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Riding the wave of economic and environmental sustainability

Commerce and science student Ben Niblett on study, work and future plans.

With a passion for both environmental and economic sustainability, Ben Niblett is well on his way to achieving his goal of helping to ‘create brighter futures’.

A Torquay resident, Ben recently graduated with a double degree in commerce and science where he majored in economics and environmental science.

He says his commitment to sustainable growth and a better future was the main driver for focusing on both disciplines.

‘I’d love to be part of a future that has both economic prosperity while ensuring the longevity of the planet, its inhabitants, and its resources. Economics links very well with environmental science as human consumption habits directly correlate with environmental impacts, which is a major factor in shaping the economy.’

While most students take on part-time work during their tertiary studies, Ben had the added role of being a small business owner.

In 2009, he took over as owner/operator of The Nutshack in Geelong where he also managed to take out the Franchisee of the Year Award each year until he sold the business in 2014.

He says undertaking a commerce degree was very beneficial to helping him run the business, especially when it came to engaging professional services.

‘It really helped me know what I needed for the business and it made understanding the responses from solicitors and accountants much more effective,’ he says.

Ben explains that ‘freedom’ is both the greatest challenge and the greatest reward of operating a small business.

‘Many people believe that running your own business provides you with “work freedom” and in many respects it does.  But they wrongly assume it provides you the freedom to work when you want. This isn’t true because when you don’t work, the business suffers. Owning a successful business requires commitment.’

One of the aspects Ben enjoyed most about his Deakin study experience was the opportunity to broaden his skills and knowledge beyond the classroom.

In late 2014 he travelled to Zanzibar, an island off the east coast of Africa, to participate in a unique environmental project.

‘I was really fortunate to be able to work with the Marine Conservation and Dolphin Research Project which works to mitigate the impact of tourists on marine life – particularly dolphins. It was an amazing experience and I would highly recommend it,’ he says.

During his studies, Ben was also part of a team-based learning unit called The Big Idea which ended up progressing through to the state final. Sponsored by The Big Issue the unit focused on social enterprise to benefit homeless and marginalised people. 

‘We developed a social business concept and a business plan to maximise assistance to the disadvantaged and homeless by providing training and jobs, a platform to access support networks and counselling services, and financial support with business profits. This was a great experience…I learnt a lot about homelessness and the benefits and opportunities offered by social enterprise as opposed to a traditional non-for-profit organisation that relies on donations to exist.’

Not surprisingly, Ben plans to continue as a small business operator with a focus on environmental and economic sustainability.

In 2015, he co-founded a new travel-experience company – Dreaming Since – which currently provides surf tours along Australia’s east coast.

‘These are aimed at international travellers who want to experience the Australian surf lifestyle. In 2016, we’re also looking at international expansion into surf camps and lessons in Sri Lanka,’ he says.

As employee, and more recently a partner, at Go Ride A Wave – one of Australia’s leading surf schools – Ben is building on eight years’ experience in the surf-industry.

‘The surf school has given me great insight into the industry and the tools to provide an outstanding surf experience. From a young age I had always dreamt of travelling up the coast on a surf adventure, finding new waves and places. Now, having done the trip a number of times I can firmly say it’s a trip that should be experienced by everyone.  As a surf instructor with a passion for travel, it was a natural progression to combine the two to create the trip I had always dreamt of.’

If Ben wasn’t busy enough, he also works part-time in the special-needs sector at Geelong’s Gateway Support Services and special education school Nelson Park.

‘This has been a very rewarding experience and constantly reminds me how fortunate I am – it inspires me to give back.  Working from the ground up  can often be a difficult and lengthy task in bringing positive change, but this is where you experience the true rewards and observe the changes and successes first-hand.  Having seen small successes myself, I know that with time and dedication, people everywhere – and from all walks of life – can achieve a better quality of life,’ he says.

Beyond everything Ben is already achieving, he says he’d like his future to focus on sustainable development projects – both at home and abroad.

‘I’d love to play a part in building a better world, in whatever capacity I can, looking at sustainable growth systems and social enterprises dedicated at improving quality of life where it is needed the most’

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