When 22-year-old Michelle Kwok was accepted to NEXT 36, one of Canada’s top entrepreneurship programs, she was struck that women made up less than 18% of her cohort.
Michelle sought to find other female founders and mentors to connect with because she didn't know any in the space who resonated with her identities. “As we were connecting with founders, we noticed patterns,” she said. “Female leaders always needed more resources and help in scaling their businesses and they also were passionate about mentoring, wishing they had a mentor.”
“Growing up, I didn't know any women in the founder community who looked like me, who resonated with my identity.”
Through the program, May and her co-founder launched a media company where they created content for female founders. Through organic user feedback, they pivoted the company into a tech portal. “Growing up, I didn't know any women in the founder community who looked like me, who resonated with my identity,” she said. “As a result, I thought I couldn't be a founder from an early age. That if I tried, I wouldn't fit in. It's time that changes for the next generation.”
Michelle is the Co-Founder & CEO of FLIK, which now exists as a platform & community hub connecting female founders/leaders and students worldwide via meaningful apprenticeships. The organization supports founders in every aspect of their business, and students can also volunteer at startups to gain career-relevant experience, skills training, mentorship, and peer learning. “Our mission is to accelerate womxn-led ventures globally,” she said.
“That's when I realized all of us, especially young people, can do anything.”
As a Gen Z’er using her voice for good, Michelle was honored to work in Economics through the ConversationaLIST. “I was a medical science student with no experience, feeling pressure from my entire community to go to medical school, yet I found my way to social tech entrepreneurship,” she said. “That's when I realized all of us, especially young people, can do anything.”
For those seeking to find their voice, Michelle suggests looking back on the moments you’ve enjoyed most in life and look for a common theme. “If there is, that's the seed of your passion,” she said. “Follow it and see where that path leads, and you'll find your voice.”
Over the next five years, Michelle plans to grow FLIK into a comprehensive resource for accelerating womxn through the female founder pipeline globally. “Beyond the apprenticeship portal, we want to grow FLIK into an accelerator and a VC arm so that we can invest in female founders who are so under resourced and undercapitalized today,” she explained.
Michelle resonates with The Conversationalist’s mission because Gen Z's voice is loud and unique. “Time and time again, I've gotten the ‘aren't you too young to be starting a business?’” she said. “What people don't realize is you are never too young. No matter your age, you have value to bring to the table. You bring a new perspective and coming from a different generation. You will always have unique expertise, which will prove to be your advantage.”
Michelle says that unification means having equity in all aspects of the world. To achieve this, Gen Z should “be mission-driven in whatever work we do, focused on leaving a positive impact [and] a social legacy behind,” she said.
“We can't force others to share our beliefs, but we can share anecdotes and facts and give them the freedom to come to their conclusions.”
To break open her echo chamber, Michelle said she initiates conversations about social issues with other generations. When it comes to tackling difficult conversations, she uses logic and evidence-based arguments and allows the other party to come to their conclusions. “We can't force others to share our beliefs, but we can share anecdotes and facts and give them the freedom to come to their conclusions,” she said.