If you were told about a 22 year-old man who is so passionate about entrepreneurship that he already has three companies listed under his success belt, you would probably say that that young man was born with the proverbial “gold spoon in his mouth”. Yet, Gordon O’Brien Swaby, a young man who is on the cusp of greatness, had no golden spoon given to him, but instead was endowed with a strong determination to be the best in all that he does. For sure, not every entrepreneur gets it right the first time, but Swaby embodies the spirit of the persistent and triumphant entrepreneur. Living up to his personal mantra and business philosophy of always being an employer and never an employee, Swaby is poised to be the next great entrepreneurial success story in Jamaica.
Gordon O’Brien Swaby was born on November 18, 1990 to parents, Olivene and Lloyd Swaby at the Hargreaves Memorial Hospital in Manchester, Jamaica. At an age when other teenagers were consumed with meaningless social website activities, the 13 year-old Swaby was consumed with perfecting a skill that had evolved from simply “messing around with computers” into a full-blown enthusiasm for the Internet and web designing. Gordon describes himself as a “little [more than] the average teenager” whose determination for success is driven by hard work. Amazingly enough, Gordon did not have any formal web design training. Instead, he learned how to harness his skill through a friend whom he had met over the Internet. From him, he learnt the beginning steps of building ROM sites.
A year later, Gordon was able to receive his first pay cheque of $14,000. No doubt, this encouraged the young Swaby even further and in 2005, at the age of 15, he started his own, now defunct, gaming website called Advance-gamers.com. This was the largest gaming website in the Caribbean. Quite rightly, Gordon did what any well-thinking entrepreneur would do—he created a product that no one else had created that would serve the need of many people. In an interview with the Jamaica Gleaner, Gordon made the assertion that, “there’s no other gaming site that is Caribbean-oriented and owned by a Caribbean individual. It is the only one in the Caribbean and, being around for three years, I think I take the grabs.” In that same year, too, he created a website for a rotary club which compensated him with cash and a trophy.
Many other opportunities for remuneration came after that, including completing a real estate website and his own blog, Gordonswaby.com. He has even built websites for the Press Association of Jamaica, the Bethune Dubois Institute and Coastal Steel Construction, the largest steel company in Northwestern Ontario. Swaby also started his own design and programming company, Iconictouch.
Undoubtedly, anyone who has a strong determination to succeed and the will to work hard is poised for success. In 2010, Gordon started a company, an idea that was originally formulated by his cousin, which caters to the needs of students who may have trouble learning the traditional “chalk and talk” way. In the Gleaner Youthlink, Swaby asserted that the formation of this company was in keeping with one of his ‘life wire frame’, an outline that he created for his life to meet measurable goals set for 20 to 30 years. One of the goals that he had set for himself, at the age of 16, was that he wanted to start a company before he left college, and he certainly did.
Edufocal, hailed by the Information and Technology Minister as “magical” and “transformative”, is a social learning interactive website which allows students to combine study with play. Swaby himself found the traditional method of learning quite boring and as such, created Edufocal with the determination of becoming the premiere social learning platform in the Caribbean. In November 2012, Swaby was listed among the 50 under 50 Jamaican business leaders who, through their contributions to the business community, has advanced the cause of entrepreneurship.
The Minister of Education, Ronald Thwaites, has lauded Swaby and his attempt to move Jamaica beyond the “mediocrity of [its] educational outcome”. In fact, Thwaites further noted that Edufocal is the right tool to encourage critical thinking and deemphasize rote memorization. Half the story of Gordon’s success has not been told simply because he is in the early years of his achievement. One thing is for sure, though, Gordon Swaby stands tall among his peers. He is the epitome of what the young can achieve if they dedicate themselves holistically to their passions and dreams. Swaby has set measurable goals for himself and with each step he takes, he inches closer to being an entrepreneurial mogul.
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