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Entrepreneurship + Innovation from Africa and the Diaspora

What a spectacular night spotlighting three trailblazers in entrepreneurism, food, culture, hospitality from the Continent and the Diaspora with brilliant Claude Grunitzky of TRUEAfrica moderating the talk. Big thanks to Claude, the magnificent panelists Chef Pierre Thiam - Yolele FoodsHawa Hassan - Basbaas, and Shimite Obialo - ANOKO ART, host Toutman Sanders LLP and to all who turned out.



Raised in Lomé, Togo, Washington, DC, Paris and London,Claude Grunitzky is an MIT Sloan Fellow who speaks six languages and carries three passports. His exposure to so many cultures has shaped his transcultural philosophy and informed the creative energy of his entrepreneurial ventures TRACE andTRUE. Claude is the founder of TRACE Magazine, and co-founder/ chairman of TRUE. He is also a 2017 SICI Visiting Social Innovator and Hauser Visiting Leader at Harvard Kennedy School. 

Learn more about TRUE: 


Hawa Hassan

Founder of BasBaas and model, Hawa Hassan personally embodies the cultural diaspora of her hot sauces. Born in Mogadishu, Somalia, she was fortunate to escape the civil war tearing the nation apart by going with her mother and four siblings to a U.N. refugee camp in Kenya. After a year in the camp, her mother was eventually able to get an apartment and launch a small business. When Hawa turned 7, her mother seized an opportunity to send her to Seattle, Wash, to live with a family friend. It would be 15 years before they saw each other again. In Seattle, Hawa was discovered by a modeling scout and over time built an unlikely career in fashion. Her mother, meanwhile, personifies strength of the human spirit: From Kenya she was able to migrate to Norway, where she opened a furniture outlet and a Somali goods store. When they eventually reunited, the two rediscovered their shared love of cooking. Basbaas hot sauces are truly Somali and genuinely global. Inspired by heirloom recipes, Basbaas is the only authentic, packaged Somali line of hot sauces and chutneys currently available in the United States. Designed to perfectly complement Middle Eastern-inspired spicy chutneys and other ethnic sauces, Basbaas is hand-crafted in small batches, and bottled and sourced in Stuyvesant Falls, Hudson Valley. The products are all-natural, locally sourced, Gluten-free and Vegan. The line is created in Hot Bread Kitchen, a non-profit social enterprise that creates better lives for low-income women and their families. A portion of Basbaas' profits are donated to aspiring immigrant women.

Learn more about BasBaas:


Shimite Obialo

Founder and CEO of the premier private members club for diverse creatives and professionals, ANOKO, Shimite Obialo is agraduate of Duke University and Columbia Law School, Shimite is a Nigerian-American lawyer, business advisor, musician and art collector. She is passionate about community empowerment, cultural heritage and arts advocacy and currently serves on the Ambassador's Circle for the Museum of Contemporary African Diaspora Art (MoCADA). ANOKO means "wealth" in the Nigerian language, Igala, and became the chosen name because the premiere club helps members build social capital and cultural wealth, by bringing like-minded people together who can connect through a shared love of art.

Learn more about Anoko:


Chef Pierre Thiam

Touted as "The King of New African Cuisine", Pierre Thiam(pronounced CHEE-AM) is co-founder of Yolélé Foods, a world-renowned chef, restaurateur and celebrated cookbook author. He was born and raised in Senegal, and came to the US to attend college. Instead, he pursued a career in the restaurant industry, working his way up from busboy to chef. He has opened two of his own restaurants in New York City, and has written two critically acclaimed cookbooks, the most recent of which, Senegal, was a finalist for the James Beard Award in 2016. Pierre has been featured on Iron Chef America, Anthony Bourdain's Parts Unknown, and many other segments on television, radio, and the web. Yolélé is a purpose-driven African food company that is committed to transforming communities in rural West Africa. At Yolélé Foods, Pierre shares West Africa's oldest supergrain, FONIO, with the world to elevate communities across the West African Sahel. Yolélé, a term of exuberance used throughout West and Central Africa, is the rough Fulani language equivalent of "Let the good times roll." By increasing fonio production, sourcing from smallholder farms in West Africa, and offering a new superfood to the world, Yolélé Foods can truly help make the good times roll. Watch Pierre's TED talk on the transformative potential of fonio here. And learn more about him hereLearn more about Yolélé Foods:


Founded in 1897, Troutman Sanders LLP is an international law firm with more than 650 attorneys practicing in 15 offices located throughout the United States and Asia. The firm's clients range from large multinational corporations to individual entrepreneurs and reflect virtually every sector and industry. The firm's heritage of extensive experience, exceptional responsiveness and an unwavering commitment to service has resulted in strong, long-standing relationships with clients across the globe. In recognition of the firm's strong service culture, Troutman Sanders has been on the BTI Client Service A-Team for 13 consecutive years.