“Being able to pay bills means everything to vendors. Vendors talk to each other about their customers. It’s important for me to build a good reputation with them.”
Si-Pie Pizzeria Is a Hit in Chicago with a Winning Kebab Pizza and Help from Kabbage
Simon Mikhail was a waiter at a Chicago restaurant when he decided to open his own food business. While traveling in Europe to gather ideas, he realized that no matter what country he visited, pizza was a beloved dish. In Scandinavia, there was a unique twist: pizzas with kebab meat and Turkish spices. “Nobody was doing that in Chicago,” Simon says. “I decided to be the first pizzeria with kebab pizza, which would set us apart from the competition.”
When Simon opened the first Si-Pie Pizzeria in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood, he deployed every marketing tactic he could think of to attract business. He joined coupon programs that brought in customers seeking discounts and registered with restaurant food-delivery services Grubhub and UberEats. “If you’re a small business, you need to take advantage of these things,” Simon says. “They bring in customers you wouldn’t have otherwise.”
Simon also believes quality ingredients have helped Si-Pie win loyal customers. “I did a lot of tasting when I started out – flour, sausage, cheese,” he says. “I’m not shy about spending money. It’s how you build your brand.”
Thanks to his commitment to quality pizza, Simon now has three Si-Pie locations in Chicago, and dozens of four- and five-star reviews on Yelp.
Building a Solid Reputation with Vendors
After establishing the first Si-Pie location, Simon wanted to expand the business, but he was turned down for traditional bank loans. “I’m still working on building my credit,” he says. After seeing an ad for Kabbage on Facebook, he applied for a line of credit – and this time, he qualified. “I think it only took about five minutes to apply,” he says.
With the line of credit, Simon opened his second Si-Pie Pizzeria, a few blocks from the first location. “I use Kabbage every chance I get for things like payroll and inventory,” he says.
Kabbage also helps Simon build credible relationships with vendors of important supplies like cheese and meat for his pizzas. He placed his Kabbage Card on file with vendors so they can charge supplies against the Kabbage credit line.
“Being able to pay bills means everything to vendors – more so than your credit scores,” he says. “Vendors talk to each other about their customers. It’s important for me to build a good reputation with them.”
Adding Fried Chicken and Franchises
With two pizzerias doing brisk business, Simon is planning for expansion. In late 2017, UberEats asked him if he’d consider making fried chicken for delivery customers, since there was demand for it. Even though fried chicken wasn’t on Si-Pie’s menu, Simon saw a sales opportunity. He created a “virtual restaurant,” Si’s Chicken Kitchen, and cooks the chicken in his pizzerias.
Simon is also betting that his kebab pizza concept will appeal to other entrepreneurs looking to break into the pizza game: He plans to offer Si-Pie Pizzeria franchises by the end of 2018.
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Where to find: 2 physical restaurants, 1 virtual
Growth goal: New locations by December
Annual revenue: $500,000
App: Chow Now
Kabbage customer since: 2016