Mikaella Go +
Tony Yu
, 29

Co-founders, Vessi Footwear

Life Story: When Mikaella Go met Tony Yu at a restaurant in Vancouver’s Yaletown, she didn’t realize that she would spend the next six years of her life as a serial entrepreneur. Working as a City of Richmond lifeguard at the time, Go was training to be a teacher.  

“But when we first started dating, he already had the idea for his first product, and it was all he wanted to talk about,” Go says of Nanotips, a liquid solution that gives any glove touchscreen capabilities.“ He said, ‘Do you want to do this as a side project? Let’s make a couple thousand dollars.’ Our goal was to make $5,000 so we could buy a motorcycle.”

Sure, it’s not exactly Romeo and Juliet, but Nanotips ended up getting funded on Kickstarter (to the tune of $72,000), and Go and Yu successfully subsidized more than 10 other businesses on the site. So when mutual friend Andy Wang approached them about an idea for comfortable, light and waterproof sneakers, the two quickly hopped on board. Vessi (Finnish for “water”) was born, and the brand easily surpassed its $25,000 Kickstarter campaign, earning just over $1.25 million from some 9,000 online backers.  

Bottom Line: Vessi, which operates fully online, expects to hit over a million pairs of shoes sold this year. There were plans to open some brick-and-mortar stores in 2020, but COVID-19 derailed those. The company has donated over 2,000 pairs of shoes to health-care workers, along with some 400,000 masks.