For the students in the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School’s Entrepreneurship Legal Clinic (ELC), entrepreneurship and creating positive social impact go hand-in-hand. ELC is one of nine legal clinics housed in the Gittis Legal Clinics. In the ELC, students gain practical experience representing entrepreneurial and organizational clients through a diverse range of legal matters related to their businesses’ success.
“Conversations around revitalizing neighborhoods used to revolve around bringing big box retailers into a poorer neighborhood,” says Praveen Kosuri, deputy dean for clinical education. “But a business that is started by an entrepreneur from a neighborhood is more likely to employ people from that neighborhood and keep the dollars spent at that business in the neighborhood as well. The theory is that this leads to greater economic development locally and wealth creation for the entrepreneurs themselves. Entrepreneurship can be a poverty alleviation strategy.”
West Philadelphia entrepreneur Kimberly McGlonn sought the ELC’s services for her sustainable clothing store, Grant BLVD. Grant BLVD operates radically outside the lines of a typical fashion business. In addition to sourcing all of its textiles sustainably, it also prioritizes employing formerly-incarcerated individuals—a group that, historically, has been effectively shut out of the job market. At its core, Grant BLVD seeks to break cycles of poverty and criminalization, instead providing opportunities for people to grow their skills, secure dependable incomes, and participate meaningfully in the local economy.
McGlonn has worked closely with ELC students over several semesters as she continues to adjust to the ever-changing circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic and brainstorm new ideas for profit and social impact growth.
“The pandemic has required a special level of thinking about what it means to be nimble. Building community in a time when people feel so generally anxious and unsafe has been a challenge. We had to think about how we could use brick and mortar to do that,” McGlonn says. “We also had to think about what was needed to achieve profitability while not only being focused on profit. We never aspired to be a luxury brand, but at the same time, we want to pay our team members a living wage. How do you center that and navigate through that, and how do you survive long enough to think through better solutions? That requires a lot of savvy, which is where ELC comes in.”
Read more at Penn Law News.