In this installment of Our Stories, we explore Moya Gabbidon’s journey to a life of independence and personal success. For many people, Jamaica is pictured as an island paradise – white sandy beaches, a beautiful and vivacious culture, rich and wholesome food, and attractive people. And while that image is not far from the truth, if the lens is focused on the inspirational stories of ordinary Jamaicans, you’d find a sharper, richer and truer image of the Jamaican experience…this is Our Stories!

Meet Moya Gabbidon – Owner of Advance Tech

Moya Gabbidon being fashionable at an event rocking all blue: Image contributed by Moya Gabbidon

While Jamaica is well-known as an island paradise that attracts visitors who anticipate sharing in our dynamic culture for a brief moment, we are also equally well-known for our widespread Christian beliefs and the homophobia of much of the general population. For many young Jamaicans, it may either make or break their lives if their family finds out that they are gay. However, Moya Gabbidon was not about to let it break her. Instead, she took life by the horns and emerged like a phoenix from the ashes. 

After dropping out of college and having to abandon her regular home life when her sexuality came to light, Moya Gabbidon did not give up on her dreams. She had always wanted the flexibility and the control that comes with having her own business. So she invested her time and effort into starting her own Graphics and Web Design and marketing business. Years later, she is reaping the rewards of investing in herself. It was not an easy road, though. There were numerous obstacles and barriers that she had to break down in order to finally bring her dream to reality. Her story will demonstrate to young people that the best route that you can take to success is to invest your time and your efforts into whatever it is that you are passionate about.

  • So, Moya, tell me how did you end up dropping out of college?

Well, I went to Brown’s Town Community College, Technical Campus. I was studying Computer Science. I stopped going to school because my family found out I was gay. It was really pressuring because of the type of people that they are.

  • Okay. So what type of people are they?

Christians. Pentecostal church and you know how they stay already. You get me? Now because my household runs the church, they just thought it was a disgrace. They acted like it was the worst thing ever. If I had literally gone and killed somebody, that would have been a lesser crime. That’s how they made it seem. It was just hard. I had to just run away and just move out. I wasn’t really around them still. I was living close to the school at that point. My mother had rented an apartment for me. It was this lady that would allow a few of us to board with her at her house. It was about three of us. So I was staying there but I was still having to depend on my family for money and stuff like that. So I just made the decision to stop.

  • Okay. Understood. So after you ran away, where did you go?

Well, my friend happened to be going through the same thing as me at the same time. His father found out that he was gay and threw him out right after. However, his mother ended up leaving with him because his father threw him out. So his mother got a place for them both. She went overseas soon after that and he and I basically were just living at that place. So that’s what happened after that. While staying with him, I met a girl who was basically taking care of me financially at the time until I got a job.

  • What was the first job that you had gotten after leaving college?

I was doing marketing and graphics for Shades night club.

Moya Gabbidon on a relaxed day out of the office: Image contributed by Moya Gabbidon
  • Okay. So how did you make the decision to start your own business?

After I left the job at Shades night club, I went to another job. This new job was more of a partnership type of thing than working for the person. So that’s where I got exposed to all of these things that I am doing now. I realized that I can make real money from it and all of that. Plus, I have the talent to do it. You get me? I was always a business-minded person. This business was just easy to set up at the time. So after I left this other job I just started on this.

  • So tell me about one of the biggest challenges that you faced after this point? Was it pretty simple to just get everything going?

No. Life is hard. You know you have to live in an okay neighbourhood. So rent and those things were expensive. You know because of your lifestyle you have to live somewhere that’s safe.

  • Yes. True. So how was the house hunt? Was it easy for you to get a space?

No. Places are hard to find, especially when you are gay. However, by that time I started to live with my girlfriend at the time. They broke into the house at point and stole everything and we had to start all over.

  • Wow. When you say they took everything, what do you mean? Everything like what?

They stole all of my shoes, my exam results. I had some phones because at the time I had started to hustle phones and those things to bring in some money. So they stole all of the phones and those things and all the money that I had in the house. They even stole the TV, just everything. They took as much as they could.

Moya Gabbidon snaps a selfie while chilling out: Image contributed by Moya Gabbidon
  • Oh, dear. That must have been terrible for you guys. So after that you legit had to start from scratch?

Basically. I was how old at that time? I was probably about 19, 20, 21, thereabout. Yes. So I guess that was a challenge for me to start over.

  • Wow. You were pretty young. So talk to me about starting over from that point. What did you do? What was your next move after getting home and everything was gone?

So during all of that time, my girlfriend and I were planning a Bingo party. However, because of the whole break-in and whatever, we didn’t put much effort into it and all of that. We had already put out the advertisement and all of that already. So we had to show up. Anyways, magically the Bingo party shot. We were not expecting that. So the money from that kind of helped us get back on our feet.

  • Wonderful. So tell me more about the journey to starting your business.  How did that idea blossom into reality?

Well, after I left the first job I just started to sell some pills until I got this other job that was really a partnership. I didn’t go straight from one job to the next. Then after the second job, I started my own graphic and web design business and I am here right now. The business is called Advance Tech. That partnership job that I had gotten exposed me to some real money. You get me? I was making really good money. The company was doing website design and marketing for doctors in the United States. That just started to change my life, to be honest.

  • Sounds good. So what advice would you give to someone who may be in that situation right now and don’t know what to do?

You have to just remain consistent and keep on going. You get me? There is always light at the end of the tunnel. So as long as you keep on going, God will give you the strength that you need and all of that. Eventually, it will get better. Hard work just never yet goes in vain. It’s hard to keep up, though, because for a lot of people when they fall down they just stay down. You have to just get back up and try again.

  • Awesome. That’s some sage advice right there. You also said that God will give you strength. Are you a Christian?

He will. As long as you keep on going. I am a religious person. I was a Christian. I still pray and all of that and talk to God. I can’t do it without him, honestly. If I forget God, he honestly punishes me. Yes. For real. I just find myself really confused. Even if I am trying to do my work I just can’t do it because the ideas are just not flowing. When I reconnect with him I just can see again. So he helps me.

Moya Gabbidon stops for a quick pic on the way to work: Image contributed by Moya Gabbidon
  • Interesting. So you’re not of the belief that God hates gay people then?

God loves us all. He knows that no one is perfect. So he loves us all regardless. You get me? Real thing.

Wonderful. That’s some good advice. Thanks, Moya, for taking the time to talk with me today. This was really interesting.

Follow Moya Gabbidon’s web and graphic design and marketing business on Facebook at Advance Tech.