Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in education but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Hasina Lookman, Founder and CEO of Explorer Hop, located in Toronto, ON, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
We are Explorer Hop, a Toronto-based international educational hub that empowers youths in Financial Literacy and Entrepreneurship. Under Explorer Hop Academy, our award-winning courses provide Ministry-approved school credits in Math and Business Studies. Featured in major media outlets from the BBC to Readers' Digest, our proud partners include Scouts Canada, DECA, and the Duke of Edinburgh Awards. Our customers include affiliates far and beyond the educational industry, franchises, parents, teachers, headmasters of schools, and so on.
Tell us about yourself
Throughout my career, I have mentored many motivated young people entering the workforce looking to change the world. Again and again, I have witnessed the education system’s failure to teach them essential life skills, leaving them unprepared for managing their finances in real life. I wished to help these young people achieve their full potential by offering my decades’ worth of knowledge and experience. That is when my then-10-year-old daughter gave me the inspiration for Explorer Hop.
In 2017, I left the corporate world to establish financial education programs for kids. We opened our first centre in 2019. Then, when the pandemic hit in 2020, we pivoted online and became accessible to kids all over the world. Today, over 5000 youth have been through our financial literacy, entrepreneurship, and STEM programs!
To answer the question, what motivates me each day to do what I do?
I am constantly concerned about how kids today lack financial literacy and seem uninterested in money management - but this is not just their fault. Many women in my generation with kids have shielded their children from any exposure to the hard and bad world of money in order to protect them.
Several mums my age will agree when I say that our mothers did not have any problems telling us they couldn’t afford things. Yet, today, my friends seem to have that exact problem. This is because we somehow believe that by not telling our children that we cannot afford something, we are keeping them a “child” longer. Allowing them to perhaps enjoy a bit more of their childhood before they have to deal with money. The world of finance is far too complicated for a child, we think. But is it?
I firmly believe that the time to include kids in discussions on money and family finances is well overdue. Our decisions impact them, and they need to be involved in the conversations that take place around money at home. We need them to understand the concept of money management and educate them more so that, when faced with the same choices, they do not make the same mistakes.
A child should already have a fair understanding of money before you give them a cell phone. They should understand how to preserve, if not grow, their money before they go out to work. And really, they should understand the quotient of value vs. enjoyment before they go out and spend their first hard-earned dollar on something of no value or enjoyment.
But how do we do that? How do we start a national discussion on financial literacy with kids right at the elementary school level? How do we get children from Grade 1 so familiar with money management that it becomes second nature to them?
The provincial plan of starting Financial Literacy from Grade 7 onwards may be a small step in the right direction, but it is not nearly enough. Most kids in Grade 7 have already racked up bills on their phones, have already spent more than a reasonable amount on toys and the latest gadgets that entertain a scant few minutes, and have already developed a sense of entitlement without understanding the notion of “work for your money.” Kids are going to go into a hyper-connected and hyper-competitive world where it’s all about Instagram. Keeping up with others on Instagram is far more expensive than keeping up with the Joneses. It is, therefore, imperative for them to have a sound foundation in money management and understand investing so that they start off on the right foot.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Our students have had terrific achievements in our investment challenges and competitions with their virtual portfolios that yielded multifold. Our Entrepreneurship students also get to watch their business ideas come to life and donate to charities of their choice, on top of 50,000 businesses to date! We have worked with so many renowned schools, credits accredited by the local Ministry of Education, one of the kind finance classes that executes their knowledge on Financial Literacy. These opportunities are found nowhere else, not to mention the exposure of getting their hands on real-world finance, confidence boost, and sense of achievement, all in all, are beneficial in their journey of becoming respectable individuals along with curriculum excellence.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
It would be something you hear all the time. Kids are kids, let them have the time of their lives, or that "finance education is not important." Some would even think Financial Literacy means leading our students onto the wrong path, or more so, "gambling." But we are certain they only have us to thank years down the road when it is time for kids to make their informed financial decisions, even if they are not at the age of owning cars or houses. It is a financial mindset instilled in them that would be with them for a long time, especially with the inflation going on and more economic issues in the future.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Listen to your inner voice. By that, we meant initial ideas and drive that keeps you going.
- Try not to look back at your past decisions and have regrets, hoping things could have turned out differently. What drove you to make decisions at a particular moment may not have yielded the best results, but it certainly was what you felt most strongly about.
- Accept that everyone is different. If your business does not appeal to A, go for B or C. To each their own, and never fret when your business idea gets turned down or rejected.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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