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"Back yourself, be sure of your convictions, know that failure is okay."

A business entrepreneur, Dion Appel says his Deakin commerce degree helped give him the confidence to make courageous career decisions.

Few undergraduate students have the ability - or courage - to launch a start-up business before completing their degree.

While Dion Appel’s first foray into business didn’t take off in the way he hoped, it did provide him with valuable experience to explore other opportunities and create following successful business ventures.

Co-founder in the late 1990s of the well-known youth marketing agency Lifelounge, Dion grew this agency into an award-winning marketing company that linked established brands to young adults.

In 2015, he sold Lifelounge to a multi-national advertising network where he now holds the role of managing director. He says studying commerce at Deakin was the natural progression for his lifelong interest in people and business.

‘After researching a number of higher education possibilities, I found that Deakin’s commerce degree offered the flexibility to pursue a wide range of business interests. I still speak about my experience at Deakin to this day. The campus culture, learning and creation of great friendships have all contributed to my career to date … Deakin was a welcoming environment and gave me confidence to be more independent, life skills that formed a great base to build on.’

Dion was only 26 when he sold his first business to then go on and immediately launch another. He says the move came at a time when he began thinking about setting some serious professional goals.

‘The business was a great learning curve with a great outcome … but I wanted to build a new business and also give some of my time to honorary roles that contribute to the community,’ he explains.

Since selling the business and moving into the managing director’s role - based in the company’s Melbourne office - Dion oversees much of the organisation’s financial and people management, client relations, problem solving and has also continued to broaden his skills and networks.

‘Something new to my entrepreneurial career is now global network engagement … I also hold positions with the Australian Centre for the Moving Image and the Melbourne International Comedy Festival,’ he says.

Reflecting on his Deakin experience, Dion says that completing a university course is often what separates the ‘good from great’ when it comes to work-ready skills.

‘At the time you may not feel the benefits of study, it’s only when you come toe to toe with the outside world that it really kicks in, or at least that’s how I’ve experienced the benefit of study. Your ability to think differently, swiftly and deliver consultatively has enabled me to consistently remain a step or two ahead of the competition,’ he explains.

Importantly, he adds that his degree also equipped him with the ability to speak confidently and act courageously.

‘You are human if you feel nerves in new environments, confronting new situations. Deakin was once a new environment for me but it taught me to be courageous and to always back myself. That has enabled me to enjoy my career to date. I love meeting people, learning from them and sharing my experiences. I’m always striving to turn challenges into opportunities and that’s what I enjoy most.’

With a diverse and rich array of business skills, Dion believes that a university degree provides an excellent foundation for any business career.

‘There are now so many course options for students. My advice is to consider pathway courses if you don’t land exactly where you want first go. If you’re not sure what you’re interested in, pick a course that offers a broader range of opportunities and then navigate your way to a major once your interests become more defined.’

And when it comes to predicting a future career path he says the best approach is to create it yourself.

‘Back yourself, be sure of your convictions, know that failure is okay, and never stop learning.’