Interview with Amelie
Interview with Amelie Dionne-Charest, co-founder of AD MediLink and Healthy Matters companies.
A story about building businesses and a life that is meaningful and aligned with who you are, all while juggling many things at the same time.
Tell us about yourself
I am French-Canadian from Montreal and a mother of two young kids, Lea who is 5 and Adrien who just turned 2. My husband, Julien, is both my life and business partner. Together we are building two businesses and a life that is meaningful and aligned with who we are.
Tell us more about your business and your industry
We founded two businesses in the 'health space'. AD MediLink which provides medical insurance advisory and brokerage services. Healthy Matters which brings trusted health information to families in Hong Kong through events, publications, and online platforms.
Tell us how your business helps others
Both businesses have the exact same mission: Empowering people with better knowledge of their health options so that they can make better decisions for themselves and their families.
If you had to explain to a five-year-old what you do, how would you say it
I tell my 5-year-old daughter Lea that mommy and daddy help people get the best health information to make the best health decisions. We tell her that there is nothing more important than health and that knowledge is power.
What are the challenges of working in your industry
The healthcare industry in HK is complex, opaque and fragmented. People look for unbiased, expert health information. That's where we come in and shed some light.
How was the idea born and what were your first steps?
The idea came when I was living in New York, had to go through the medical system myself and fight my medical insurance provider to be reimbursed. At the time I felt both vulnerable and frustrated. I realized there was a need for people to better understand their health and medical insurance options.
When we moved to Hong Kong in 2013, I implemented my business idea here. As most entrepreneurs experience, I adjusted and pivoted before I found the right business model.
Is there any personal or sentimental element in your business?
Julien and I fully embody our businesses. We breathe and live our businesses. I have always been passionate about health and healthcare. I still remember my first week in law school. Professor Marie-Claude Prémont made us read a medical malpractice case and I thought to myself, this is it. I am going to specialize in health law and I will work in healthcare.
When did you decide to become an entrepreneur? Was there a breaking point moment when you decided, “that's it, I am doing it, I am starting my business”
I started my career as a lawyer specialized in medical law. I was working in a law firm in Montreal that represented hospitals. One of the 1st lawsuits I worked on was an emergency C-section gone wrong and a family left with a heavily handicapped baby, a child that would never be able to breathe and eat on her own. I still remember the mother's testimonial during the discovery process and how traumatizing the entire story was. I thought to myself, there must be something I can do or build where I don't have to take sides.
I also remember a mental health case I was pleading in court on a very cold winter morning. As the hospital's legal counsel, I was asking for legal authorization from the judge to keep a schizophrenic patient against his will because he was a danger to himself and society. I had put forward strong psychiatric reports. The patient who was young and a brilliant university student stood up and gave a moving testimonial. He explained that he was not contesting my motion, that he was fully aware of his mental illness but that medication made him numb and without any appetite for life. He poignantly explained that the only thing he was longing for was a woman he could share his life with, a life partner that would love him for who he is. His testimonial made the entire court cry, including myself and the judge. Right there sitting in court, I told myself that I was extremely lucky to feel loved by the man I loved and to have found someone I could build my life with. That's when I decided to move to New York to be with Julien. After 4 years of long distance relationship, I quit my job and moved to NYC. We got engaged shortly after.
What was your biggest motivation and inspiration when you decided to start your business
I love what I do and would literally pay to do it. That's my biggest motivation and inspiration.
This isn't just a job or career, it's a lifetime mission and the path I have chosen.
What was the most challenging part of starting your business
Having zero business experience and starting in a place, Hong Kong, where I had zero network.
I come from a happy place in Canada where I had always been strongly supported by my family, friends, and an extensive network.
I started from nothing in Hong Kong and looking back, it was a little masochist of me.
Tell us about your first clients
Actually, I am proud to say that two of my first clients later joined the AD MediLink team and have become wonderful health insurance advisers! Fanny Daurel was the ideal insurance client. One that valued expertise, advice and who asked all the right questions. Anna Leonardo came to AD MediLink for healthcare guidance on her pregnancy, when she was debating between private and public healthcare. She is now our best maternity insurance adviser!
Do you have a favorite design?
You mean the logos of AD MediLink and Healthy Matters? Just kidding.
I do not have a favorite design but what I appreciate the most is elegance.
Which marketing tools did you find to be the most successful? Which methods worked the best for you to acquire new clients
As an entrepreneur, you are your most valuable marketing tool. When you start something from scratch, you embody the brand, you embody the message and people say yes to you, not the company. What has worked best for AD MediLink is being involved in Chambers of Commerce and giving free presentations on health care and health insurance. For Healthy Matters, Facebook and our media partnerships have been the most effective.
What did you find to be the most difficult part of running your own business? Which challenges did you come across
Juggling with too many things at the same time leaving me with little breathing space (accounting, marketing, networking, training, drafting content, etc.).
That takes a toll on you. Sometimes you are too deeply absorbed in daily tasks that you forget the big picture. You can't see the forest for the trees and that can become a problem.
What is it that you love the most about what you are doing? What keeps you going
I love advising and informing people about their healthcare options so that they feel empowered to make the best decisions for themselves and their loved ones.
As an entrepreneur and business owner, you meet a lot of different people. I get such a kick out of meeting new people. I believe each person is a world in itself and that there is so much to learn from each individual.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of having your own business
You dedicate your life and work time to your passion and something you believe in. You are in total alignment with your values and ideals.
But the biggest challenge is that you are never off, you are never on vacation.
As a woman, you most probably have something to say about work-family balance. Please share your thoughts with us
It's impossible to find balance at all times in your life. Balance is a subjective concept and an 'ideal' that is putting too much pressure on women. It has become another 'obligation' on our mommy's 'to do' lists.
I am much more interested in finding meaning, purpose in what I do. In finding work that is completely aligned with who I am, I am a better person, a grounded mother, and a happy wife.
What is the biggest lesson you learn about running your own business
You will be making a lot of mistakes and there will be more failures than successes.
As a society, when we talk about success, we only talk about the good and rarely the bad. I do not know a single person who had tremendous success without going through tremendous failures, and through it got better.
You will often be outside of your comfort zones, navigating in grey areas. It's your capacity to handle adversity, internal and external criticism, and discomfort that will make you grow and succeed.
The good news is that adaptability and resilience are muscles you can build! I used to be paralyzed by my perfectionism. Now, I find freedom in accepting my flaws and regularly making mistakes.
What would you recommend someone who is debating whether to start their own business tomorrow
If you truly have the drive and willingness to do it, you won't be debating for long. Everything in you will push you to take the plunge.
Any special advice for those who try to make it happen in your industry
It's a small industry and there are many creative ways to all work together towards the same goals.
What is your motto
Obstacles do not block the path; they are the path.
What is your business philosophy
Treat colleagues, clients and business partners how you would want to be treated.
What do you say to yourself when you feel like “I can't do it anymore“
That's when my pride kicks in. I never, never, ever give up. I go for a walk, listen to music, and reset my thoughts to 'warrior mode'.
I think of my father who is my hero and inspiration. I can hear him say: "Amelie, stay cool. You can do this."
Describe your business in 3 words
Health. Information. Power.
What a motivating story about lifetime mission, internal power, and self-integration into what you do!
Thank you for the interview and I am sure your story would inspire many female entrepreneurs to feel more confident and to get the right attitude at what they do or want to do.
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