Thomas Nabbs

What motivated you to undertake university study?

When I left school I wanted to be a professional rugby player. But when you play rugby you are only one injury away from your career being over and it's prudent to consider life after rugby. The University lifestyle worked well with my rugby ambitions.

What made you choose to study at the University of Waikato?

I was offered the Sir Edmund Hillary Scholarship and I had a good rugby training environment here in the Waikato.

What did you study?

Bachelor of Management Studies with Majors in Strategic Management and Human Resource Management.

Why did you study that?

It has so much industry flexibility. When you study other degrees you are really isolating your options of industry. I like the flexibility of management.

What was your favourite area/subject/paper? And Why?

Organisational Behaviour, Strategic Management. I see myself as being quite good at relating to people and I could see how the theories/principles outlined in those papers would transfer in the workplace and where I also thought I could make them even better.

How did your lecturers play a part in the journey you’ve been on?

I wasn't always the best at the bookwork part of things. I'm a people person as opposed to an 'A student'. I always prioritised having a good time over marks when I was at Uni. I think in management you can do that. It's important to have a strong network and your marks don't matter as much as in say, engineering or law. There were some lecturers who didn't get on with me because I probably didn't prioritise things the way they would like, but there were a couple that I got along really well with. Steve Bowden, in-particular, helped me a lot. I think he realised and accepted I wasn't going to be an 'A Student', but that didn't mean that I wouldn't make a good business person one day. Steve helped me realise that I just needed to pass the papers I didn't enjoy and double down on my strengths. In the workplace, as long as you are good at your strengths, you can team up with people who are strong in your weaknesses. You don't have to be good at everything. Cheers Steve!

How did your years at Waikato make a difference to you?

I built a really strong network of friends and had some really fun times. It gave me a really good foundation knowledge for business in which I have been able to build on.

Can you explain the WaterBoy concept?

The WaterBoy is a charity which breaks down barriers to give Kiwis an opportunity to participate in sport, as a means of creating stronger people and stronger communities.

We operate as a social enterprise, by providing pre-filtered opportunities to businesses to sponsor as a means of living and showing their values.

I started The WaterBoy because I believe that every Kiwi should have an opportunity to participate in sport. Sport gives us friendships and teaches us lessons which help shape our character. It is a large part of what makes up the fabric of New Zealand society. It breaks my heart to realise that many Kiwis today do not have the opportunity to participate in sport - I think that sucks!

How did you end up starting The WaterBoy?

I realised there was a problem when I was talking to one of the teachers a Leamington Primary School, Fraser Quinn. We were talking about the importance of sport participation in the development of our youth and he was saying that there are so many people now without the means to participate in sport (>27% of NZ kids live in a household below the income poverty line, these kids don't have access to sufficient food, shelter, and heating - sport is a luxury).

I helped a few families but was trying to think of a way to scale the support.

Simultaneously, I knew there would be lots of business people with lots of spare resource and a value alignment of wanting kids to have the opportunity to play sports. I knew that the power of social media was providing businesses a never seen before way to live and show their values. What would happen if I combined the two need cases to provide value for both I wondered...

How did your study influence your decision to start your own company?

It gave me the base tools across all areas to have the confidence to do it. Whilst I wasn't an expert in accounting, economics, or marketing I had the base knowledge to have a basic conversation and hold my own. These days I actually think I'm pretty clued up on marketing strategy. I can have a pretty detailed conversation with some of the best marketing gurus I know. I don't do the implementation of the strategy (I stick to my strengths) but I know it really well in theory.

What are you hoping to achieve through this work?

I want to make it so that every kiwi has the opportunity to participate in sport.