Jack was born into a poor working class family in the East End in 1925. He left school at the age of thirteen with no qualifications. Jack joined the Navy’s Fleet Air Arm in 1943 during WWII and applied for Officer training, but was unsuccessful. On discharge from the Navy, he worked as a clerk for the Solicitor’s Law Stationary Society. He applied for management training there and was told he would never become a businessman! Investing his £39 discharge gratuity from the Navy, Jack bought his first second hand car and started a taxi business.
He worked hard and became a multi-millionaire through his various business ventures: from motor cars and garages, to property, travel and investment. At almost ninety years of age, Jack still comes to the office every day, but now it is his philanthropy that interests him most! Since establishing the Jack Petchey Foundation in 1999, his businesses have given £85 million to support youth projects. What he ‘gives’ is greater than money though; the same entrepreneurial skills that he brought to his business have led to some really innovative schemes for young people.
Jack seeks to increase young people’s aspirations by rewarding their achievements, and encouraging them to take pride in what they have done. He brings communities together to really celebrate and ensure that the young people have a moment of glory and that their parents, carers, teachers and youth workers are there to witness it. He focuses on the positives rather than highlighting the negatives. Yes, young people face problems and challenges, but Jack believes that if you focus on these you risk creating a negative spiral.If you reward success and help young people feel positive about themselves however, you give them the confidence and aspiration to change, overcome adversity and live to their full potential.
In 2012, Jack was awarded the CBE in further recognition of his services to young people. After the event, work experience student Yasmin McIntosh at the Jack Petchey Foundation interviewed Jack about the Foundation and his CBE award. She says: “Speaking to Jack Petchey made me realise the passion and confidence he has in young people in today’s society. We should all be nurturing the talents we have as individuals, as well as supporting and encouraging those around us. By working together as a team we can pull each other through the hard times and focus on the good ones.”
Above all, Jack believes that people should think of others and give back to society, no matter how small an act of kindness or generosity, he wants young people to know that in giving, you also receive, and the world is a better place for it! This emphasis on positive affirmation, self-belief, and the willingness to make an effort and to give to others are at the heart of the Jack Petchey Foundation. Jack’s autobiography ‘50/50 Man’ is available at www.jackpetcheyfoundation.org.uk