Members of Street Vendors Association of Chicago have been serving up traditional Mexican treats on Chicago’s streets for many years. However, until 2015, the vendors’ model of selling food from a push cart was outlawed in Chicago. Many vendors operated with a fear of being ticketed, fined, and/or arrested. In addition to fears of policing, vendors operating in the “shadow economy” had no way to access traditional financing or use traditional marketing methods to grow their businesses or attract new customers. Vendors simply wanted to use their best skills, cooking and serving their communities, to earn an honest living. Alongside the IJ Clinic, vendors legalized street food in Chicago. Today, the association is busy helping dozens of vendors comply with Chicago’s new Mobile Prepared Food Vending laws. In 2017, the vendors bootstrapped the capital to open a shared kitchen where they cook their tamales, elotes, fruit salad and other delicious bites. The IJ Clinic is helping the association with the ins and outs of setting up their nonprofit organization and their kitchen, white advising vendors about the new law.
Dustin Good grew up playing and watching sports with friends; for him participating in sports was always a team endeavor. As an adult, it struck him that when he and his friends play fantasy sports, they are generally playing in isolation. LeagueUpp was born through this realization. LeagueUpp is an online platform that allows individuals to import their fantasy sports leagues and have leagues compete against one another. It adds another level to fantasy sports competition and encourages more robust trading and competition within leagues. By day, Dustin works in food service so that by night, he can build an enterprise that makes fantasy sports competition a group activity. The IJ Clinic is quarterbacking the legal strategy.
When Rebecca Mueller graduated from fashion school, she was determined to stay in Chicago rather than follow many of her peers to what seemed like more fashion-friendly cities. Given the decline of retail and the rise of online shopping, Mueller knew she had to think innovatively about how to sell her custom clothes. She purchased a 25-foot truck and built her own mobile boutique, North and Hudson. With this truck, Mueller actualized her dream of bringing her clothes directly to her customers on the streets of Chicago’s busy business district. Thanks to the mobile business, North and Hudson grew quickly enough to open a store in Block 37 and a second pop-up location in Chicago’s Union Station. Getting her mobile fashion truck licensed was no easy feat, but Becky is passionate about holding the door open for other entrepreneurs who want to start with a mobile model of business.
When Jordan Buckner worked in a corporate office, he was horrified to witness what his colleagues consumed to stay energized. He’d always dreamed of building a self-sustaining business, one that helped the South Side by providing jobs and helped increase the availability of healthy food throughout the city, country, and world. Tea Squares are tea infused energy snacks that contain caffeine to help individuals fuel their passions and maintain mental focus. Jordan employs 10 people, several of whom are young people hired through Tea Squares’ mentorship program. As he builds his company, mentorship and economic development are built into the core of his Englewood-based business. Our legal advice about contracts, intellectual property and hiring have been a helpful ingredient as Tea Squares continues to grow. You can find Tea Squares online or at Whole Foods Markets throughout Chicago.
For years, Aya-Nikole Cook suffered from a chronic medical condition. When she finally found that a mix of talk therapy, yoga and acupuncture soothed her pain, she wanted nothing more than to share these healing secrets with other women in her community. Aya first operated Haji Healing Salon out of the living room of her Hyde Park home. In 2018, she’s excited to move into her first commercial space – located in Chatham! Aya views Haji Healing Salon as a sanctuary for South Side Chicagoans to heal both physical and mental ailments. The IJ Clinic is working with Haji Healing Salon to negotiate a lease for commercial space, to learn which licensing regimes apply to a yoga studio and to activities like community acupuncture, and to draft contracts with potential customers.
When Mayra Hernandez, a Back-of-the-Yards-Native, moved to another part of Chicago for undergrad, she started to spend a lot of time her local coffee shop. When she moved back home after her studies, she sharply missed her coffee spot and wondered why there wasn’t a similar business in her neighborhood. It wasn’t long before pondering turned to planning and Mayra partnered with longtime friend Jesse Iniguez to open Back of the Yards Coffeehouse and Roastery on 47th & Hoyne. The IJ Clinic is helping Back of the Yards Coffeehouse and Roastery navigate legal matters for their quickly growing business. Their dedication to neighborhood coffee shops with socially conscious missions is as strong as their coffee and to support their brewing expansion, we are helping them understand laws around hiring, drafting contracts for them, and helping them protect their intellectual property, so that their business can continue to grow and contribute to the community.
Cut Cats Courier and its cyclists chart their own course, in business and on the road. These experienced, hearty cyclists deliver food for restaurants throughout the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago and beyond. They tackle Chicago’s winter winds and icy sleet to get hot food to homebodies. At the same time, they are tackling complex and innovative legal questions. Cut Cats established itself to be a cooperative, and it is owned and operated by the very couriers who carry out the business vision. The IJ Clinic has worked in-depth with Cut Cats to write the rules of the road. Structuring democracies is no mean feat. And mapping a creative business structure is even more complex with confusing requirements for partnership taxes, labor laws and membership in a limited liability company.
Service in Bloom is on a mission to nurture elderly and disabled Chicagoans, so they can thrive. Damita McCoy founded her company to build a legacy of compassion for people who need both help around the house and a boost of joy and care. But the laws in Illinois almost nipped this business plan in the bud. The license requirements for a home services agency providing nonmedical assistance to people in their own homes are horribly confusing and complex. It took almost two years of work with successive student teams before Damita got her license. We jumped up and down and danced a jig together to celebrate that major accomplishment. Now, customers can benefit from Damita’s work ethic and compassion. The IJ Clinic takes care of Service in Bloom, so it can take care of its customers.
Elite Carpentry Works builds up houses, hope and neighborhoods. William “Tank” Tanksley and his son Dominique Williams are the charming father-son duo behind Elite. Together, they’re bringing Tank’s years of experience in carpentry to bear in the creation of a fresh, new business approach. Along with providing their integrity and craftsmanship to customers, they want to rebuild their community, which is peppered with abandoned, neglected homes. Tank explains that he wants to teach young people to install a window instead of throwing a rock through it. With help from the IJ Clinic, Tank and Dominique have set up their corporation and made smart decisions about contracts that protect them. We work to build the business structure to last as long as Elite’s construction.
LaForce Baker grew up on the South Side of Chicago. As a Posse Scholar, LaForce was able to go to college and develop his charisma, entrepreneurial creativity and professionalism. While working late nights at an advertising agency, where the only options for delivery seemed to be greasy fast food, he had the idea for Moon Meals, an online food service that would deliver healthy meals to hard-working professionals. He aimed to deliver nourishing food to fuel body and mind. Always an excellent networker, LaForce pulled together some friends to found the company. Together, they’ve acquired accounts at major firms downtown and retail outlets around the city. The IJ Clinic has helped Moon Meals sort out the relationships among the original teammates, as well as among new investors and partners. We strive to make sure all of the contracts Moon Meals enters create healthy relationships, just as Moon Meals creates healthy meals. LaForce is already turning back to lend a hand to the next wave of entrepreneurs by mentoring new Posse Scholars and sharing his insights into networking with community entrepreneurs.
Nicholas Monterotti has a classic entrepreneurial origin story. During the 2008 recession, Nicholas was laid off from his job in the financial industry. He went back to the job he had when he was in school, selling men’s clothing at Jos. A. Bank. As a thin, 6’5’’ man, he noticed that the clothes off the rack just weren’t right for him and similarly built men. Nicholas decided to do something about it and created Peter Field to customize clothing for all men. With clever Kickstarter campaigns, useful fashion statements (like microfiber pocket squares) and top-drawer customer service in the alterations business, the business began to grow. The IJ Clinic has helped this start-up on a number of matters related to the structure of the business, initially and helping with modifications as it continued to grow, advised the company on regulations across cities, helped with compliance with employment laws, and negotiated contracts and leases. We’re helping to custom design the business, so that it fits its founders just right and has timeless appeal.
Patrick Harris has been a tinkerer all of his life. Growing up on the South Side of Chicago as the son of a veterinarian, he had always dreamed of starting and running his own business. He went on to graduate with a master’s degree in electrical engineering. After freelancing for a number of large corporations, Patrick finally decided it was time to use his skills to build his own community on the South Side. So he packed his bags and moved back to Chicago to found iMagine-it-Tech, an affordable prototyping business that harnesses Patrick’s engineering know-how and the power of 3-D printing to help local inventors turn brilliant ideas into working prototypes. Patrick is able to offer prototyping to these inventors at a much lower cost than traditional product development companies. With the help of the IJ Clinic in structuring and growing his business, iMagine-it-Tech is helping make not only Patrick’s dreams come true but also the dreams of a number of his entrepreneurial clients.
Jennifer Goodman’s father was a caterer. His food brought happiness to so many people in his community – including his daughter. After several entrepreneurial experiences, from running a daycare to opening a food startup selling tex mex cuisine, Jennifer was called to take up the reins of her father’s business, Goodman’s Soul Food. She says she can feel the love in the air when customers are indulging in her food. While Jennifer started off just delivering individual meals, her customers have convinced her to scale to a full catering operation. From 5 Cheese Baked Macaroni, to cornbread to catfish – Goodman’s is proud to have served its family’s recipes for generations. The IJ Clinic helps Jennifer understand the complex laws about food service so Goodman’s can expand into new recipes and new locations.