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Information and Assistance for Small Business Owners

From time to time we receive information from various government agencies or non-profit groups that might be of use to Small Business Owners.
They will be posted here and updated periodically.

Please scroll down to see all the articles.
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Plan For Profit by WBDC
When: Begins Thursday, January 24, 6-8 PM
Where: 8 S Michigan Ave, 4th Floor

Whether you are a start up or an emerging business, Plan for Profit is a comprehensive training program for those learning to work on their business. The program consists of 3 modules of 4 sessions, and helps you draft your business plan.
Each session focuses on a critical aspect of business development, shows you the ropes, and then allows time for you to draft that section of your plan. To strengthen your skills, you get feedback from each other on the part you researched and developed. By the end of the program, you should have a comprehensive business plan. This cost for this program is $250, please contact Maura Mitchell to discuss applying for the cohort.
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From Farr & Farr emily@farrandfarr.com

A New Year Brings New Changes to Illinois Employment Law

1. Posters (NEW!)

Clear a bit more space on the break room wall. Beginning in 2019, there are two additional posters you should display to employees. You can find (and print) them HERE and HERE. The first poster, regarding ISERRA (Illinois Service Member Employment and Reemployment Rights) details additional rights for members of the military. More on this law below. The second poster, from the Illinois Human Rights Commission, specifically describes rights of those sexually harassed or assisting another in reporting sexual harassment. As a reminder, you do NOT have to purchase posters through a vendor. You can print them yourself. All can be in black & white except for the Concealed Carry poster, which should be in color.

2. Employee Reimbursements under the Illinois Wage and Payment Act (NEW!)

We wrote about this earlier this year, but as of January 1, 2019, Illinois will join a growing number of states in requiring employers to pay for "all necessary expenditures or losses incurred by the employee within the employee's scope of employment and directly related to services performed for the employer." You can avoid financial surprises by drafting a clear policy for employees to follow. Contact us if you would like to learn more.

3. Nursing Mothers in the Workplace Act (Amended)

The Nursing Mothers in the Workplace Act was recently amended to permit nursing mothers to take breaks to express milk whenever they need to do so. Prior to this amendment, you as the employer were permitted to schedule nursing during other breaks. Doing so now would be contrary to the law, unless you can prove an undue burden (this is a very high bar). If you have any questions, let us know!

4. ISERRA (NEW!)
Modeled after USERRA, the federal Act, ISERRA expands right for those in military service. First, Illinois expands the definition of military service. If any of your employees serve in the following capacity, they are covered:

Service in a federally recognized auxiliary of the United States Armed Forces when performing official duties in support of military or civilian authorities as the result of an emergency.
Service covered by the Illinois State Guard Act.
Note that service also includes a period during which service members are absent from employment for medical or dental treatment related to a condition, illness, or injury sustained or aggravated during a period of active service.
If you employ individuals covered by ISERRA, you are now required to credit an employee on military leave with an average performance rating. To calculate the average, an employer must use the performance ratings or evaluations that the employee received over the three years preceding the employee's active military service. The calculated average rating cannot be less that the rating that the employee received for the last rating period before his or her military leave. In addition, if an employee elects to continue employer-provided group health insurance while on military leave, you must make employer contributions to the employee's premiums. And, for employees participating in annual military training, you must provide full salary continuation for the employee for up to 30 non-consecutive days per calendar year.
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From the City of Chicago

Pop Up Licenses Now Available
The City of Chicago has a new Pop Up License available for entrepreneurs and property owners. Entrepreneurs looking to operate as a pop-up can now obtain an affordable, easy-to-get, pop-up user license. Users will have the option of receiving a 5-, 30-, 90-, 180-, or 365-day license, depending on their business activity for $25 to $150 depending on length of activity and without on-site inspection. User licenses are not tied to a location, so the holder can “pop-up” in different venues during the length of the license and operate all around the city. Building owners and new entrepreneurs now have the opportunity to create a business devoted specifically to hosting pop-ups through an easy to acquire pop-up host license.

Learn more on the City of Chicago's website.
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From SBA

5 Questions to ask Yourself if you Plan to Start a Business

Starting a business takes planning, making important financial decisions and completing a series of legal activities. There are plenty of things that every business needs to do to get off the ground. Here are five key questions to ask yourself as you plan to start a business.

Learn more
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From BACP

Entrepreneurs To Get A Break On Their First License

The Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) Commissioner Rosa Escareno announced new support for an estimated 2,000 entrepreneurs who are trying to launch or grow a business. Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s small business reforms support small businesses by cutting red tape, improving transparency and encouraging innovation in every part of the city.

The new Limited Business License fee reduces the cost of a start-up license fee by half, from $250 to $125. The reduction applies to:
New Limited Business License applicants
Existing Limited Business licensees who are expanding by adding a new business location
Existing Limited Business licensees who are moving to a new location
Renewals do not qualify for fee reduction

You may apply for a license in person at the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) office in City Hall, 121 N. LaSalle Street, Room #800 or online at www.cityofchicago.org/sbc. For in person consultations, an appointment is recommended and can be made by calling (312) 74-GOBIZ / (312) 744-6249. For more information go to First License.
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From Farr & Farr

ICE Increases Employer Audits by Over 100%

On July 24, 2018, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced the results of a two-phase nationwide operation in which I-9 audit notices, or Notices of Inspection, were served to more than 5,200 businesses around the country since January. This operation indicates a renewed focus on immigration status, as audits have increased by over 100%. Under federal law, employers are required to verify the identity and employment eligibility of all individuals they hire within three (3) days of hire, and to document that information using the Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9.

Fines for knowingly hiring or continuing to employ unauthorized workers start at $559 per employee and can be as high as $22,363 for repeated offenses. Paperwork violations range from $224 to $2,236. Companies may also face additional fines, penalties and forfeitures, and government contractors may face debarment from federal contracts.

After receiving a Notice of Inspection ("NOI"), employers are required to produce their company's I-9s within three (3) business days, after which ICE will conduct a compliance inspection. If employers are not in compliance with the law, an I-9 inspection of their business will likely result in civil fines and, per ICE, "could lay the groundwork for criminal prosecution if they are knowingly violating the law." Additionally, "all workers encountered during these investigations who are unauthorized to remain in the United States are subject to administrative arrest and removal from the country."

KEY TAKEAWAYS: Ensure each and every employee has completed the I-9 process. Follow the "Rule of 3": Verify employees within 3 days of hire, and remember that you have 3 days to respond should you be audited. You should never waive this window
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From the SBA

How to Choose the Right Business Structure

Choosing which business structure is right for you is a crucial step when starting a business. The entity you select has legal, financial and operational implications. Here are three factors to consider when choosing a business structure.

Read more
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From the SBA

8 Business Plan Myths That Can Hurt Your Business

The need for good business planning is as strong as ever, and the potential benefits are as important as ever. Every business owner ought to have a business plan but the best strategies for business planning are different than they used to be.

Read More
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From the SBC

New Incentive for Businesses that Complete Start-Up Certificate Program

The City of Chicago's Small Business Center (SBC) has partnered with The CIBC Bank to make entrepreneurs who complete the city's Business Start-Up Certificate Program eligible to apply for low-interest and no-fee loans through the bank's Entrepreneurial Loan Program. Program participants who complete the curriculum will now qualify to apply for The CIBC Bank Entrepreneurial Loan. This low-interest, no-fee loan can range from $1,000 to a maximum of $10,000 for new businesses and $25,000 for businesses with one-year of filed tax returns. All financing decisions are made by the bank.
For more information email bacpiutreach@cityofchicago.org or call 312-744-2086.
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From SBA

10 Steps to Starting a Business

Starting a new business in 2018? SBA has programs and services to help you succeed. Kick off the year right by taking these 10 steps.

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From the SBA

7 Types of Advertising That Don't Cost an Arm and a Leg

Advertising can be a powerful way to deal with marketing challenges such as low brand awareness, a declining customer base or heavy competition. Or perhaps you simply have a desire to drive more foot traffic to your business and think advertising can help.

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From the Chicago Commission on Human Relations

Avoiding Workplace Harassment

With all of the recent headlines about high-profile cases of harassment, business owners of all sizes should be particularly mindful of their obligations provide a workplace free of sexual harassment. Not only should business owners and managers be on the lookout for overt instances of harassment, but they also should be mindful of phrases containing sexist or racist epithets that are commonly used but nevertheless inappropriate in the work environment. Comments or behavior that offends another person, even if unintentional, may constitute workplace harassment.

For more information, visit the Chicago Commission on Human Relations website.
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From the SBA

10 Tips for Cybersecurity

If you choose to take your business to the digital world, as most businesses these days do, you don't want to miss these critical ways to protect what you have. Check out 10 cybersecurity tips for small businesses to safeguard your business in the digital age.

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From the SBA

These tips can help your home-based business take off

Did you know more than 52% of all small businesses in the U.S. are home based? If you are considering or are in the process of starting a business from home, it's an exciting and important undertaking. And as with any venture, it's crucial to take the right steps to set yourself up for success. Check out these five key financial tips to follow when starting a business from home.

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