Christien Levien, a lawyer, had learned a lot of great skills in school, but when he realized he needed exposure to the skills needed for the daily operation of a business, he turned to the Brampton Entrepreneur Centre.
“I didn’t really know a lot about business,” says Christien. “The Brampton Entrepreneur Centre and the programming there was great. But it wasn’t just the sessions and seminars. It was also regular meet-ups and networking with other entrepreneurs. It all combined to provide the training and mentorship I needed.”
Christien participated in the Government of Ontario Starter Company program, aimed at youth entrepreneurs. When he completed the program in December 2015, he left with a $5,000 cheque in start-up funding and an important network of contacts. “I’m still in regular contact with my cohort from the program. We share information, successes and encouragement.”
Christien entered the Starter Company program with his business called Legalswipe – an app that informs people of their legal rights during interactions with police. He has since started another business, as a partner in the criminal law firm Wiley & Levien.
Both businesses are based in Brampton, where Christien was born and raised. And both also spring from a passion for access to justice. A negative experience with police years ago, in which he was unlawfully detained, left a lasting impression. In addition to the two businesses, he also hosts workshops around the GTA to help racialized youth better understand their legal rights.
“I’ve had excellent support from the legal and social development communities,” says Christien. He also has a team supporting him, from developers at Ryerson University to business developers.
The app, Legalswipe, has been downloaded more than 20,000 times. A VC investor came on board recently, fuelling development. To have broad-based value, the app needs to be localized, as different jurisdictions have different legal nuances and procedures. In fact, he is soon launching the app for the U.S. market. Christien also has plans to expand Legalswipe into employment as well as landlord/tenant law.
There’s no revenue stream as yet, but Christien is considering direct-to-client law firm advertising for his app – making sure it’s appropriately targeted and ethical. He’s also developing connections with lawyer referral services.
“I think Brampton has reached a point where it’s becoming a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship,” says Christien. Smart people and existing infrastructure – like the Brampton Entrepreneur Centre – are the right combination to see exciting companies grow and prosper.”
The Starter Company program is funded through the Province of Ontario’s Youth Jobs Strategy, and delivered through regional or municipal offices like the Brampton Entrepreneur Centre. It’s one of the many resources entrepreneurs with plans to launch or grow a business can tap into.
The Brampton Entrepreneur Centre runs events throughout the year to support business and connect entrepreneurs. They also offer individual consultations and advice, and are the access point for funding and programs to support start-up and established businesses.
Go to www.Brampton.ca/bec
for more information.