From private dinners to corporate events, Thunder Bay’s Pinetree Catering has been providing great local food since 2013.

Nikos Mantis Pinetree CateringThat’s not all, of course - Pinetree is also behind the popular Local Motion food truck, a regular sight on city streets.

Pinetree president Nikos Mantis spoke to the CEDC about his company, and his entrepreneurial journey, for Small Business Week.

  • What started you on the entrepreneurial journey (who/what inspired you?)
    • I always kind of had a dream of having my own place. In my younger years, it was to own a restaurant, but as I went through the industry and saw the ins and outs of the restaurant scene, I kind of shied away from that. But I always want to run my own thing, and have my own input and spin on what I was doing. It’s been a lifelong dream, to be honest with you. My grandfather was a restauranteur, and from a young age I wanted my own food shop.
  • Where did you turn for assistance/mentoring?
    • I looked around for assistance, but the reality is no one wants to touch food service, so there wasn’t much assistance, financially, available. So I had to look within my own family for that. I did get some mentorship through the Leadership Thunder Bay program. Some of the facilitators there kind of helped me along the way, and gave me the personal-encouragement boost of mentorship to take the leap and go for it.
  • What were some of the biggest life lessons you’ve learned along the way?
    • Coming into this, I had this vision of creating something different, particularly for employees that work in the foodservice industry. Through opening my business, I think we’ve kind of realized a little bit of what my vision was, and that was to create a really fun and exciting workplace, that was fun to come to work to, was financially rewarding enough so that you could sustain a living, and take a lot of pride in what you’re doing and have creative freedom to do new things. So, fostering individuals’ creativity and desires to grow has probably been the biggest one.
  • Why Thunder Bay?
    • I was born in Thunder Bay, and it’s always kind of kept a special piece of my heart. It’s really what we have on our doorstep: the access to the land and the lakes, and i think we have something unique here from a culinary perspective with the heavy influence of wild game, and wild-harvested and forest ingredients. I kind of grew up living on the land as a kid; we lived in a little homestead shack out in the bush, and we grew our own veggies and raised our own livestock. So, this area has always kind of held special for the foods that it presents, and the ability to create really great, unique flavours of the north.
  • What advice would you give to someone who’s just started, or is thinking of starting, their entrepreneurial journey?
    • It’s going to be really hard. Make sure that you’re up for it. If you don’t have a very strong will … to make it happen, it’s going to be a hard go, but at the end of the day, it’s probably the most rewarding thing you’ll ever do. So, leap.
  • What was something that was unexpected in this journey?
    • It sounds silly, but just the amount of hard work that it takes. I knew I was up for a challenge, but I didn’t know quite how big the mountain was going to be, and it’s a lot bigger than you think it is.
  • What was the greatest moment in this journey?
    • Probably the biggest reward has been the response of our clientele. People’s willingness to trust us in creating some new and exciting culinary treats, and sticking by us and showing that they appreciate what we’re doing.
  • If you could be a food, which would it be?
    • It would be an onion. It’s the most versatile, and diverse ingredient used across every culture and culinary tradition.
  • What is your business’ short pitch?
    • You dream it, we’ll cater it.

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