MBA helps physics academic make a musical COVID pivot | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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MBA helps physics academic make a musical COVID pivot

Equipped with a love of stringed instruments and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the University of the Sunshine Coast, Dr Daniel James has orchestrated a mid-pandemic career change.

Instead of just fiddling around when funding for his research projects dried up, Dr James has turned his hobby of repairing violins into a thriving business.

After having fixed his own children’s instruments many times, and helped friends with their violins, he realised “hey, I quite like this”.

Drawing on knowledge gained from his MBA and a luthier (stringed instrument maker) friend, he thought there might be a niche market for his skills – value-conscious parents who lived locally and were looking for quality instruments without the high street prices.

He was right, and so Fiddler Dan’s Violins and Workshop was born.

Dr James of Mansfield in Brisbane, has been an associate professor at several Australian universities, originally took some MBA subjects at a university in Brisbane when he was researching wearable technology.

“All my research funding was coming from industry. Whenever I worked for a company and pitched a proposal, they always trusted me on the science, But I realised they were making decisions based on the business cycle and sometimes politics,” he said.

“And I thought ‘I’ve got to understand this a bit better’.

“What took me to the University of the Sunshine Coast was some entrepreneurship and innovation subjects. The other MBA programs were more focused on big business and solid organisations and I was working in start-up communities.

“In that environment, you need to be a bit nimble and understand emerging tools a bit better.”

Dr James said the skills and knowledge he’d gained from his MBA, including understanding market forces, market analysis and branding, had been very useful.

After assessing the market for a few months last year, he ramped up his business in August and turnover has doubled every month since.

But it is not just about the money for Dr James, whose background also includes physics, glaciology, investment banking and teaching martial arts.

“Working in an office job doesn’t always provide the same satisfaction of accomplishment,” he said. “When you’ve got your hands on something like a violin and can complete a restoration, that’s pretty neat.

“When you’re working on an instrument, time can just disappear and that’s quite nice – you are just wholly in that moment,” he said.

For more details about studying an MBA at USC, go to

- Glenn Roberts



Dr Daniel James
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