CHICAGO — Democracy is peddling its way through Chicago, armed with bags of food.
Cut Cats Courier, a Lakeview-based courier service, recently signed a final operating agreement — or its "constitution" — between its 50-plus couriers to give each of them voting power and partial ownership of the company.
"It legitimizes us," said one of Cut Cats Courier's founding members, Drew Priest-Grochowski.
Cut Cats Courier, which delivers food and other goods in an area bounded by Lawrence Avenue, Roosevelt Road, Kedzie Avenue and the lakefront, has been in business since 2009. Then, a handful of couriers biked bags of food to a few city businesses. The client base has now grown to more than 60.
Justin Breen on Cut Cats' democratic ownership model.
"In terms of seeing it grow, it's been amazing for me," said Priest-Grochowski, of Humboldt Park.
For the past three years, Cut Cats Courier has been working with the University of Chicago-based Institute for Justice’s Clinic on Entrepreneurship to figure out the legal logistics. The clinic, which specializes in helping entrepreneurs and small businesses get off the ground, allowed Cut Cats Courier to establish a proper business that also functioned in the democratic way it wanted it to.
"They love to ride their bikes and they wanted to create their own company and fit it into the right legal boxes," clinic manager Beth Kregor said. "It blew me away to see how involved they all were.
"For several years now, a group of bicycle couriers has been meeting at bars late at night — after restaurants stop asking them to deliver food orders — and discussing the law. As surprising as that may seem, Cut Cats Courier has worked diligently to figure out just how to design a business where every rider has a say and an ownership stake."
Priest-Grochowski said Cut Cats Courier delivers primarily to Downtown, West Loop, Wicker Park, Lakeview and Lincoln Park, and he's not opposed to expanding.
"We wanted to create a network of places we really like and give jobs to our friends," he said. "We've been fortunate to have so many people invested in this collective."
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