Meet Michelle Kwok, Entrepreneur and Founder of FLIK
Michelle is a born and raised Vancouverite — medical science student turned social entrepreneur. She co-founded FLIK, a platform connecting female founders/leaders and students across the world via meaningful apprenticeships. Michelle has had the honour of speaking at universities and spaces across North America sharing her thoughts on entrepreneurship, womxn empowerment, diversity and inclusion, and breaking down barriers. She now serves on the alumni advisory council of League of Innovators and as an alumni rep for Next 36 where she works to accelerate more youth entrepreneurs. She has been recognized as a Top 20 Women entrepreneur to watch in 2020 by Tease Tea Founders Fund and awarded as YWCA’s Young Woman of Distinction in 2020.
My first job ever was… a summer camp counsellor! It was such a blast. I got to work with my friends, was promoted to a camp leader, and grew into my first big leadership role.
I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I felt so narrow in my academics in medical science. I went into medicine because I wanted to create a positive impact in peoples’ lives, but I didn’t think through the 8+ years of schooling. I was itching to make a difference, and found that entrepreneurship is the only profession where you can make your dream job and formulate it to create your dream impact — a scalable impact. I have so much respect for the practice of medicine, but I was always a Jill of all trades, honing many different skills, and working on several projects at once. Medical school was never for me. In entrepreneurship, I was finally able to use my designation as a “Jill of all trades” to my advantage, managing several departments, working with diverse people, and working towards a greater cause.
My proudest accomplishment is… Launching FLIK. It’s not just the action of launching my own company, but it was such a personal journey. When we first launched FLIK, Ravina and I both struggled from a major case of imposter syndrome. We had people telling us it wouldn’t work, that we didn’t look like tech founders, that we should just stick to what we know. We almost didn’t launch the company and so we might never have engaged this community of thousands of womxn globally. That was a major step: accepting that we might not be experts in tech, yet launching FLIK into the world was still the right path. Personally and professionally, creating FLIK from nothing has been my proudest accomplishment to date.
My boldest move to date was… When I decided I was leaving school a year early to enter Next 36, one of the top programs for young founders in Canada. I decided I would become an entrepreneur instead of going to medical school. I had 15 minutes left in walk-in academic counselling so I ran in. I asked to change my degree so I could graduate early, and I did it. I had this feeling it was the right move even though I didn’t know what my plan was going to be after Next 36. Deciding to graduate in 3 years instead of 4 was a bold move, but it was well worth it in the end.
I surprise people when I tell them… I have never had a traditional business education. I learned everything I know now through experiential learning, apprenticeships, starting ventures, and mentors that I met throughout my younger years.
My best advice to people starting out in business is… You don’t have to walk this road alone! Find a Co-founder with complementary skillsets and build a team you trust. Take advice from those who want to help you — so many people will want to help you. This can be a lonely road, and you have the power to make it a bit less lonely.
My biggest setback was… My imposter syndrome. It’s definitely something I still struggle with every day, but walking into entrepreneurship, I’ve never felt so much like I didn’t belong. I unfortunately wasn’t exposed to many female entrepreneurs early on and so felt that I shouldn’t be in the position to start my own company. I didn’t look like Elon Musk or Mark Zuckerberg, I had never known another Asian woman to be a founder of a tech company. Without this representation, so many times, I thought I could just easily give up.
I overcame it by… Reaching out to female founders who resonated with my identity. I learned from how they navigated barriers and challenges specific to womxn in business and entrepreneurship. I realized that I didn’t have to look like everyone else or sound like everyone else in a room to be a great leader or entrepreneur. My diversity of thought could be an advantage. I still struggle with imposter syndrome, but I try to remind myself that no matter what, I can push through and be part of the representation that is so needed in the world of female entrepreneurship.
The best thing about being an entrepreneur is… You wake up every morning to work on something you truly love and that you truly believe in. You have the power to make your work each day impact thousands if not millions in a positive way. This has definitely been the most rewarding year of my life.
If I had an extra hour in the day, I would… Probably split it half way between work and sleep.
If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… I’m a wicked basketball player. I started playing when I was 5 years old and I’m always the most unassuming on the court, because I’m 5’4 and a girl, but I’ve beat my fair share of boys on the rec courts.
The one thing I wish I knew when starting my business is… The most important trait you can have as an entrepreneur is belief. Half of this job is just believing that you CAN do it. You don’t have to be THE expert in your field, you just have to be the one with the deepest drive and belief in the work you’re doing.
I stay inspired by… My team. They each bring such incredible passion to FLIK, knowing they’re working towards a larger cause, each elevating the other.
The future excites me because… We’re just on the ground floor and there is so much more impact to create, so many more womxn to elevate, and so many more voices to amplify.
My next step is… Expanding globally. We are serving 47 countries around the world, but we will be expanding further to other countries and deeper into the countries we are already working with. Womxn from all over the world need unique support and we are here to be that comprehensive resource to elevate entrepreneurial womxn worldwide.