A sporting chance
ACU alumnus Nicholas Toscan never thought he’d be running his own business, but his lifelong love of sport unexpectedly steered him towards the start-up world.
Sport has always played a big role in Bachelor of Exercise and Sports Science graduate Nicholas’ life, but it was his love of cricket that led to his initial career break.
“I did an internship in my third year with Cricket NSW. It ended up leading to a casual job, and then later on it became a full-time role. One of the biggest challenges I had at uni was simply figuring out where I wanted to take my degree, so I was really lucky that this internship suddenly gave me a clear path forward.”
Nicholas continued to work with Cricket NSW after graduation.
“I drove cricket participation in schools and clubs, liaised with local councils on facility development, I assisted with coach education workshops, I worked on fan engagement, and I got to travel with the Sydney Thunder cricket team as an assistant team manager in the Big Bash League 06.
“As a person who’s spent his life passionate about cricket, this job was incredible for me. Admittedly, when I started I was only 20 and still at uni, so I had to grow up pretty quickly. But it was such a great opportunity.”
Making a start
In 2018, Nicholas, alongside business partner, Herman Lotey, was ready to make a big move.
“We saw an opportunity in sports marketing for a business that works with grassroots clubs and associations, as well as national sporting bodies, schools, universities, education providers, and government. So, Herman and I got together to bring our small start-up to life.”
Australian International Sports Organisation is a consulting business that covers all sports – “I always wanted it to be about more than cricket,” said Nicholas – and offers expert advice about how to maximise an organisation’s sporting potential through funding opportunities, strategic support and sport program delivery.
“The hardest part is we’re a small team – it’s just me and Herman full-time, as well as a team of casuals” he said. “This means we have to handle everything ourselves, from backend finances and governance, to marketing and delivering the actual programs. So, one day we might be selling a program, the next we might be delivering one.”
In spite of the challenges, Nicholas has no regrets and is glad he took a chance on himself.
“The timing was right to create our own little niche in the market. I never really thought running a business was for me, but I didn’t want to look back in 10 years’ time and wish I had made a move.”
Like many small start-ups, Nicholas’ business began at home until Collaborate Plus, ACU’s innovation hub and coworking space, stepped in.
“Collaborate Plus has been absolutely fantastic for us – it’s essentially our home base,” he said. “When we first heard about it, we were just six months into our business journey. We loved that it encourages collaboration between small businesses and we’ve both participated in the free workshops to get some extra education about running our start-up, which was great for people like us who are just getting going.
“But the best part is the coworking space and private meeting rooms. These two things alone made a huge difference and helped elevate our business. Now, we have a professional space to meet clients in, as opposed to going to a cafe. Plus, working from home can be really hard; having an office to go to really helps us focus and keeps us motivated.”
The full circle
“This year we arranged through Collaborate Plus to get some interns from ACU to come and work for us, which was so rewarding,” Nicholas said.
“From a business perspective, it was great to have the support and we loved giving them an opportunity to learn about small business practice too. But really, it was just nice to be able to tell them, ‘I was in your shoes a few years ago’.
“The internship I got through ACU at Cricket NSW made all the difference to my career. You just need that foot in the door. It felt like a full circle moment when I was offering that same opportunity for other students at Australian International Sports Organisation.”
Learn more about where a degree in exercise and sports science can lead and how Collaborate Plus can support your own career ambitions.