Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the opening of City Hall’s new Small Business Center last week to provide a “one-stop shop” for novice entrepreneurs looking to establish small businesses in Chicago.
Emanuel said he hopes the new program will “make City Hall, not the problem, but the solution,” by providing a quicker and easier service to those seeking business licenses, permits, and additional help in establishing their new business. The program is also expected to assist new owners in quickly establishing their businesses without losing money before opening to customers.
Emanuel said City Hall has been a hindrance to small business owners for too long, and said he wants a major culture change within City Hall; the Small Business Center staff will be encouraged to build relationships with the customers established by trust, and to help solve problems without closing the doors on small business owners.
“The small businesses that are throughout the city of Chicago are the lifeblood of not only our economy, but also our job creation,” Emanuel said.
The new Small Business Center will host a staff trained in all areas and have a customer service mentality. “It’s not just putting everybody in the same physical space and having a small business center, a one-stop shop,” Emanuel said, “but making sure everybody who is working on it does not see themselves as working for a particular department, but working for a particular constituency, which is small businesses.”
Roxanne Nava, a native Chicagoan who has served as the assistant director at the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity, will head the center.
“I worked my whole career to create paths for small businesses, especially in Chicago,” Nava said. “Small businesses need to be focused on their customers, not City Hall.”
The city’s new Restaurant Start-Up Program served as the basis for the new center, which broadens the city’s focus to other types of businesses. The Restaurant Start-Up Program, which launched nine months ago, has reduced start-up times for emerging restaurants by half, the mayor said.
Attila Gyulai, a small business owner, just missed the opportunity to be a part of the pilot that the city conducted to help restaurant openers get up and running quickly. Gyulai owns Embeya, an Asian fusion restaurant located on Randolph and Jefferson.
“If I had to do this again and somebody from the city walked me through, that alone would’ve probably shaved off a couple of months,” he said. “We struggled and basically wasted a lot of time and money.”
Gyulai said the new Center is a great way to assist people striving to achieve for what he once hoped himself. ” We’re driven by passion, we’re driven by dreams,” Gyulai said. “Right off the bat, to have one office to go to, it’s a great help. It’s something simple that saves time, and saving time saves money for small businesses.
The Small Business Center is located on the eighth floor of City Hall, at 121 N. LaSalle St.
Hannah Cole contributed to this article.
- Mayor Emanuel Declares City Hall Open for Small Businesses(cityofchicago.org)