There can be no doubt that attorney-at-law Mohia Ma’at’s life story is one of resilience and determination.
From humble beginnings in St Lawrence Gap, Christ Church, it may have looked to a casual observer that his life would be one in the tourism industry.
However, an encounter in Barbados’ law court changed his trajectory, leading this young man to put himself through school on his own, not once but thrice.
“My interest in the law first started back in the mid-90s. I came to court with a friend and, for whatever reason, it was as if I went into a different time zone. I said ‘hey, this is something quite interesting that you have attorneys speaking on behalf of their clients . . . being a voice for them’. It is something that resonated with me but it laid there [as] I [went on to] pursue my first degree in tourism management.”
This reporter begs your indulgence—let’s pause here for a bit and go back to the beginning.
From the age of 17, Mohia began making and selling craft such as coconut birds, jewelry and the like. It is something of a family tradition, as his two brothers do the same thing.
However, Mohia would go on to set up his own business, Best of Friends Souvenirs and Gift Shop which maintained him through the years as he pursued higher education.
“I studied in The Bahamas and attained my Bachelors in Tourism Management. However, even after receiving that degree, I have never applied for a job in that industry. But I continued selling my craft and my souvenirs.”
“When I went to the Bahamas . . . I didn’t have a student loan so I found myself working in little restaurants, bussing tables, and because I had the skill to carve coconuts I went back to that, because any Caribbean island with coconut trees, hey!” he said with a chuckle.
Despite all this, the episode in court still resonated with him, prompting him to pursue a second degree—this time in law.
“It was not easy. There are always challenges along the way, especially as it relates to finance, because having retained the first degree you have to pay for the second one.”
At one stage, things got so financially tough for Mohia that he could not afford to purchase lunch and he came up with some ingenious ways to stay fed.
“I had to prepare my own lunch at the university and do simple things to cut down the food bill. I would take little suckers of thyme and rosemary and different herbs that would be needed to cook . . . as opposed to me having to go to the supermarket, and I would just take them and plant them at different locations at the university, especially where there were sprinklers . . . . I would plant a spinach vine there and the herbs that I would need to cook with. That helped me maintain myself and a lot of help came from other students who were facing similar challenges and it was kind of a driving force. Everybody had challenges and you bind together and you see each other through.”
But even that was not enough.
“At one point in time, I took a year off to secure some more funds in order to continue,” Mohia disclosed.
He would go on to be admitted to the Bar but did not enter the legal fray immediately as his first son, Martin Ma’at-Sanchez, now 10 years old, was born.
Mohia would leave Barbados, this time for Colombia, to be with his newborn. While there, he also furthered his education by attending a learning institution in a bid to speak Spanish and, as before, he fell back on his craft business to support himself and family.
He returned home sometime later and encountered a major stumbling block. However, that would not keep this determined young man down.
Remember, I told you to pause earlier in Mohia’s story. Well, we can now move forward.
People driving along the ABC Highway heading towards the Grantley Adams International Airport often come across a vehicle on the side of the road from which eggs are sold. That business belongs to Mohia.
“The eggs came, I would say, accidentally but purposely, in that the location which I was renting in St Lawrence Gap, the owner passed away and with that came a change in ownership. The new owners were not of the opinion that I should carry on business there so my business structure was dismantled—in short, they knocked it down, unknown to me. I was shocked, disappointed, but whatever . . . . I took up all the wood that was there and started a chicken pen, and the next week I bought 500 chickens to start with and I knew nothing about rearing chickens . . . .”
And the rest, as they say, is history. Since then, this enterprising young man, after a stint in the chambers of Arthur Holder, has gone on to form his own law firm, Mohia Ma’at and Associates, and has since had a second child, KayAmor Nanton-Ma’at, who is four years old.
“Challenges are nothing new and I know that there are a lot more ahead but realize that there is something to be gained from this challenge and you can overcome.”
And oh, he had a name change sometime in 2002 to identify where he is from and where he is going.
Mohia is a combination name, which represents the pursuit of excellence. Ma’at is an Egyptian Goddess, representing equality, fairness and justice.
“It is a philosophy of belief that everything must be done in balance,” he explained.
I know you are probably wondering what his birth name is. However, with him having shared so much of his life with us, we decided to leave that aspect of Mohia Ma’at—attorney-at-law, father, son, brother and entrepreneur—to himself.