Fighting for a better life

The journey to entrepreneurship

Travis Fernandez has lived a life of ups and downs, but his passion and savvy for business has helped him thrive.

The University of Wollongong (UOW) Bachelor of Commerce graduate and martial arts enthusiast is now a successful entrepreneur - but it wasn’t always smooth sailing.  

Growing up in southwest Sydney, Travis found solace in practicing taekwondo, following in the footsteps of his older brother. When he was just 12, Travis and his brother started their own training centre out of a community hall in Green Valley.

Today, Martial Arts Spirit is a thriving business with eight locations throughout southwest Sydney, thanks in part to Travis’s commerce degree, and the all-round life lessons learnt during his time at UOW.  

A woman and two men are standing on a martial arts mat in uniform Martial Arts Spirit now has multiple locations across western Sydney

“My experience at the University was incredible - I loved every aspect of uni, from the Duck Pond to the UniBar,” says Travis.  

“I was a part of the UOW sports team winning a gold medal in Taekwondo at the University Games, which was a real highlight, but the main thing that UOW taught me was the many different walks of life that are in existence, how people view life and being able to look at things differently.” 

Additionally, Travis is a director of combat-based gym TrainZone, and founder and director of flourishing wedding business Hidden Leaf Films.

“I got into weddings with a friend I met at uni who later went on to be a groomsman at my wedding. We both had a passion for photography and videography and fell into the wedding industry - we now get to work together most weekends," he says. 

A man is sitting down against a rustic barn, holding a video camera and doing a peace sign with his hands, smiling Travis's wedding videography company Hidden Leaf Films has been nominated for numerous small business awards

Despite Travis’s successes, it hasn’t been an easy run. Travis was “hooked” on the idea of UOW after attending Open Day on the suggestion of his partner, but fell into homelessness within his first year, living out of the then-failing martial arts centre.  

“I kept believing that one day we wouldn’t be there and we would be living in our own houses with enough money to get by. We were never stressed about the situation, as we knew it wouldn’t be forever and with our work ethic, we would get out of it,” says Travis.  

“Day by day we would sleep with the roaches and shower at the gym in the mornings. Hard work and the values I learnt in my life got me to we are where we are now, with eight martial arts centres across NSW and covering over 60 weddings a year.” 

Despite the rollercoaster ride, Travis is grateful for the journey he has been on, saying his personal experience is what helps him stay motivated.  

“I always remind myself: the past me would dream of living the life I get to live every day, so I’m going to keep working hard to make sure my future family and loved ones are always supported.” 
As for other young businesspeople out there, Travis has some sound words of encouragement.  

“My main piece of advice for anyone wanting to become a young entrepreneur is to know that you have to go through a lot to succeed. But, if you are truly passionate about what you do, you will get through anything the business world will throw at you,” he says.  
“Before every win there are countless losses. Just remember you don’t have to do this, you get to do this.”