Sir Jack was born into a poor working class family in the East End in 1925. He left school with no qualifications when he was 13. Sir Jack joined the Navy’s Fleet Air Arm in 1943 during the Second World War. He applied for Officer training but was unsuccessful. On discharge from the Navy he began working as a clerk for the Solicitor’s Law Stationary Society. When he applied for management training there he was told he would never make a businessman!
Sir Jack refused to give up! Investing his £39 discharge gratuity from the Navy, he bought his first second hand car and started a taxi business. He worked long and hard, overcoming adversity and going on to become a multi-millionaire through his various business ventures, which have spanned from motor car dealing and garages to property, travel and investment.
At 91 Sir 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 £100 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.
Sir 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 Sir Jack believes that if you focus on these you risk creating a negative spiral. Alternatively, if you reward success and help young people feel positive about themselves you can give them the confidence and aspiration to change, overcome adversity and live to their full potential.
Sir Jack wants to encourage young people to make a commitment and put the effort in, so his principle is 50/50 – ‘you make the effort and I will support too’! He can often be heard quoting the ancient Chinese proverb “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”.
In 2012, Sir Jack was awarded the CBE in further recognition of his services to young people. This was presented to him, in front of 100s of young people, by Sir David Brewer, the Lord Lieutenant of Greater London, on the behalf of Her Majesty the Queen. After the event, Jack Petchey Foundation work experience student Yasmin McIntosh interviewed Sir 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.”
More than anything Sir 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 key to the development of the work of the Jack Petchey Foundation