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Young alumni

Shawn Thomas

24 July 2023

BSc Psychology 2015, PGDipSc Child and Family Psychology 2017

Director, Owner and Head of Digital Services at BargainMe


Graduating with your BSc in Psychology and PGDipSc in Child and Family Psychology, may seem unexpected if someone was looking at what you are currently working on. What has been your career journey so far?

I've always been interested in improving people's lives and adding value to the community. With psychology I was able to understand and meet a whole variety of people, and took the opportunity to learn more about families and how they function. After my degree at UC, I was fortunate enough to work as a counselor in a low-decile school where I gained that experience working with families.

However, I always had a passion to work in the creative fields, so I changed direction and started a career in graphic design, film, and marketing. I ended up gaining qualifications in those areas and worked as a designer and in marketing for several years, along with doing film & design tutoring. My previous role saw me working as a product manager for a company making learning resources, with my UC degree helping me a lot!

I guess what I'm doing now is a mix of everything I've learnt over the last 10 years! The start-up business phase is about doing 100 different things and making it all work together to achieve the desired results.

Can you tell us more about the BargainMe story?

Food waste has always been something I've been aware of and wanted to improve, however it was only last year that I learnt how much food supermarkets throw away if it's damaged, end of the line, or past the best-before date. These are food items that are still good to be consumed, and that's where the idea of BargainMe came from! We approached 50 NZ companies to buy their items destined for landfill and now give them a second life on our shelves. We also wanted to be an alternative to Kiwis, presenting a better and more affordable way to shop for their weekly groceries.

What is your favourite part about being in business?

My favourite part is providing real value to both our suppliers and customers. We frame ourselves as a win-win-win business; the suppliers win as they don't have to throw away the products, the customers win as they have a cheaper place to shop, and we win as a business because we are able to employ people and provide an income to families.

We heard that you like to dance? Can you tell us more about this?

I always loved the idea that dance can change the world. It can bring happiness to people who watch it more than singing or sport can. I started dancing at the age of five and came to New Zealand at age nine. I always had a passion for stage but I knew there was more to dance than performing in front of an audience. With the boom of social media, including Instagram, Facebook and YouTube, I had an opportunity to share my dancing with a bigger online audience. From this opportunity, I earned a role as a judge on a national TV series (The Great New Zealand Dance Masala), based on the Bollywood dance form I specialise in.

I'm sure you have been flat-out getting the business off the ground - are you managing to keep up with your dancing?

Dancing will always be a huge part of my life! I fly to Auckland every week to teach over 200 students and post regularly on my YouTube and TikTok - with over 20k subscribers on each platform. 

How do you reckon your studies at UC have helped you in your career so far?

I actually miss doing assignments! The lecturers were an incredible part of my learning there and the level of thinking required for study at university has helped me in multiple aspects of business and growth. I would totally recommend psychology as a degree from UC, or to anyone interested in business and marketing due to the perspective it can give you.

What would you consider to be your highlights or fondest memories from your time at UC?

Definitely the student culture, UCSA, club days, intelligent tutors, and the safe and caring atmosphere I experienced. I was never an incredibly bright student compared to some of my peers, but my lecturers always helped me across the line to think deeply and conduct valuable research. I was also lucky to work for the UCSA as a graphic designer which was a rewarding experience.

Another cool experience was taking part in the Emerging Leaders development programme where I gained an incredible amount of confidence. During that programme we followed fellow UC alum Sam Johnson’s Student Volunteer Army story, which was a huge inspiration for us! The student coordinator, Lane Perry, was an incredible mentor and leader for us during this experience.

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