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Yaqeen's entrepreneurial journey started as a result of his growing up in a broken and unstable home, plagued by alcohol, drug and physical abuse. His father was a gambler and womanizer and was never around.

He was effectively raised by his mother who had to be both dad and mom.

He spent his informative years "growing up" in the streets and learning the importance of discipline and education through hardship and experience.

I can't recall a time in my life when I wasn't passionate about being a business owner and changing lives."

An almost tragic family event galvanized Yaqeen's idea and ambition to assist other young people who were also struggling with emotional and physical abuse. It was then that he committed his life to making a difference to other young people in similar circumstances and started designing a programme aimed at providing them with the necessary tools and skills to empower and liberate and thus create a better and brighter future.

It was in 2008 that Yaqeen launched Shared Wealth Africa.

Shared Wealth Africa provides career development and life management and planning to underprivileged young people in Gauteng, the Northern Cape and the Western Cape every year! The programmes enhance learning and training, improve confidence, motivation, social inclusion and wellbeing, and facilitate access to formal employment, learnerships and tertiary education.

But his journey hasn't been an easy one. Before joining the Branson Centre, his business had helped just over 3000 underprivileged youth with job opportunities, learnerships and university placement - an average of just under 10 per week.

We were trying to do good, but we had no real income, no network and no chance of moving forward."

Yaqeen applied to join and was accepted at the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship in March 2011.

"To say that the Branson Centre has 'helped my business grow' would be a gross understatement and unfair towards the Centre," says Yaqeen.

Since completing the Foundation Course and the Advanced Course, he has won an investment from Virgin Galactic and a "Small Business Boost" from Microsoft Africa. His business has also received exposure through the Branson Centre network including interviews and articles in local and international publications and on radio.

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 so far.

Another of my career highlights to date has been the opportunity to Pitch my Business to Sir Richard Branson."

The lessons and insights learned at the Branson Centre has taken my business to another level. In the last 4 months we have helped more than 6000 youth, a total of 375 youth per week. In the next 8 months, with additional contracts, we will grow this number to a total of 1000 youth per week."

At the end of 2015 Shared Wealth Africa would have helped a over 52 000 underprivileged youth through employment, university application and learnership programmes. This represents an improvement of 9 900%!

His hard work and perseverance is now paying dividends with Shared Wealth Africa recently securing contracts to the value of R180 million.

Yaqeen's advice to aspirant entrepreneurs is simple: "Never, ever give up and never undervalue who you are. And never be afraid to say no."

Yaqeen has a wife and a son aged two-and-a-half. His mother's courage and tenacity are enduring hallmarks of the leader he has become.

About the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship:
The Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship, South Africa is an initiative of Virgin Unite, the non-profit foundation of the Virgin Group. It is a vital hub in the heart of Johannesburg, and focuses on providing aspiring entrepreneurs with the business knowledge, skills, opportunities and inspiration they need to succeed.

The courses offered through the Branson Centre have been structured into a comprehensive and impactful programme that specifically addresses the needs of early-stage entrepreneurs and are designed to help businesses develop and grow – and, in turn, create jobs and stimulate the economy.

The Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship is a project of Virgin Unite Africa NPC, registration number 2008/016312/08 and is a registered public benefit organisation, reference number 930031409. Virgin Unite Africa NPC is a certified Category A Enterprise Development Organisation.

For more information please visit www.bransoncentre.org

Contact: Gavin Meiring
Marketing and Communications Manager
Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship

t: +2711 403 0622
m: +2782 493 0003
e: gavin.meiring@bransoncentre.org
a: 1st floor, Mvelelo House | 19 Melle Street | Braamfontein | Gauteng | South Africa