PITTSBURGH DISTRICT OFFICE
Release Date: May 13, 2011 Contact: Janet Heyl (412) 395-6560, ext. 103
Release Number: PGH11-10 Janet.Heyl@sba.gov
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WASHINGTON, PA – Centerfielder Chris Sidick owns virtually every offensive record for the Washington Wild Things baseball team, including games, at-bats, hits, runs, triples, walks and stolen bases.
This May Sidick hit a double with the U.S. Small Business Administration when, as sole managing member of C-Side Sports Academy, LLC, he was selected as SBA Region III Young Entrepreneur of the Year and the Western Pennsylvania District Young Entrepreneur of the Year.
Like the other 68 district winners, his nomination was forwarded to his regional office – in this case Region 3, which comprises 7 districts; Delaware, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia – where he became the regional winner.
Sidick has been playing baseball and football, and has wrestled, since he was four years old. However, the high-school standout only received a letter of interest to play football from Marietta College in Ohio. “I played four years of football, but also walked onto the baseball team and was selected All-American in both,” he said. “I majored in business management with a minor in sports management.”
After graduating in 2005, Sidick was approached by the Pittsburgh River Rats to play arena football and the Washington Wild Things. He signed with the Wild Things and has played centerfield/leadoff hitter ever since. He currently holds the distinction of being the only local player on the roster.
However, Sidick noted that baseball is only a summer occupation and soon he found himself without revenue for eight months of the year. “It was my third year out of college and I said to myself that I had to find a way to make some money during the offseason,” he stated. “One fan asked me to train his kid and that snowballed into five kids. I truly enjoyed helping the young players, but I had nowhere to train them.”
He asked his parents if he could use their garage and invested $700 for a batting cage.
“I had to open up a credit card and this was a huge investment for me because I was only living on $20 month and saving the rest…living with my parents and driving my grandmother’s car,” Sidick said. “I’ve always had great coaches throughout my career, so teaching was easy for me – paying for the batting cage was hard.”
By the next year, his clientele was growing and Sidick moved from his parents’ garage to a rented garage that cost him $1,000 each month. But he saw an opportunity to fix the garage for a rent reduction and was given a batting cage. With almost 50 kids to coach, Sidick turned to the University of Pittsburgh Small Business Development Center (SBDC) to formulate a business plan and rent yet a larger space.
“During that summer when I played ball, I saved every penny and wrote the business plan by hand during our bus rides; we play 96 games in 100 days so I had the time,” he explained. “My goal was to get a $50,000 loan.”
Sidick’s vision for his baseball complex was a large field complimented by two batting cages.
Without a loan, he spent $80,000 on netting and turf by using a small credit line and bargaining power. Meanwhile, he still was responsible for rent, but his complex was filled once again and he began looking for a larger facility
“I had college, high school and youth teams renting out the space but I hated paying rent, so I revamped my business plan to get $1 million from a bank and was approved for almost that amount,” Sidick said. “I needed land to build my new facility, so I went door-to-door asking people if they would sell me their land.”
Not only did Sidick find property, but also an investor. “I was approached by a financier who wanted to be a partner, and that made sense because since I started my business, I’ve been the plumber, the janitor, the electrician and the tax man,” he explained. “A partner allows me to concentrate on training and marketing.”
Sidick is awaiting approval for his new facility, which would house a full-size NCAA regulation infield and offer additional sports such as football, soccer and laser tag. “This will be at 27,000 sq. ft. facility, and utilizing the large turf area is limited only by my imagination.”
Sidick admitted that winning an award from the SBA was gratifying because in four years his business has thrived in a bad economy. “It was great to win,” he added, “I don’t consider my job work and love talking to kids about sports and staying healthy.”
According to Carl Knoblock, Western Pennsylvania SBA district director, Sidick’s success is linked to his passion for baseball. He’s doing something he loves and is helping young people hone their skills in a sport they love,” Knoblock said. “He’s paid attention to his competition and the needs of athletes in the region and created a following for his services.”
Sidick and eight other local small business owners and advocates will be lauded at the Western Pennsylvania SBA May 27th Awards Luncheon which will be held at the Sheraton Station Square Hotel Pittsburgh. The luncheon is held in conjunction with the 48th annual celebration of National Small Business Week. Once the festivities begin, the public can “attend” Small Business Week events virtually, via the SBA’s streaming video on the Web at http://www.nationalsmallbusinessweek.com/webcast.php
Note: If you would like to speak with Chris Sidick or Carl Knoblock, Western Pennsylvania SBA district director, please contact Janet Heyl at 412-395-6560, ext. 103