Economic Liberty: Fulfilling Dreams

Economic Liberty: Fulfilling Dreams

By Patricia H. Lee

The Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago helps entrepreneurs pursue their individual and unique visions of the American Dream, while recognizing that achieving that dream is not as simple as it should be. We have a vision for how regulations should be streamlined or eliminated and how laws should encourage honest enterprise. However, the real world wreaks havoc with that vision.

With the IJ Clinicís help, entrepreneur Gwen Meeks achieved the first step of her dream: getting her product on the shelves of a Chicago grocery store chain.

Four years ago, the IJ Clinic assisted fledgling entrepreneurs who often feared even the earliest steps toward achieving self-sufficiency. At the same time, a paternalistic bureaucratic sentiment prevailed in pockets of the community, implying that efforts to assist undercapitalized start-up entrepreneurs created a false hope and therefore were futile. In other words, legal, regulatory and political solutions would be designed to benefit bigger, better-capitalized businesses in more centralized business districts, while beleaguered social service programs would take care of those the government assumed couldn’t provide for themselves (and therefore wouldn’t be given the chance to try).

But with the collaboration of an energetic IJ staff, bright University of Chicago law and business students and scores of ready and innovative entrepreneurs, we believe we set loose a new era of economic liberty in Chicago. Enron and the dot.com debacles only helped prove how right we were and still are. Bigger and overcapitalized doesn’t mean better, or more sustainable, or freer. Our model, on the other hand, has a greater foundation and more staying power.

What’s different today?

Gwenís Old Fashioned Bread Pudding Crunch.

Our team helped dispel Myth #1: that entry-level entrepreneurs, especially people of color, are either not interested in, or cannot fulfill on their own, dreams of self-sufficiency and self-determination. One recent example of a myth dispelled is IJ Clinic client Gwen Meeks, the creator of Gwen’s Bread Pudding Crunch. She had the idea and the skills to develop, bake and market a bread pudding dessert. It is now available in Jewel supermarkets and we eagerly expect a greater distribution in the near future. After a midsummer night’s dream, Meeks woke up, baked a delicious bread pudding dessert with pineapples and lost any fear of her ability to market it to consumers. She believed in herself and began to pursue a purpose in her life.

Naturally, there are now legal and business issues to confront. There are regulatory barriers to overcome. However, law students Michael Mullican, Timothy Mooney, Christina Buccola and Andrew Chalache recognize that something very cool just happened; they have the opportunity to provide vital legal services to a client who won’t take no for an answer. She will achieve her American Dream—nothing can stop her. As singer James Brown once said, ?I Don't Want Nobody to Give Me Nothing (Open the Door, I'll Get it Myself).? As Gwen and the supportive community embrace economic liberty, another door of opportunity opens.


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