This week, the ladies of Smith Shapourian Mignano LLP are honored to feature a Q&A with Shanti Brien, Co-Founder of Daylight, an organization devoted to promoting rule of law, enhancing access to justice, and building safe and inclusive communities through advocacy, research, capacity-building, and institutional interventions.
We first met Shanti through our mutual friend, Darshan Campos, PhD. Shanti is an incredibly accomplished criminal defense attorney with extensive litigation experience in criminal courts in the State of California and the Ninth Circuit. She is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, and Stanford Law School, and currently teaches at Legal Writing at her alma mater, Berkeley Law.
In this blog, Shanti graciously offers tips for aspiring social entrepreneurs.
What was your inspiration to form your own business?
After many years of toiling away at litigation and lonely work as an appellate attorney for criminal defendants, I had to make a change. My partner and classmate from Stanford Law School, Christy Chandler, also worked as a criminal defense attorney. We were frustrated and saddened by police violence, overwhelmed by the magnitude of injustices in the criminal system, and discouraged by the small impact that we made working on individual cases. The entry point to the criminal justice system is the police stop, and we believed that if that interaction and policing in general were improved, the system would reflect more humanity and more respect. We addressed this in the course of teaching skills courses at Berkeley Law and policy courses at Mills College Graduate School of Business and Public Policy, and thereafter started Daylight with another Stanford Law classmate, Dominique Day.
Daylight’s mission is to transform the criminal justice system through education that promotes dignity, respect, safety and fairness. We provide training to law enforcement and other criminal justice actors on complex skills like implicit bias, leadership, procedural justice and mindfulness. We are also developing an interactive and intensive learning experience called the "Criminal Justice Simulation." Although our launch is officially set for 2017, we are already busy providing trainings in the Bay Area.
What is the biggest challenge you faced thus far as an entrepreneur?
This blog post is not long enough to discuss all of our challenges. I think our main obstacle is that as mothers, Christy and I are the primary caretakers to our children (5 between us, ranging in ages from 2 to 15). We have very supportive husbands who do a lot compared to most, but launching a business requires incredible dedication and countless hours. We must develop our web presence, write articles and speak at events, network, run the business and build the products. We also like to be with our kids! Although start-up life can be all-encompassing, we believe that we can create this business and design our roles the way we want it to be. We can call the shots and do not need to conform to some tradition or standard.
Additionally, being an entrepreneur, by definition involves doing things no one else is doing (or doing it better) and selling yourself as much as your ideas. We occasionally have to remind ourselves that we can do this and not to be influenced by the naysayers.
Statistically, women and minority-owned start-ups are less likely to get funding. What is the solution?
Funding of course is another challenge. We believe the solution is more women and people of color in positions to fund entrepreneurs. Bias against women and people of color in the business world creates serious barriers to funding and to success. Implicit bias training should be mandatory for all professionals now.
Smith Shapourian & Mignano, LLP is available to answer any questions or concerns you may have regarding incorporating your benefit corporation or nonprofit corporation. Please contact us for a consultation, or attend our informative brown bag lunch presentation, "B-Corps and CA Nonprofit Corps: What Every Social Entrepreneur Needs to Know," on September 20, 2016. You can register for the event here.
This blog does not constitute solicitation or provision of legal advice, and does not establish an attorney-client relationship. This blog should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney licensed or authorized to practice in your jurisdiction. You should always consult a suitably qualified attorney regarding any specific legal problem or matter in a timely manner, as statutes of limitations may bar your claim.