Graduate Andrew Zaniewski was a member of the top-three-placing Griffith University team for the Global Business Challenge back in 2014. Now the entrepreneur has put his hat in the ring once more, returning to mentor the current team from Griffith Business School.
The Griffith University alumnus was determined to give back to the school that gave him such amazing opportunities. “When I saw that Griffith was the host university this year, I put my hand up to be involved and coach the team in providing some guidance around the competition format and business model development,” Andrew explains.
“I wanted to see if I could give some input in helping to steer the team in the right direction, thanks to the success I had back in 2014. So far their hard work has paid off since they’ve made it into the final seven from a pool of 98 teams, with the final round to be held in early November.”
The Global Business Challenge is a competition for graduate students which allows participating teams to submit business ideas for sustainable solutions to global problems.
Andrew has a wealth of business experience to draw from, having had a lot of success as an entrepreneur.
The former Bachelor of Commerce student graduated at the height of the Global Financial Crisis when industry relevant jobs in banking and finance were hard to come by. “Some of the entry-level positions were being filled by people who had masters degrees. It was quite difficult,” he says.
Andrew had been offered a corporate position with one of the big four banks but would have had to relocate, something he wasn’t interested in at the time. He worked his way through myriad industries: waste collection, resources, international importing and exporting, heavy machinery, real estate and hospitality. Nothing seemed to quite fit his career aspirations.
While he was working hard making the Surfers Paradise restaurant he owned a success, he stumbled upon a major gap in the market. The RSA required for hospitality workers to operate in Australia was at that time only offered in English.
“My mother’s side of the family is Japanese and I had international friends either on student visas or working holidays and a lot of them would have an RSA but have zero understanding what the registration requirements actually were; they had somehow coasted through,” the Griffith Business School MBA graduate explains. “Being a rational person at the time I thought, ‘Oh that’s a bit of a risk,’ because if I was to hire someone who had the qualification but didn’t understand it, if they were to do something wrong that’s a $60,000 fine. So I started exploring a new option.
“That’s what my company does now, online RSA training in languages other than English,” he says. “No one else in Australia was doing it at the time and no one else is now either.
“It was serendipitous in a way that it sort of brought together my client consulting background, hospitality and the international education and other industries I had been exposed to.”
But his foray into entrepreneurial enterprise didn’t stop there. While he was running his initial restaurant, Andrew came across the Japanese food franchise Ramen Danbo and decided he wanted to bring it to Australia. “Through friends’ connections I met the owner of this franchise in Japan and he was very co-operative. He was fairly keen to get something established overseas and said no worries to bringing it here,” he says.
“We are the first and only chain of ramen restaurants that’s actually an established brand in Japan, that’s entered the QLD market, and second for the whole of Australia,” Andrew says. “Needless to say we’ve definitely raised the bar for ramen on the Gold Coast!” And the hospitality mogul has plans to open a second location within the year.
Andrew believes doing the Global Business Challenge had a huge impact on his career trajectory. “Participating in challenges like this gives you a really well-rounded university experience which looks great for employers. It also helps get your profile out there and is great for networking,” he says.
He also identifies Griffith’s push towards integrating sustainability into business practices as something that has guided his work focus. “The Business School was great at bringing together sustainability and conventional business,” he explains.
“When you hear sustainability you get a tree-hugging hippie image but it’s more than that. When you look into it, it really makes a lot of sense. Griffith looks into long-term sustainability… financial sustainability, social sustainability and environmental sustainability – these three are what makes a business truly sustainable. They really focus it in a corporate sense, thinking of the bottom line of the shareholder at the same time as being socially responsible and teaching you how to create that balance, which is great knowledge to have in the business world. I know I’ve benefited from it over the years.”