The Private Island That Britnie Turner Bought
Zebras. That’s perhaps one of the coolest fun facts about Britnie Turner—she houses zebras on her private island in the Virgin Islands. But what you need to know is that Turner is not frivolously spending money on exotic animals. Even her rehabilitated zebras living in Redemption Farm are a part of her greater mission.
“These zebras were literally on the back of a trailer on their way to be sent to Texas to be shot at a game farm,” she says. “I brought them to the island, and I’ve got six ponies that were on a trailer headed to Mexico to be eaten from a kill pen, and I just got a racehorse the other day that they were going to put down because the owner hasn’t fed it in a very, very long time. They didn’t know if it’s going to survive, so we just rescued her. So, the whole farm is made up of these animals that have been given a second chance. And now, they’re loved on and adored and cherished every day.”
This so fully encapsulates who Turner is as a person as well as an entrepreneur—someone who cares very deeply. Her entrepreneurial journey is rooted in this. Before founding Aerial Development Group at just 21, Turner aspired to be a missionary in Africa, rescuing kids from human trafficking. With that mission in mind, she attended survival school so she could learn to endure in the toughest places and situations. While there, she began learning that she could flip houses to fund her missions.
“This one guy came in and said, ‘Did you know you can buy a house with no money down, and if your mortgage payment is $900 a month, but you rent it out for $1,200 a month, you get to keep that $300? That’s a thing called cash flow,’ and I was like, ‘Go on,’” Turner recalls. “He said, ‘If you do that 10 times, you can survive on your own and not have to ask anybody to fund your missions,’ and I was like, ‘Wow, that’s really a great idea!’ So I, at 18 years old, went out and bought a house because it was 2007, and they gave a loan to everybody back then.”
After buying this house, she learned from her friends that she could flip it for $10,000. She also learned that if she kept doing that, she could eventually put a down payment on an apartment complex, which could then make even more money. “That, my friend, will allow you to build your own dang orphanages, and nobody can tell you no. And that was really the beginning of my career,” she says.
And so, what started as a dream to build her own orphanages bore not only a successful real estate development company, but also allowed her to effect change in a very deep way. “In the process of actually helping build orphanages through a different organization, I found that real estate development in other countries can actually wipe out poverty at its root,” Turner says. “That sounds weird, but we would go pick these regions where parents were selling their kids for $25, knowing what was going to happen to them…It was really horrible. We picked them and by the time we even contracted the ground and went to break ground on it, all these businesses had moved in around our perimeter, and they no longer even needed the orphanages in some of these places, and I’m like, ‘What the heck? This was the most impoverished area; now, it’s the most successful.’ What I learned was when there’s a vision for a future and there’s investment shown to be going into an area, businesses and jobs will move in. And that has changed my life forever because I’ve been on a mission to want to end human trafficking and poverty at its root, not just treat it topically through giving and feeding and giving and feeding, [but] how can we actually eliminate the need for all that because people can take care of themselves?…And so when I saw that, showing that there’s hope in what was a hopeless place, it transformed my career.”
Soon Aerial Development Group had blossomed into Aerial, a company that houses the development group, along with two communities and three other companies, including an economic development and disaster management group that aids in emergency relief for disasters, like August’s Hurricane Ida. Turner’s mission is in turn Aerial’s mission—to be a force for good.
“I’m not a normal real estate developer that just goes in and tries to make money off of building houses or commercial properties,” Turner says. “I’ve been able to mindfully revitalize areas and accelerate positive transformation.”
It was this point that led her to purchase an island all her own. Turner knew she wanted to help tackle poverty internationally, and she felt the next place would be to go to an island.
“The purpose of the island was to bring the top thought leaders in the world into the same room to be able to solve social issues,” she says. When Worth caught up with her in April, Turner had just finished hosting a summit which did just that by bringing together top nonprofits and disaster management leaders in the Caribbean to create a manual on the best disaster practices.
“Every single element of [the island] has been designed to elevate you as a person,” she says. And so, we’re back to the zebras and Redemption Farm. But what Turner hopes you remember about her is not so much all the amazing things she’s accomplished, but the knowledge that you can do it, too.
“I think more than what they think about me, I hope [the people reading this] find the encouragement to be intentional in their life,” Turner says. “And if my story says anything, you know, I lived in my car, and 10 years later, almost to the day, I bought an island with no handouts, I bought it myself…You can overcome whatever’s in your way if that really is in your heart to do.”