Michelle Kwok, 22

Co-founder + CEO, FLIK

Life Story: Ever since Michelle Kwok can remember, her parents wanted her to be a doctor. “On my eighth birthday, they gave me a stethoscope and anatomy cards and were like, You’re going to be a doctor when you grow up. Congratulations, Dr. Kwok!” the Vancouver native recalls of her real estate developer father and doctor mother, who both grew up poor in Hong Kong. “Every single time I got a gift, it had to do with medicine.”

So all was good when Kwok got into medical sciences at Western University in Ontario. But her heart wasn’t in it: “It was just the same things over and over again, and I didn’t really want to do that.”

She reached out to some startups while at university and ended up working closely with B.C.-based Northam Beverages, developing marketing plans and introducing Hey Y’all Hard Iced Tea to the Ontario market. “I thought the startup world was so cool,” Kwok says. “You can pretty much build your dream team and dream job.”

She ended up graduating a year early and deciding not to go to med school. “My parents didn’t really understand; they basically held an intervention,” she recalls. Instead, she was accepted into Next 36, a prestigious Canadian entrepreneurship program.

Kwok and her roommate, Ravina Anand, realized there weren’t many people in the program who looked like them. “There was this gap that needed to be filled,” she says. “The female founders of today definitely need help, but they can also offer help to the female founders of tomorrow, and there aren’t that many opportunities to help that mentorship run deep.”

In January 2020, the pair created a digital platform called FLIK (Female Laboratory of Innovative Knowledge) to help pair women entrepreneurs with budding female founders and students across the world.

Bottom Line: FLIK has nine staff and some 8,000 users across 55 countries and has matched about 2,000 women to apprenticeships.

As for her relationship with her parents? “They’re proud of everything I’ve been able to accomplish, and it’s still difficult for them to understand, because they grew up in a very different culture than I did,” Kwok says. “But I think my family is learning as we go. And so am I.”