Sidehill Farm owners look to sell yogurt production business in Hawley
|Published: 10-29-2023 7:16 PM
HAWLEY — The founders and owners of Sidehill Farm, which is said to be the only commercial yogurt producer in Massachusetts, are looking to sell the business to someone with the energy and vision to continue to expand it.
Since 2006, Amy Klippenstein and Paul Lacinski have been building a yogurt production business that now sees approximately $1 million in sales annually at stores across Massachusetts and neighboring states.
“The business is in really good shape. There is a lot of demand for the yogurt,” Klippenstein said. “There is tons of potential.”
Still, the couple feels someone else might be able to take this already successful business to the next level.
“Someone with more energy, more vision, could do right by the company,” Klippenstein said.
Klippenstein and Lacinski say they don’t have the energy to keep expanding the business and they feel it is not fair to the company to allow it to coast.
“We are acting more like employees,” Lacinski said, explaining that instead of working on developing new products and expanding to new markets, they are spending more time relaxing.
“For the business to remain successful going into the future, it needs someone who is reaching, and we are not,” Klippenstein said.
Some potential expansions include reaching larger markets in other states or diversifying the product base. Klippenstein and Lacinski said consumers have asked for more products such as fruit-flavored yogurt, kefir and cottage cheese.
The couple hopes to sell the business for $750,000, with most of the cost coming from the expense of equipment, including stainless steel tools and moving trucks. They are willing to wait as long as it takes to find the right buyer, and they are looking for someone who believes in the mission, is willing to fulfill their contracts — Sidehill Farm has a contract to buy milk from Gus and Kyra Tafel’s Meadowsweet Farm until 2027 — and will allow the five current employees to keep working with Sidehill Farm if they so choose. Klippenstein and Lacinski say decency — one of the company’s values — is very important in a new owner.
Lacinski hopes a loyal customer might find out about Sidehill Farm being for sale, decide they would like to take a stab at making yogurt and purchase the company.
Lacinski and Klippenstein said they have no future plans for after the sale, saying they have to “clear their plates” before starting on their next venture. They clarified they are not retiring, and expect to have about 15 more years in their careers.
“We are both at a place in life where we built this up from nothing,” Klippenstein said. “This was our passion and our dream. We felt like this was something we were supposed to be doing.”
The two felt called to start the yogurt production business in 2006. Before that, they were living as homesteaders, producing most of their own food. They found that their biggest expense outside of what they produced was yogurt. So, using a 1970s yogurt-making machine — which they still keep in their office as a relic — they began creating recipes.
This interest in selling the yogurt production business comes on the coattails of the couple’s sale of their 225-acre farm in 2020 for $1.1 million to Gus and Kyra Tafel. Klippenstein and Lacinski were looking to focus on the yogurt production rather than land and herd management, saying that owning the farm and the yogurt business was like having two full-time jobs.
As Klippenstein and Lacinski announce this big business decision, they’re also preparing to roll out two new environmentally friendly initiatives. Beginning in January, they will begin selling 6-ounce portions in paper cups, which will be recyclable.
“One thing that bothers us is we put a lot of plastic into the world,” Klippenstein said. “We are taking out one black mark against the company.”
Thanks to a $45,000 grant from the Northeast Dairy Business Innovation Center, they are also in the pilot phase of creating reusable stainless steel containers for their 32-ounce yogurts. The system would function by adding a return deposit for each reusable container.
Klippenstein and Lacinski worked with engineers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst on a life cycle analysis that found it would take six to 10 uses of the stainless steel container to be more sustainable than plastic. They hope to get 50 to 100 uses from each container.
Bella Levavi can be reached at 413-930-4579 or email@example.com.