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.
“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.