EAST GARFIELD PARK — Against a deafening cacophony of yelps and barks, Ruby Madrigal explains the history of her dog-based business, K9 University.
Located in an industrial corridor underneath the Lake Street El tracks, the East Garfield Park facility faces a mountain of pricey licensure requirements as it gets underway. K9U’s sister business in East Lakeview faltered and folded earlier this year.
Madrigal partly blames the city for that closure, saying the business never really had a chance to find firm footing while waiting for inspectors and licenses.
“We ended up losing clients. We were only open six months,” she said.
But Madrigal, along with thousands of other small business owners, is expected to benefit from a license consolidation program announced by Mayor Rahm Emanuel that will cut the required number of distinct city business licenses from 117 to 49.
The savings for K9 University should be significant. Madrigal said the business needs permits for boarding, training and selling dog food, each costing about $300. Under the plan, she’ll only have to pay annually for one license.
“I think [Emanuel] came into office and started looking at complaints from small business owners and started doing something about it,” she said.
During Wednesday’s budget address at City Hall, Madrigal and K9 University got a personal shout-out from Emanuel. Why? Put simply, Madrigal said it was because she spoke up.
Earlier this year, staff from Emanuel’s office had been asking business owners in the Industrial Council of Northwest Chicago about impediments to success. Madrigal said she explained the challenges and cost of obtaining multiple licenses.
Fast forward a few months: she's now attended a handful of meetings with city officials and roundtables with other business owners, leading to an invitation to City Hall for the budget address and the special mention from Emanuel.
But Madrigal said the mayor got it sort of wrong when highlighting K9 University. To illustrate his point, Emanuel said Madrigal would save about $600 annually through consolidation of the boarding, training and retail permits.
Then he quipped, "I think Ruby is just looking for a kid to buy the dog."
That’s not entirely true. Says Madrigal:
“We would need another license for that.”