Rising Star: Tony Burns

Tony Burns has come a long way from sleeping rough on the streets of Liverpool. He is now managing director of legal helpline Claim Angel.

Where did you get the idea?
I was really unhappy with the legal advice we received after my dad was diagnosed with asbestosis. Years later, I realised that our family should have received a lot more compensation, but at the time we were too intimidated to question the solicitor.

How does the business work?
It’s a free phone service for people seeking legal advice. We explain their recourse in layman’s terms and refer them to a solicitor if they want further help. We make our money though the solicitor’s referral fee.

How did you set it up?
Through personal funding from my friends and family, which came to about £7,000. Our overheads were really low, so the start-up process was fairly easy. The hard part was learning to run a business while getting my head around all the legal terminology.

Where do you advertise?
In local businesses throughout the country. We send them posters about our services to put up in staff rooms. Solicitors refer clients to us as a first point of contact and we’ve also used the media to get coverage.

Where next?
Because of the recession, we are seeing an increase in unfair dismissal enquiries. So we are hoping to become the commercial arm of the Citizens Advice Bureau. We’re also planning to branch into new areas such as payment protection insurance and debt solutions.

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