls each week. "It fits into our fresh foods philosophy perfectly." 

Peter MikedisIn addition to securing more space and the equipment to go with it, loans have helped Sidekim meet other challenges. "Because many of my accounts involve annual contracts, I have to hold that price for a year," notes Mikedis. That combined with mounting receivables during the fall of 2008, created cash flow issues.  

"At the end of the day, my heart is with the community," notes Mikedis. "It gives me great satisfaction to support local farms and local organizations from food pantries to local youth sports. I've created 27 new jobs and hope to hire six to 10 more people by the end of the year. And of course, the children and seniors really like the food." Manninen concurs: "Peter is special because Sidekim focuses not on the contractor or the institution but on the end customer—the folks who appreciate his meals."