A young Nigerian with a similitude of simplicity and timidity, she manages to infect people who meet her with a distinctive and confident aura. She is known for her Woman “Badassery” and idiosyncrasies, breathing a peculiar school of thought that revolves around her lifestyle and ambition. Very playful and witty personality with a stern tone in business and a panache for perfection even though she claims it’s her weakness, it has characterised her with an eagle eye to go for exactly what she wants and gets it done. She loves art and dancing; speaking with an accent that beguiles East African refined English, a French mix with a causal Naija slang. She dutifully focuses her talent, every time of the day to become a badass gladiator, carrying the flag of Africa. She dreams of Africa like a pregnant woman would dream of a baby and is a warrior at mastering anything. She is a serial-language learner, yoga practicing, work-life balancer, social entrepreneur and global travel enthusiast. Enjoy the chat with her…
How can you describe Tope Hassan?
Tope Hassan is a Disruptive Diaspora Ambassador for African content in the Global Market. She is the founder of ISOKO Africa (meaning African Market in Swahili Language), a research & media organization dedicated to identifying and spotlighting African Brands & diaspora marketplaces in both Local and Global markets. She also specialises in compliance & public relations sectors to create multi-dimensional business systems where start-ups and multinational companies can operate fairly in a corrupt-free environment and standardized economy.
She practises and teaches Yoga to a small tribe of healthy and happy yogis on a journey through self-care, love and living purpose-driven lifestyles. Tope is a Global African tourist, multi-linguist, curator of the “ISOKO Africa Podcast”, self-taught techie, public speaker and an advocate for indigenous representation.
How did you found ISOKO Africa?
I have always been an advocate for anything African and this spilled into my lifestyle. 60% of the calls I receive daily are enquiries about an African brand, place or information. So I decided to discover more and create a platform that would be known for authentic African business and brands. First, I started a podcast dedicated to showcasing African brands. When I was brainstorming the name, I felt the need for a diversified name for the organisation. I picked up some Swahili from East Africa and I thought of ISOKO AFRICA which means “African Market” in Swahili and coincidentally, a tribe from Nigeria! It felt like the perfect multi-cultural name for the brand. I thought, Bingo! That’s the name! It means itself!
What were the lush ideas behind the company?
While founding the idea, I thought of 10 years from now and saw an empire that represents African brands across the world; an indigenous market dedicated to only African content and a research company that would be powerful and most resourceful to source top lists on all content African. That is my dream.
You are famous in the social media for touring African countries. How is the experience for you?
I have been known since childhood as a “diasporan”, child talking with various accents and eating weird things. I have been given nicknames of the countries I lived in by friends. I grew up in a family that travelled a lot and that experience has spilled into who I am today. In all entirety, I enjoy travelling and discovering diverse people and culture. My dream job is to travel the world and help people embrace diversity not just as a culture but as a mutual commercial activity. I have not got that job yet, that’s why I created ISOKO Africa. The best job requires me to travel to diverse cultures every quarter and discover new brands. Let’s say, I prefer borders & passports to city lights. I have travelled on high budgets down to bootstrapping (my recent trip to Benin Republic) and have enjoyed every bit of it and more.
What are the unique services you offer?
I have three brands and the services they offer include Public Relations for African Brands, Compliance consulting, open market & partnership consulting for diaspora and within Africa, e-marketing, international business synergies, public speaking and TV/Radio host and yoga classes.
Any diversification plan?
Definitely! It’s underway. We are currently increasing our team across Africa and beyond. We are also taking on the next stage to stocking African brands in diaspora.
What’s fashion to you?
Fashion is a personal statement and an instant language. It is the voice that represents your belief, how you love, what you accept, where your heart is and most importantly, a view into your future. I am greatly inspired by these two women who said: The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud. – Coco Chanel. If I can have any impact, I want women to feel good about themselves and have fun with Fashion – Michelle Obama.
How do you cope with the advances from men?
Advances from men are what they are… Advances; and that is the spice of life. A person who can properly advance another person and tell that person about their intentions is the most vintage act of our present generation which makes it rare. A lot of men are mostly preoccupied in hooking up which is not my style so I cope with it as casually as possible but not often. I hang out with leaders and change makers. This type of people are known to be well behaved and respectful, therefore, they don’t need coping. There exists a mutual respect and understanding.
Where are you really based?
I like to think of myself as borderless, hung in between coasts and oceans but you can find me in Lagos for a business meeting or tea.
What are your beauty secrets?
Water, hilarious and thought-provoking books, meditation and an immeasurable amount of personality and confidence.
Take us through your wardrobe, where do you shop for your fashion items?
My wardrobe is inspired by vintage classics and corporate contemporary Africa. I mostly source my outfits from local African designers, some of which are my friends. It’s like a partnership where they create styles for me, I buy the pieces, assess it and then publicise it. I will always remain an ambassador for local content. I am currently in love with Perlicious from Cotonou, Sonia Mugabo from Rwanda, Lady Biba from Lagos and MODE from Bamako.
What’s that fashion item you can’t do without?
I can’t do without my bikinis, heels and my yoga mat. You can take everything else.
What are your regrets as you mark another year?
My regrets as I mark another year? Surely, you must be mistaking me for someone else. My past has determined my present. I won’t delete it because it’s a reference point for my future. This year, I wish to change fast enough to achieve my dreams.
What inspires you?
Books! Always. Also, Oprah Winfrey, Walmart, France and the Ocean.
How was growing up for you?
The best of times. My parents made sure I learned everything from rudiments of music to languages. My Dad recorded an audio file of me reading the entire Bible at the age of 3-4. Before he travelled each time, he would give me an assignment to read a book and write a speech/essay about it. That was trying times but solid shapers of my life. I grew up meeting diverse people and immersing myself in their culture. I was allowed to make mistakes and take responsibilities for my actions. I was incredibly daring, restless and curious as a teenager and emerged even better. At 14, I took my first job as my Dad’s accountant and printing press assistant which he paid for monthly. In my house, my parents ask you to defend what you want to do, and then help you to get it done. Growing up is a gift every child deserves and I am glad for the parameters that mine went through.
Take us through your educational and parental backgrounds
Education was pretty tough for me due to frequent changing of schools and cultural barriers which I overcame quickly as a very sociable person which gave me an education in life. Through the challenges, I still always managed to emerge as one of the top students in class. I remember attending an English school where the teachers taught either in French or local dialect. I met a girl in the same class that spoke good English who helped me with the grey areas. By the end of the academic year, I emerged third and my classmates requested for a revision of my scripts. I was surprised but thrilled! My parents are passionate human beings dedicated to their cause which they instilled in their kids from the day we entered this world. I must say, they are not the typical Nigerian parents you find out here. They are the best combination deeply invested in the Bible, Responsibility & Discipline, Humility, Love, Service, Diversity, Literature and Jollof Rice.