Health department shuts down 11-year-old girl’s cupcake business

January 29, 2014
By Michael Lucci

Chloe Stirling, an 11-year old from Madison County, dreams of one day running her own bakery. Starting at such a young age, the sky is the limit for her baking dreams. And if state and local regulators have their way, that bakery will not be in Illinois.

“Hey, Cupcake!” is Chloe’s first start at a business, and she did well enough to earn $80 a week. But Chloe has been shut down by county regulators for violating onerous rules that require an 11-year old baker to finance a brand new and dedicated kitchen.

According to Illinois state law, food business run from home can’t be run out of a home kitchen. For an 11-year-old to start toward her dream in Illinois, she needs to overcome piles of regulations. A completely separate kitchen must be set up and outfitted with mandated equipment and supplies. It must then be inspected and issued a permit. It’s not enough for the family’s home kitchen to be inspected and permitted; they must build another kitchen.

Alternatively, food entrepreneurs can work out of a licensed kitchen. However, just such an innovative kitchen, run by Zina Murray in Chicago, was shut down because city regulators said each cook needed to be individually licensed. Zina described the process as “an uphill battle for any innovator.”

Which brings us back to Chloe. Her mother says that Chloe will learn a good business lesson from this situation, and they will make the best of it.

But what if young entrepreneurs end up learning the same business lesson that the hundreds of thousands of out-bound migrants have learned: that Illinois is not the place to start a business or pursue an opportunity? Young entrepreneurs will see state regulations standing between them and their dreams, and a government that only helps big corporations that threaten to leave.

Chloe is seeing the tip of the iceberg of business hurdles in Illinois. Businesses that survive their infancy are hit by waves of regulatory costs, wage laws, labor laws and excessive taxation.

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