From repairing computers, to wrapping cars and working as a barber, Johnny Phan has several flourishing small businesses and is what most people would consider a true entrepreneur at heart.
Raised in College Station by his Vietnamese immigrant parents, Phan comes by his trademark “get-it-done” personality honestly.
Knowing that Vietnam was not a place they wanted to raise a family in his parents opted to move to Houston, Texas in search of a better life. After Phan was born the family moved yet again and worked to establish roots in College Station. Throughout his childhood Phan remembers his parent’s dedication to their businesses, even working alongside the family as they established and sold multiple nail salons in the area.
“My parents frequently were learning how to DIY things in order to save money and build their business and my dad always taught me that it was better to do it right the first time so that you didn’t have to do it again,” said Phan. “I am grateful every day for the experiences working under pressure to figure things out.”
Today Phan has applied that “tradesman” mentality to all aspects of his life.
“Once my curiosity about something is sparked that tends to manifest into a hobby,” said Phan. “I then try to figure out how to monetize that interest so that it pays for itself.”
After graduating from high school in 2011 Phan enrolled in courses at Blinn. Unfortunately, his outside interests drew him away from his academic pursuits.
“I wasn’t mature enough to fully invest in school at the time so I decided to take a break and just work,” said Phan. “A few years into that I realized that I enjoyed what I was doing but it wasn’t sustainable for my future or for a future family.”
Phan knew what he had to do, so he re-enrolled in courses at Blinn, opting to focus on earning a degree in nutrition. After not being accepted into a bachelor’s program Phan re-examined his goals yet again. It was around this time that he saw promotions for the newly established RELLIS Academic Alliance. He decided a change of scenery was in order and began taking classes on the RELLIS Campus.
“Honestly by the time I got to RELLIS I was burned out academically in a lot of ways,” said Phan. “It was then that a friend of mine encouraged me to check out the business program he was enrolled in.”
Skeptical of yet another detour, Phan explored the business programs offered by Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi on the RELLIS Campus.
“I like to trouble shoot and analyze things so that I can find ways to improve them – from cars, to computers,” said Phan. “My friends pointed out that I’m such an extrovert that I can sell anything, so it finally clicked that business was the right option for me.”
Phan was accepted to the Bachelor of Business Administration in Management program and began taking classes in the fall of 2020. It was in one of those classes that he worked on a group project that would ultimately lead him to participating in the Values and Ventures Contest.
A former classmate, Kendall Skinner, had been contacted by a Texas A&M-Corpus Christi professor who encouraged her to enter the contest with her group members.
“At first I thought it would just be submitting our old work, but it ended up being a lot more,” said Phan. “Despite that, we had a lot of fun and I really enjoyed the experience. I am already trying to come up with ideas for my project next year.”
Phan and Skinner worked to improve on their original project and entered the contest, ultimately placing 8th.
As for his next steps, Phan will graduate in a year and a half and plans to open his own barbershop.
“I won’t ever be doing just one thing,” said Phan. “I know that my education combined with everything I learned growing up and my drive to be successful will help ensure I achieve all of my goals.”
Originally published June 24, 2021.