Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship Develops A Real Social Entrepreneur – Yaqeen Turton

Yaqeen grew up in a broken and unstable home, plagued by alcohol, drug and physical abuse. His stepfather was a compulsive gambler and womaniser; his mother is his enduring inspiration and rock.

After saving his mother when she tried to commit suicide, Yaqeen decided to break the cycle of negativity that was shaping his life by making a positive difference to the world around him. Through his experience of growing-up on the streets of Johannesburg and suffering personal hardships, he began designing a series of programmes aimed at giving underprivileged young people, like him, the opportunity to create a better life.

To this end, he founded Shared Wealth Africa in 2008.

The company provides career development and life management and planning to mainly underprivileged young people in Gauteng, the Northern Cape and the Western Cape. The clearly focused programmes enhance learning and training, while building self-confidence and motivation, and improving personal wellbeing and social inclusion. At the same time, strategic partnerships facilitate access to formal employment, learnerships and tertiary education.

Through the incredible power of possibility, he’s inspiring a new generation of young people and making a real difference to the future of our country and continent.

When Yaqeen joined the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship in March 2011, he was helping up to 10 underprivileged young people every week. He had no reliable source of income, no professional network and no idea how to move forward.

“To say the Branson Centre helped grow my business is a gross understatement.”

After completing the Foundation Course and then the Advanced Course, he won an investment from Virgin Galactic, a “small business boost” from Microsoft Africa and the once-in-a-lifetime chance to pitch to Sir Richard Branson. He has also been interviewed by a number of high-profile magazines, newspapers and radio shows.

In 2013 and 2014, the African Leadership Network nominated him for the Outstanding Social Entrepreneur Award, which he regards as one of his greatest achievements.

Today, Shared Wealth Africa is helping 375 underprivileged young people every week. However, recently secured contracts to the value of R180 million mean being able to help 1 000 underprivileged young people every week in the very near future.

Since joining the Branson Centre four years ago, the capacity of Yaqeen’s business to effect positive change has increased by 9 900%. This is a dream come true.

Although there are many businesses and groups that offer career guidance and life skills training, Yaqeen brings a unique perspective, shaped by the empathy of adversity and a burning desire to really empower, inspire and uplift underprivileged young people. His advice is simple: never give up, never undervalue who you are and never be afraid to say no. He has a wife and a son aged two-and-a-half. His mother’s ongoing care, courage and tenacity are defining features of the leader he has become.