Nexba Iced Tea

Study vs. Startup: How to Juggle a Degree and a Dream

When my friend and now brother-in-law Drew Bilbe returned from Mexico with the idea to launch an Australian, natural ice tea brand, I didn’t hesitate to say yes.

To me, the opportunity was exciting. I was 21, living at home and studying a joint Bachelor of Communications and Law at the University of Technology Sydney. 

In 2011, we started with a vision to be the ‘better-for-you’ beverage brand. Nexba was born at a café near uni. We got started and with the help of friends and family set up a small factory to produce our first cans.

Now, almost five years on, Nexba is one of the fastest growing beverage brands in Australia, stocked in Coles supermarkets, Coles Express service stations, 7-Eleven and more.

And as I write this article, I am not at a big meeting because I am about to head back into UTS to finish one of my last core subjects…. seven years later.

So how did I get here? I believe a big contributor to my ‘success’ is appreciating the lessons I learnt while juggling a degree and a career. Here are some of the best:

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Related: What Your First Job Teaches You About Life

Adopt the mantra of ‘life long learning’

Law, among many other degrees and professions, instills the concept of ‘life long learning’.

Whether in business or not, I believe as citizens we have a duty to impact for better the people in our lives including our own.

Rather than view study time as separate to work time, approach both as interchangeable. When you recognise that you’re embarking on a life of learning, both through business and study, you’ll find juggling the two much easier.

Apply study to business

Starting a business while at uni gives you an extra edge against other students and other businesses.

Firstly, it allows you to get out of the classroom and apply those textbook principles to real life scenarios. Secondly, it gives you access to lecturers, books, tutorials and endless texts to better inform your business plan and the decisions you make at work.

Don’t hesitate to test what you are learning at university by putting in practice at work.

Have an outlet

A typical day for me is exhausting. It can include flying to Melbourne for a meeting with one of our big stockists like Coles, then returning to Sydney to write an assignment and go to a late night law lecture.

Balancing these two demanding sides of my life can be challenging, and it’s through this that I’ve learnt the value of looking after yourself.

Exercise for me is core. I find it helps me to stop, slow down and focus on something other than my workload and daily stressors.

I’m fortunate to have an outlet of Surf Boat rowing, where every morning I get my social fix from my crew, albeit at 5.30am.

Having this outlet has taught me that exercise is a necessity when you’re desk-bound.

Goals are key

I’ll let you in on a secret: I was a proud nerd at school with a large 95 UAI (now ATAR) target on my bedroom wall.

There is nothing more exciting than reflecting back on how you have stayed on the path you set yourself, celebrating how you have outperformed your goals, or working out why you didn’t quite reach that target.

So take the time to set goals both personally and professionally, and think about what you want to achieve today, this week, month, year and three years from now.