Here in Chicago, the IJ Clinic on Entrepreneurship works tirelessly to help low-income entrepreneurs overcome the city’s infamous regulatory maze and launch their businesses. So when a global pandemic brought the nation and the economy to a standstill, we went into overdrive to help local entrepreneurs stay in business.
The idea? Develop and promote a website connecting Chicago consumers confined to their homes with small businesses offering the goods and services they need, such as cleaning products and educational supplies. The result? ShopInPlaceChi.com: a clean, elegant site that includes mapping technology and sorting tools so Chicagoans can easily patronize small businesses in their own neighborhoods or across town. Businesses can easily submit their information online, and they can access legal resources the IJ Clinic wrote and compiled to explain how local, state, and federal regulations have changed—and are changing—as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
ShopInPlaceChi.com was an immediate success. Just one month after launching with seven business listings, the website highlighted more than 440 local businesses providing essential goods and services in 20 categories. This one-stop shop for supporting local entrepreneurs has also garnered more than 42,000 site visits and been featured on multiple TV news and public radio segments, sharing the positive story of the bold entrepreneurs making life easier and healthier for customers during a hard time. It’s also been a lifesaver for hardworking—and hard-pressed—small-business owners. Dozens have taken the time to reach out and thank us for supporting them with the site.
You don’t need to be in Chicago to take advantage of the site and support local small businesses and IJ Clinic clients! How about a history happy hour presented by tour company Chicago Detours? Or perhaps an anxiety-reducing yoga class taught remotely by Haji Healing Salon? You can also learn to make your own sneakers with a kit from the Chicago School of Shoemaking or elevate your morning coffee ritual with beans roasted by Back of the Yards Coffee.
Plus, Shop In Place may be coming to a city near you! People from all over the country have inquired about bringing this exciting resource to their cities, and we are happy to assist. IJ has already launched ShopInPlaceDC.com, and we are planning to add more cities in the weeks ahead.
ShopInPlaceChi.com contains hundreds of examples of entrepreneurs struggling to survive in these unprecedented times with hustle and heart. Our role at the IJ Clinic is to provide the real-world support they need at the moment they need it most. u
Beth Kregor is the director of the IJ Clinic on Entrepreneurship.