Everyone has the right to earn an honest living, and city officials want to ensure their constituents can do exactly that: pursue their small business dreams while contributing to the local economy. But due to regulatory roadblocks, high fees, and time-consuming permitting and licensing processes, many entrepreneurs struggle to make their dreams a reality. 

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Cities Work is the Institute for Justice’s nonpartisan regulatory consulting initiative committed to increasing economic opportunity and fostering entrepreneurship in cities across the country. We partner with cities to make it cheaper, faster, and simpler to start a small business—all free of charge.

We approach our work from the entrepreneur’s perspective, letting their experiences guide our work. Through working directly with relevant stakeholders – including prospective and current small business owners, research institutions, city officials, regulators, and economic development organizations – we identify the city’s real-world hurdles to starting a small business and offer comprehensive regulatory reform strategies based on these findings.

Our Services

Cities Work is founded on collaboration with city councils. Every city is unique, so we offer tailored programming to match what your city needs.


  • Organizing roundtables of small business owners and surveying relevant stakeholders  
  • Hosting educational events for the public  
  • Door-to-door canvassing  
  • Coalition building and outreach to community organizations 

Research & Legislation

  • Presenting in-depth research on city codes and best practices 
  • Drafting ordinances, regulations, and collateral materials 
  • Meeting with relevant officials about proposed reforms 
  • Providing expert testimony at hearings 
  • Regulatory process mapping 


  • Writing press releases and media advisories and pitching to news outlets 
  • Help stakeholders draft and place op-eds 
  • Appearing on live media, including local radio or television news 
  • Social media promotion
  • Paid advertising 

Our Research

You shouldn’t need a law degree to start the small business of your dreams. But too often, entrepreneurs struggle with local regulatory burdens, finding themselves trapped by high fees, long wait times, and complex paperwork. These burdens amount to a death by a thousand cuts, unless aspiring business owners can successfully navigate them before reaching opening day. Local officials must make it cheaperfaster, and simpler for entrepreneurs to start a business—and this report presents specific recommendations to make those needed changes.

In cities across the country, the path for getting a business up and running is riddled with steep costs, frustrating delays, and confusing steps. Not only must entrepreneurs satisfy a tangled web of regulatory requirements, but they also must often do so without receiving clear guidance from local officials. Red tape on the books and officials’ poor communication and lack of transparency all contribute to the hurdles small businesses face from local government.

To better understand the challenges small businesses face and to offer recommendations, we analyzed the codes of 20 large to mid-sized cities, interviewed entrepreneurs from across the country, and mapped out the real-world process of starting five common business types from the entrepreneur’s perspective.

Fort Worth has a strong entrepreneurial spirit, but local entrepreneurs face steep barriers to entry and success. It is within the scope of city government to address these barriers and create an entrepreneurial ecosystem that is open to all and champions local businesses. The city of Fort Worth has demonstrated a firm commitment to creating a regulatory environment in which all small businesses can successfully start, grow, and thrive.

This report was requested by the Small Business Task Force and created by Cities Work with the goal of providing a comprehensive review of the current status of regulations faced by entrepreneurs in Fort Worth and outlining strategies to increase access to entrepreneurship for all. The body of this report is divided into three main sections:
regulatory research, insights from local entrepreneurs, and reform recommendations.

The obstacles Fort Worth entrepreneurs face are complex and require a multifaceted approach to reform that tackles the root causes of these barriers. This report is one step towards addressing these obstacles through a regulatory perspective with a recognition that ensuring equitable access to entrepreneurship is an ongoing process. This report outlines the current state of the regulatory environment entrepreneurs must navigate; the experiences of local entrepreneurs that provide depth to the regulatory environment research; and reforms the city can implement to strengthen the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Fort Worth.

Kansas City is known for having an entrepreneurial ecosystem with an abundance of resources to help small business owners thrive.

While these resources can help entrepreneurs navigate many challenges they face, this support does not address a root barrier to entry that exists: overly burdensome regulations that make it difficult to start a business.

In 2023, Cities Work and KC BizCare commenced a partnership to make it cheaper, faster, and simpler to start small businesses in Kansas City, Missouri. Over the year, we hosted local entrepreneur roundtables, department stakeholder meetings, conducted in-depth regulatory research, and began working with the Small Business Task Force. We are excited to launch the Kansas City, Missouri Small Business Insights and Policy Recommendations Report.

Work with Us

Get in touch with our team and learn more about what Cities Work can do for your city.

Our Team

Jenny McDonald
Director of Cities Work
Chad Reese
Associate Director of Activism
Jesse Goulding
Activism Policy Associate
Ava Mouton-Johnston
City Policy Coordinator
Tom Solomon
Special Projects Assistant
Trisha Dey
Activism Assistant
Laura Kelly
Activism Assistant