Anna Haotanto is a picture of poise and success. And it’s not surprising, considering she’s the founder and CEO of The New Savvy, an online platform that aims to equip Asian women with information so they can make the best financial and career choices.
But the job wasn’t handed to her on a silver platter – she had to start the website from scratch. “I was clueless on developing a website, producing content, digital marketing, and publishing,” she says.
But that didn’t stop her. “I looked around for website developers and researched on websites. I learned about how websites are arranged and how they worked.” On top of that, Anna also researched on what women wanted to know about finances and what the market lacked.
Equipped with that knowledge, she ensured The New Savvy had an edge with content that’s original and relatable to women.
The initial period proved to be a struggle. “I ended up working till 4am every day,” she admits. “Most of my close ones were concerned and told me not to overwork. I think I made every mistake that shouldn’t be made. But that’s life, isn’t it? You falter, but you pick yourself up.”
Scroll through the gallery to find out more about her and get money tips.
Describe a day in your life.
“I don’t have a structured schedule as I travel a lot. In a startup, you’ve to be good at multitasking as we don’t have the luxury of hiring many people. One day, I would be busy scheduling meetings and some days, I would focus on product development. I’d also focus on marketing, PR and growth.
I get many invitations to do keynote speeches and sit on panels, but I am judicious on which ones we get on. Every week, I make it a point to set goals and priorities. In a week, I focus on what I want to achieve, what I need to clear and who I want or need to meet.
I meet a lot of people and sometimes, it gets overwhelming as I’m quite the introvert. Working for your own startup can be exhausting, so it’s important to get support. And when things get too much, I sit alone and get my me-time. I always make it a point to exercise and read. Those are my indulgences.”
What are some fashion tips you have for millennials who want to look like a girlboss?
“First and foremost, be comfortable. I used to only wear dresses and heels… but now, I wear mostly [clothes from] The New Savvy shop as I need to run around and being in jeans and sneakers help me to be more efficient. Second, dress for yourself. Make sure you like how you feel. Third, always have a smart work jacket as it always smartens up your look effortlessly.”
Where do you normally shop?
“I used to shop everywhere and anywhere! I don’t discriminate… But now, I mostly shop overseas (when I have time!) and at Zara, & Other Stories, Valentino and Louboutin. I don’t have time in Singapore and I don’t like going to malls. Online, I am obsessed with The New Savvy Shop, ASOS and Her Velvet Vase.”
What is a girlboss’ must-have (one item) and why?
“A smartphone! I use it to communicate, work and socialise.”
What tips do you have for millennial managers when it comes to effectively leading a team?
“Being a leader is extremely exhilarating and humbling, [and it] means you carry a responsibility to be a good example and help others in the best way you can. It’s extremely satisfying to see others improve and appreciate your work. At the same time, I am humbled every day and continuously learn from others.
We focus on deadlines, not a fixed schedule or timing at work. I do not micro-manage or set a specific timing. I trust in my team completely. I expect discipline in handing up work. I expect my team to produce excellent work each and every time. I want them to put in 100% in everything they do.”
What are the biggest lessons you’ve learnt throughout your career?
“It’s vital to have the resilience and grit to keep going when the world crashes. Always be humble and be willing to learn. Receive criticism openly, constantly improve and pivot. Do not dwell on unconstructive thoughts or wallow in self-pity. Exercise often and take care of yourself. Be kind and have lots of fun!
It really comes down to knowing what you want to achieve and then making a commitment every day to do something that will bring you closer to that goal. Many of us possess a lot of self-doubts and limiting beliefs that make us feel as though we won’t be able to achieve certain things. But once we get past that barrier in our minds, there really is nothing we can’t achieve.
Doing things that seem daunting or challenging can actually feel exhilarating and can motivate us to try other challenges which we never thought we would conquer.
Other than facing our fears and pushing our limits, women can become more fulfilled by being open with the people around them about their insecurities or things they don’t know about. I have seen this so often when it comes to the topic of personal finances because there is so much benefit to be had by speaking to others, asking questions and sharing your concerns. Through asking the right questions and not being scared of sounding silly, I have learnt so much and wish I had confronted my fears much earlier.”
Describe your workspace to us – what’s usually on a CEO’s desk?
“Laptop, phone, notebooks, pens, snacks, perfume. And I have this quirk of always taking out my accessories when I’m working (watch, rings, earrings).”
You’re using a ZenBook S (UX391). What made you decide to use this notebook and what do you like about it? How much time do you spend on your laptop in a typical workday?
“I spend almost all day on my laptop working. I carry it everywhere with me, even to events sometimes. I like that it’s light, stylish and portable. Sometimes, I carry a backpack when I need to run around, but when I need to go for events, I use a nice going-out bag and the ZenBook S (UX391) fits nicely! It even looks like a part of my outfit!”
Some people have said that red lipstick symbolises power for women. How do you incorporate the colour red in your life?
“I am actually very cautious about red as it tends to be attention-grabbing and loud. I try not to be noticeable. But I’ve been told that red is my colour (as I’m quite tanned). So unless it’s a dinner or a date, I try not to wear a full-on red dress. [But] I love a red lipstick as I think it brightens my look up with minimal effort. I incorporate red into small elements like accessories. I think mixing a variety of red tones is also interesting. I use red when I need to feel powerful or get a boost of confidence.”
ASUS ZenBook S (UX391) retails for $1,998.