Written by Andrew Seale

After a few summers working office jobs, Justin Leon wasn’t so keen on the prospect of spending yet another break between semesters indoors.

“I just hated sitting around with nothing to do, I really wanted to work… there’s always been a little bit of an entrepreneurial side to myself,” says Leon. After picking the brains of a few friends who’d run a barbecue cleaning business, Leon decided to try it for himself.

He started laying out a business plan in February and, at his friend’s advice, he applied to the Summer Company, a Province of Ontario and City of Toronto-backed mentorship and funding program for young entrepreneurs looking to start their own business over the course of the summer.

“When I got accepted it was great because there were more starter expenses then I thought there was gonna be,” he says, adding that the $1,500 in startup funding he was given upfront helped him build out his tool kit. He was out the door in May, finding clients to hawk his barbecue cleaning services to.

“It was a little bit tough at first but once I started getting those mentoring sessions from Summer Company they really guided me into what I should be focusing on and who my target market was,” says Leon. “It spiralled from there and turned out to be a pretty successful summer.”

Through Summer Company, he met another entrepreneur who had run a barbecue business. They spent a couple hours talking about his experience and Leon was able to get a better handle on his own business.

He also learned a lot about motivating himself. Since his goal was to reach 100 clients, his advisor recommended setting up a board to track his progress.

“When you’re working for yourself, you need a lot of self-accountability and discipline,” he says. “With targeting those goals, that really helped me achieve the motivation I needed to get up every morning and keep doing what I was doing, trying to reach those goals.”

He ended up getting 85 clients, just shy of his target, but he’s proud nonetheless.

Leon although says he dissolved his business at the end of the summer before going back to school, he won’t rule out starting another business.

“I’m not sure… I have a lot of entrepreneurs in my family (and) I'm still open to starting my own business,” he says. “(But) this program is a good little trial run into what might become an actual business for yourself – if you want to grow your own business, this is a perfect way to do it.”