Building Businesses In a Changed Economy
By Patricia Lee
A record number of entrepreneurs have participated in the IJ Clinic on Entrepreneurship’s workshop series this year. First introduced in the spring of 2000, the IJ Clinic in collaboration with its local partners has continued a tradition of introducing inner-city entrepreneurs to a range of topics instrumental in enhancing their business enterprises. Again this year, law students of the University of Chicago Law School who worked in the IJ Clinic presented an information-packed workshop series at the law school on three consecutive Monday evenings in April. The topics included choice of entity, intellectual property, real estate/leasing and business planning. The students engaged entrepreneurs with valuable information in a very professional and impressive manner.
Entrepreneurs who wanted more information were able to attend a fourth session hosted in collaboration with Loyola University Law School in Chicago, the Public Interest Law Initiative and Northwestern University School of Law on the topic of employment law. Last but not least, two final sessions for the quarter were held at the Ramada Inn Hyde Park along with the Illinois State Microenterprise Initiative during that organization’s first Spring Roundtable. During this conference, topics addressed included micro-lending, access to capital and asset protection.
A working knowledge of business planning, choice of entity, real estate/leasing, micro-lending and intellectual property is crucial in the early years of a start-up. What is so amazing about the entrepreneurs who participated in this series of workshops was that they weren’t busy complaining—complaining about the economy or complaining about what they didn’t know or didn’t have. Rather they were spending their time productively creating new businesses, discovering new information and putting their own innovative ideas into action, all during these very trying economic times. I personally commend their efforts to stay focused, keep positive and continue to rise above what appear to be insurmountable hurdles to their quest for profitability, sustainability and self-sufficiency.
One entrepreneur who took time out to do some basic networking and skill-building was Grady Jordan. With the IJ Clinic’s help, Grady recently opened a new record store on 63rd near Eberhart in the Woodlawn area called “Yours and Mine Record Store.” During the workshops, he made valuable contacts with partners such as ACCION Chicago, a Chicago micro-lender, and Jane Adams Hull House SBDC, an organization that provides technical services to entrepreneurs in the inner city. Grady, like many of the entrepreneurs the IJ Clinic represents, is fulfilling his dream of self-sufficiency and community building.
In my new capacity with IJ in its Washington, D.C., headquarters, I eagerly look forward to working with organizations that also seek to build businesses in this changed economy. We are fortunate to have Joe Holt, our new director of the IJ Clinic on Entrepreneurship, join the team. We are confident that he will be a phenomenal addition to the IJ staff and continue to develop the program positively and powerfully.
Patricia Lee is IJ’s managing vice president and national director of clinical programs.