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Inspiring studies lead to renovation business revival

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When Travis Nguyen chose to study a business elective for his undergraduate engineering course, he had no idea it would inspire him to revive his carpentry and handyman business, XPAN RENOS.

After working as a carpenter for seven years, Travis decided to study a Bachelor of Engineering at the University of Tasmania because he wanted to build on his industry experience and take his career to the next level.

“Working as a carpenter, I got to observe and work in the construction industry with great people and brilliant business minds.

“I realised that if I wanted to further my career, I couldn’t just stop at being a contractor or builder,” Travis said.

In 2019, before moving to Tasmania, Travis was studying engineering in Newcastle and running a renovation business, but due to the financial impacts of the pandemic, he made the difficult decision to close.

“We hit a speedbump in 2020 with COVID, and the amount of work available wasn’t enough to spread between my eight carpenters, and our clients - who were also facing financial problems at the time - were delaying payments for as long as they could.”

At a crossroads with his career and his ambitions, he decided to move interstate and continue his engineering studies at the University of Tasmania in 2022.

In a bachelor’s degree, students can choose elective units from across university disciplines. For Travis, the decision to study with the Tasmanian School of Business and Economics was a choice that would spark his passion and determination to revive his fallen business.

“The Freelancing and Small Business unit was a random choice of elective for my course, but I learnt so much more about how to look from my client’s perspective and how I could ultimately create more opportunities for myself.

An example of work completed by XPAN RENOS
Renovations completed by Travis for Cyclo Vietnamese Street Food in Moonah

“The unit also taught me how to analyse and understand other types of business.

“I’ve wanted to make a comeback from my previous failure, and the skills I learned from Dr Eager’s unit inspired me to try again in a new state equipped with a greater understanding of small business,” Travis said.

For Freelancing and Small Business Unit Coordinator Dr Bronwyn Eager, Travis’ story highlights the real-world impact higher education has on students, and the value of cross-disciplinary study.

“In my Freelancing and Small Business unit, I teach students how to package and develop their skills to meet the ever-changing needs of the workforce and small business environments.

“It’s always rewarding when a student gains new insights and perspective from your teaching,” Dr Eager said. “To have that impact displayed in such a positive and practical way makes me very proud of the work I do.”

After completing his degree, Travis plans to work as an engineer and build XPAN RENOS into a national business.

“After graduation, I want to find myself a job in engineering and get some real experience as a graduate engineer. And I want to try to make XPAN RENOS run on its own and get some reliable carpenters on hand.”

“Hopefully, one day, I can grow XPAN RENOS into an interstate business,” Travis said.

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