Business

Women talk pay gap and finances at new wine and networking event series

By Ruiqi Chen
Medill Reports

BottlesUp!, a Chicago wine shop, organized a networking and wine tasting event for women last week to discuss strategies for combating pay inequity and managing their finances, two of the biggest challenges that stand in the way of professional success for many women.

Melissa Zeman, the owner of the Lakeview East store, said she hosted the event and brought in Kristin Summers, an advisor with financial services company Ameriprise Financial, to give a presentation on what women can do to improve their financial situations. Around 40 women attended.

Zeman said she was passionate about “girl power” and supporting other women long before she opened BottlesUp! in the fall of 2019. The many woman-produced wines and liquors in her store were labeled with the female symbol, and she served snacks from woman-owned businesses.

Continue reading

City’s new congestion tax puts burden on Uber and Lyft drivers

By Kari McMahon
Medill Reports

On a recent journey downtown local Uber driver Matt collected a fare of $10 but said he only made $4 from it. The city, which began imposing a new congestion tax a month ago, made $3.

Matt, who typically drives eight hours a night, said that working as a ride-hail driver was not an easy job. He said the congestion tax is just another challenge he has to deal with on top of ride-hail companies taking a significant cut of his fares and having to compete with thousands of other drivers for those fares.

“It really is just a cash grab for the city, cloaked under the guise of congestion reduction,” said Matt, who did not want to share his full name for fear of losing his job. “Now you just have the same number of cars looking for potentially fewer riders.”

 In January, the City of Chicago implemented a new congestion tax on ride-hail providers to encourage riders to either use public transport or shared trips in the downtown area. The thinking behind the tax was that it would encourage residents to use public transportation, thereby lowering the number of vehicles in the city center and reducing congestion.

Continue reading

Chicago’s female founders find support and resources through local organizations

By Ruiqi Chen
Medill Reports

Chicago has the highest proportion of female startup founders in the world, helped by the city’s abundance of support organizations that provide women with resources and a sense of community.

Research company Startup Genome’s 2019 Global Startup Ecosystem Report found that over a quarter of Chicago’s startups were majority female-founded while the worldwide average trailed at 14%. The company’s analysis credited a “groundswell of women supporting women” and an abundance of women’s business support organizations as a potential explanation.

One such organization is the Women’s Business Development Center of Chicago, which provides training and guidance to women entrepreneurs. The organization’s managing director of entrepreneurial services Maura Mitchell said there are about 130 business service organizations like it in the city, and many of them offer programs specifically for women as well as financing help.

Continue reading

Bronzeville Boutique connects women with trendy Chinese fashion designs

By Wanying Zhao
Medill Reports

China, the world’s largest clothing manufacturer, is also taking a rapid lead in clothing design. At the Bronzeville Boutique on Chicago’s South Side, owner Treva Salaam discovered her favorite land of fashion is Guangzhou, China.

“I go to a lot of clothing shows. I go to major shows in Vegas, Los Angeles, and New York. And the faces I always see are Asian faces. So, why not go where I see the people come from?” Salaam said. She has been working in fashion retailing for three decades, but her trip to Guangzhou in October 2019 proved transformative — she finally got to witness and learn the whole making and trading process in person. Continue reading

Inspiration Corp. tackles food insecurity: ‘We need to give a damn’

By Briana Garrett
Medill Reports

Take a two-minute walk around the corner from the Wilson Red Line station to find Inspiration Corp., a non-profit organization waging war on food insecurity and hunger in Chicago as it has since 1989.

In Cook Country, one in seven people are food insecure, meaning that they are vulnerable to hunger and their access to fresh, affordable food is limited. Inspiration Corp. finds this reality unacceptable and fights it with a variety of programs.

“It’s stupid! Why is anyone food insecure? There’s more than enough resources to go around,” said Inspiration Corp. Chief Development Officer Evan Johnson. “It’s a question of will, not capacity.” Continue reading

Chicago area recycling industry struggles after China bans waste imports

By Lucia Whalen
Medill Reports

Before China halted the importation of plastic and other recycling waste from around the globe, the majority of Americans were living in a fool’s paradise. For most people, recycling ended at dumping paper, plastic and glass in a large bin – blue in Chicago. From there, most people paid little attention where the stuff landed.

That all changed in 2018, when China implemented its “National Sword Policy,” implementing strict restrictions on waste and metal imports coming in from other countries. China’s plastic imports are now down by 99%, with paper imports down by a third. Suddenly recycling is front and center in the news, and the public is more aware of the fact that their recycling was, in fact, being exported to another country, and that suddenly the world was facing a crisis in waste.

“China, the biggest buyer of scrap material from the U.S., stopped buying and the tariffs came in.  You have the biggest buyer of scrap material saying, ‘We’re done. We don’t have enough mills to process the materials we have now,'” said Joshua Connell, a managing partner at Lakeshore Recycling Systems. “China was the biggest buyer of our plastic commodities and now they’re not buying from us anymore. We have too much supply and not enough demand in North America for that supply,” Continue reading

Predicting climate change depends on supercomputers and Germany has Europe’s only supercomputer dedicated to climate

By Lucia Whalen
Medill Reports

Hamburg is home to one of the fastest-thinking supercomputers in the world at the German Climate Computing Center (DKRZ). The supercomputer whizzes through global tsunamis of climate data to develop climate models used in landmark blueprints for the future, including the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. The German Climate Computing Center is the only high-performance computing center dedicated to climate research in Europe.

Supercomputers are responsible for some of the pioneering breakthroughs in modern science. From biology and space physics to projecting the effects of global climate change, supercomputers are necessary for quantifying the gargantuan mathematical projections and scientific problems assembled by scientists to create models and analyze data. Supercomputers have become an essential tool for climate forecasting because the large quantity of data required to create climate simulations would take years to calculate on a normal computer.

The Misra supercomputer system at the German Climate Computing Center was ranked 80th on the TOP500 list of supercomputers in the world. (DKRZ)

Continue reading

Community drives three independent bookstores to thrive despite digital-heavy environment

By Hannah Farrow
Medill Reports

Between same-day shipping and instant Kindle ebooks, Amazon dominates book sales. Borders went out of business in 2011. Barnes & Noble was sold this year after its worst year in sales to date; they’ve also closed over 150 stores in the last decade. Yet the entire country is seeing a spike in independent brick-and-mortar bookstores and their sales. In Wicker Park alone, a neighborhood known for the arts, three thrive: Volumes, Myopic and Quimby’s.

“Myopic is the used books. Volumes is the family friendly. And we’re the weirdos,” said Liz Mason, 45, manager of Quimby’s. “We all have different vibes, and we all fulfill different needs. Honestly, in my mind, it feels like I have collaborators in getting Wicker Park to be more literary.”

Continue reading

Chicago’s Illegal drug market likely to thrive in the wake of marijuana legalization

By Shirin Ali
Medill Reports

Illinois will soon become the 12th state in the country to legalize the sale and possession of recreational marijuana on January 1, 2020, but legalization doesn’t come without significant uncertainty and risk. In particular, the law establishes a high barrier of entry for individuals interested in entering the industry, which could allow the underground drug market to continue to flourish.

Malcom Gray is a 25 year-old native of Chicago’s Austin neighborhood who says he’s been dealing in Chicago’s illegal drug market since he was 10 years old. He is confident that Chicago’s illicit drug market isn’t going to suffer from legalization, because dealers will simply resell marijuana that was purchased legally from a dispensary.  “They’ll most definitely still do it because of the easy access. The price for cannabis on the streets is now going to go up because the access to it is more easy. Anybody can walk into a shop and get the top notch stuff.”

Continue reading

Compulsive loyalty at Starbucks and clues to it from a neurology lab

By Annie Krall
Medill Reports

Starbucks has learned how to make customers keep coming back for more thanks to their rewards program.

And they’re not alone.

Thousands and thousands of businesses use rewards programs to draw customers in and keep them loyal. But why is potentially getting the next stamp or another level up so enjoyable to us?

Talia Lerner, a neurobiologist at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, and her team of researchers are trying to answer that question and many more. Using mice as test subjects they are analyzing the neurological pathways that make compulsive behaviors so difficult to stop, especially when it comes to alcoholism or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Continue reading