July 25, 2016

Starting a business should only take an idea and the drive to succeed. But if you want to start a business in Chicago, you need an attorney to help push things through City Hall. When Beckie Mueller left the financial industry to go to fashion school, she had a plan. Beckie would complete school and open a shop on wheels to sell her own creations, designed and manufactured in Chicago. She dreamed of starting a whole new kind of business in the Windy City—a mobile boutique. Beckie had read and could recite the city code—a street peddler is a person who moves from place to place, whether on private property or on the public way, selling from a wagon, motor vehicle, hand cart, push cart or other vehicle.

But the government had a different plan for Beckie. In early 2015, city officials refused to issue her a peddler’s license. Instead, the city suggested that she work exclusively out of festivals and farmers’ markets. Beckie had invested a large portion of her savings in building out her new business—a big, customized walk-in-closet on wheels called North & Hudson—and she knew that operating exclusively at weekend events wasn’t a viable option. When things got sticky with the city, Beckie reached out to the IJ Clinic on Entrepreneurship.

What Beckie did not know is that in 2012, Chicago created the emerging business permit to allow innovative businesses like North & Hudson to operate. The idea was that issuing a two-year emerging business permit would give the city two years to conjure up regulations for businesses that did not quite fit into other licensing categories. The goal was to cut through red tape and let innovation flourish in Chicago. But that is often not how cities operate. Unfortunately, in the years since the license was created, Chicago had issued only one of its shiny, new emerging business permits.

After the IJ Clinic began working with Beckie and after 14 months of lobbying the city, the Clinic and Beckie got something to celebrate. In June 2016, after taking more than a year to devise its requirements, Chicago finally offered North & Hudson an emerging business permit.

Beckie used to spend the majority of her time trying to find an event where her mobile boutique was welcome. Though her dream was unjustly deferred, she’s now free to share her fashions whenever and wherever she’d like. In fact, Beckie’s family is sharing in the success. While shirts, scarves and dresses are Beckie’s domain, her mom creates all of North & Hudson’s jewelry and accessories. Should it take a lawyer to get a license for a business as innocuous as North & Hudson? Of course not. But as long as it does, the IJ Clinic will be here in Chicago, helping entrepreneurs like Beckie through the process.

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