REALTY ENTREPRENEUR AND SKILLS DEVELOPER
Multi-award winning company, Choprop SA has its prestigious reputation firmly embedded in the property industry. A 100% black-owned business with branches allotted all over the country, its founder and CEO, Yusuf Essa is widely recognised for his company’s excellent service and meteoric rise to the top of the property game. However, this is only the commercial part of what makes the Choprop brand unique. The uplifting social work carried out by this enterprising and caring entrepreneur is what takes his company from ordinary to uplifting.
The immense success achieved by Yusuf, also known as ‘Choppee’, by his friends and family, isn’t something he inherited or merely had handed to him. Growing up as the youngest of four siblings in Laudium, Pretoria and losing his father when he was just 9 years old, Yusuf recounts his childhood as being a trying one. The financial difficulty for his family to make ends meet is a memory that keeps him grounded today. He looked up to his eldest brother, who was like a father figure to him.
After leaving school in Standard 9, Yusuf set up his first sales venture as a hotdog vendor in 1990. A year later, he ran a café in Laudium. His interests in business were expansive from a young age, demonstrating an innovative edge and resourcefulness. Following the closure of his café in 1993, Choppee worked as a Sales and Marketing Manager for two years, and then moved on to owning a ‘cash & carry’ business, which in time expanded to several outlets. He simultaneously owned eight cellular dealerships in different townships, including Mabopane and Mamelodi.
2007 was the year that marked the beginning of what is now the largest independently owned B-BBEE Real Estate groups in South Africa. Yusuf and his wife, Shazia, were inspired to turn their house-hunting hobby into a real estate agency. With humble beginnings operating from their garage, Choprop was born, and through ten years of sheer determination, fixity of purpose and intrepid business acumen, Yusuf transformed an idea into an empire.
Although Mr Essa has completed numerous courses, training and workshop events, he credits experience as the best teacher. The 44-year old father of three has found growth from adversities, helping him to develop an attitude of resilience.
As wide as his influence in the property world is, it’s Yusuf’s impact as a philanthropist that is truly remarkable. He is the Deputy Chairperson of Laudium Cancer Care, a cause that’s very close to his heart, as many of his family and friends have been affected by the disease. He is an honorary member of Care Services for the Aged and regularly holds charity auctions and fundraisers. He is also involved in a project with Awqaf SA, called the Darus Shifa Family Centre, in Raslouw, Pretoria, where 60 homes are to be built as part of a care centre for the aged.
Yusuf would like to emulate the beloved Prophet Mohammed (SAW), stating that Islam has everything to do with moulding him into the person he is. Being accountable for his actions, and knowing that all dealings are answerable to the Almighty Allah, keeps him principled and in check.
A near-death health scare at age 38 changed Yusuf’s perspective on life and made him look at his existence differently. He views his charity and social work as a way of giving back to society, mentioning that he has been so blessed and therefore wishes to live a purposeful life through philanthropy.
The staggering rate of unemployment in South Africa is something Yusuf would like to see change. In his capacity to make a difference, Choppee offers motivational talks and recruits talent from various townships who have an aptitude for real estate. Initially, he found the recruitment process challenging, having to go out into high-risk areas struck by poverty. He saw a niche in the market to empower those less fortunate, encourage transformation and boost careers. Yusuf established the Choprop Academy of Learning, where he provides realty courses, skills development and training for the new recruits, franchisees and existing agents. He offers the 2-day Intensive Basics Real Estate training for free to people who cannot it.
He ties in his humanitarian work through his business, creating more leaders in his industry. He provides previously disadvantaged community members with wealth-creation opportunities, allowing them to become self-employed with an unlimited earning potential.
His proudest charitable achievement is seeing his vision of creating job opportunities come to life and thrive. Many of the agents he has recruited from the townships are now established and successful in their careers and are able to earn a dignified living. This gives him the utmost contentment and satisfaction.
He sees Proudly Muslims of SA as a great platform for Muslims to get noticed for their great work in the bigger scheme, especially with Islamophobia on the rise. He says that majority of Muslims live meaningful, purposeful lives and don’t want to take credit for their excellent humanitarian efforts, however it’s now become a time when it’s imperative to change perceptions.
Yusuf advises other aspiring philanthropists to “Make a difference in your own life first. Get yourself into a position where you are able to go out and make a difference from the top down.”
Mr. Essa can also add ‘author’ to his long list of impressive accomplishments, recently penning a book called ‘The Choppee Journey’ which follows his life’s passage from a modest, grappling upbringing to his progressive evolvement into a successful entrepreneur.
His life motto: “To create value and leave people better off than I find them.”
Choppee’s greatest lesson is not to take life for granted. He’s learnt to live in the moment, bury his ego, stay open to constructive criticism and improve upon himself.
He would like to be remembered for the difference he’s made and for being a good and generous businessman, son, husband, father and friend.
Yusuf Essa lives out the philosophy that if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime. He actively seeks out budding estate agents and teaches them the trade, permitting them to live a life they never imagined they could have before. The solid foundation on which he has built his business will continue to stand tall as a platform for its employees and beneficiaries to prosper for years to come.