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High school drop-out makes waves on and offshore

Published: 
Sunday, December 3, 2017
Joseph Gaskin, owner of Big Meech General Maintenance.

Indian composer, singer-songwriter, and music producer, A.R. Rahman said, “Success comes to those who dedicate everything to their passion in life. To be successful, it is also very important to be humble and never let fame or money travel to your head.”

Determined to break the chain of suffering and hardship he had grown up accustomed to and provide much-needed support for his mother and four siblings as his drug-addicted father was unable to, Joseph Gaskin dropped out of Five Rivers Junior Secondary School at the age of 16 and went to work.

Leaving home at ungodly hours and grateful for any and all odd jobs he was able to secure, the 29-year-old father of three said, “My only aim was to help feed my family and I also wanted to make my parents proud.”

The Arima native whose unwavering work ethic is common knowledge among his family, friends and colleagues added, “Because I did not have the easiest childhood and had to become one of the main breadwinners in the family early on, I had to grow up quickly.”

“I did not have the chance to do many of the things guys my age were doing, or wear what they did, or even lime like they did, but it did not bother me because I believed I was doing something more meaningful with my time and money.”

Six years after setting up Big Meech General Maintenance, Gaskin joked he was afraid to sit back and relax “too much.”

His roster which includes a 20-man workforce provides general maintenance services such as detailing, stripping and power-washing for industrial, commercial and residential properties both off and onshore.

Gaskin, who married the mother of his children close to two years ago, managed to secure a job at Caribbean Dockyard (Caridoc) with a contractor who he said “saw something more” in him than he himself such believed existed.

A devout Muslim, Gaskin said the job caused him to develop into somewhat of an introvert as he focused his energies on learning every aspect of shipyard work.

He said it included building, repairing, cleaning and stocking vessels of all sizes including tankers, luxury yachts and pleasure boats.

Gaskin said, “I poured myself into that job, soaking up everything I could and learning how to do everything.”

He claimed his boss at the time soon realised his potential and promoted him as the foreman, which was his first step to starting Big Meech General Maintenance.

“He gave me the inspiration to open my own company,” Gaskin said.

He continued, “He realized I was coming to work day and night, and doing everything that was asked of me because I simply refused to give up.”

Pressed to say what was the driving force behind his punishing schedule, Gaskin said, “I always try to remember where I came from and how easy it was to go back there, so I am motivated to push myself in the opposite direction.”

“I want to make sure my kids never know what it is to be hungry or want something like their friends and having to go without we can’t afford it.”

Gaskin was quick to point out that although he does spoil his kids, it was kept within the limit as he explained, “I don’t want them to grow up feeling like they are entitled.”

“I want them to understand and value hard work, because I believe it will make them more appreciative of the things when they actually get them.”

Hoping to expand the business in the coming year, Gaskin said he continues to faithfully follow a regimented savings plan as he has carefully mapped out ‘on paper’ what he needs to grow the operation in terms of equipment and resources.

Although he never formally completed his education, Gaskin said he had always dreamt of attaining tertiary level qualifications and he refused to become discouraged.

He also had a burning desire to prove to himself that he could accomplish his educational goals.

This resulted in him obtaining a BSc in Chemistry from the College of Science, Technology and Applied Arts of T&T (COSTAATT), along with a slew of certificates in general safety and offshore marine maintenance.

However, he insisted it did not interfere with any of his jobs or interrupt the quality time he religiously sets aside for his family.

He said, “When it is time for prayer, I do what is required of me and then return to work.”

“I don’t let the two get in the way of the other because I believe the two are necessary to bring balance to my life.”

Laughing as he declared, “I don’t flex myself,” Gaskin explained, “I don’t party, drink or smoke.”

“My goal is to leave a legacy for my children that they can hold on to and expand even further because my parents were not able to do that for me or my siblings.”

He vowed, “I am going to break that cycle.”

At peace when he’s on the water, Gaskin said he knows his parents and siblings are proud of his achievements to date.

Although he pained was by the fact that his father had chosen to live on the streets, Gaskin shrugged sadly as he asked, “What can I do? As a family, we have tried everything and it hasn’t worked for him. All I can do now is ensure he knows he is still loved and has a place when he needs it.”

Asked what advice he wished to impart to other small-business owners like himself, he immediately replied, “Remember that even persons with a criminal record can change.”

Gaskin said, “I select my employees based on their willingness to work and I like to give everyone a fair chance so once I see they are not touching other people’s things, they are guaranteed a work with me.”

He urged employers, “Please don’t hold things against people as everyone has a past in which things might have been wrong with them and they made some wrong decisions, but don’t judge everyone you meet with the same pen.”

Confiding that his 11-year-old daughter continues to dream of becoming the Prime Minister, Gaskin assured, “Since her first day in pre-school when she was asked what she wanted to become and gave that answer, she has not changed her mind.”

“She still has that dream and I will do my best to ensure she achieves it!” Gaskin said proudly.