Violet Lim was working in a bank when she saw a business opportunity in matchmaking. The idea came to her after seeing that a lot of her colleagues were single, even though they were good looking and eligible. Further observation of her family, friends, and colleagues who complained about having little time for love due to their busy schedules convinced Violet even more.

It eventually led to her quitting her banking job to start her own matchmaking company called Lunch Actually in 2004 with her then fiancé, now husband, Jamie Lee.

Today, Lunch Actually is Asia’s biggest premier lunch dating company with offices in Singapore, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Jakarta, and Bangkok. Together with Jamie, Violet also founded eSynchrony and LunchClick to fill the gap in the market for trusted online and offline dating service platforms.

“We help singles find love.  And our big audacious goal is to create one million happy marriages.”

Lunch Actually Academy was established to provide singles with Dating and Image Consultancy, and Lunch Actually Platinum provides high-end matchmaking services for clients who are the crème de la crème of leading professionals.

Violet is first Asian to be certified by the Matchmaking Institute in New York City, and she has gained tremendous insight into the dating and matchmaking industry and is the pioneer in her field. She has appeared in over 3000 media coverages in top magazines, television, and radio, and featured in local and international media such as The Straits Times, ABC News 20/20, CNBC Asia, BBC, Bloomberg and Radio Australia. She was also featured in Singapore’s National Day video in 2005 as one of Singapore’s most aspiring people.

Violet is happily married to her university sweetheart cum business partner, Jamie. They have two young children, Corum and Cara.

The New Savvy:  Can you tell us more about your business?

Violet:  I started this business with my then boyfriend, now husband, Jamie, about 12 years ago.  Like all children out there, I was groomed by my parents to study hard, get good grades, get into a good university, and get a good job.  And that’s exactly what I did.

My first job was actually in a bank, and it was where I met a lot of singles, and I was quite surprised because I thought they were all eligible, good looking and attractive people. So I wondered why they were all single.   At the same time, I had quite some friends who were getting married, and I questioned myself what the difference between these two groups of people was.

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I realized that the people who were getting married, or engaged, were those who met their other halves at school, or at university (that’s actually where I met my husband as well).

So I got intrigued with this whole concept of lunch-dating because I thought that lunch-dating is an excellent way to meet people because I noticed that even though my colleagues worked long hours, like up to midnight, they did not miss their lunch time.  It’s sort of like a midday break.

And I thought that it would be a great way to widen your social circle if you took one day in a month to meet someone new, instead of the same old routine of meeting your friends or colleagues for lunch.  And so that’s how lunch was first created in 2004.

Over the years we have added different products and services to help singles find love because we realized that lunch dating might not be the perfect solution for everybody.  So we have gone into online datings, like eSynchrony.  We’ve also started lunch-click, which is our dating app.  And a couple of years ago we also started Lunch Actually Academy.

The New Savvy:  Can you tell us a bit more about the Academy?Violet Lim, CEO of Lunch Actually, On Building Asia's Premier Online & Offline Dating Service Platforms

Violet:  At the Lunch Actually Academy, what we do is we help our clients to be a better version of themselves.  We help with date coaching as well as image coaching.  So for example, we might have some clients who, even after quite some dates, not having much success.

They go on the first date and then it just doesn’t go to the second date, and that’s where our date coach will come in and look at the challenges that this client might be facing.

We can do this because we are in a unique position where we can get feedback from each date; because after our clients go on a date, we can ask the other person what they thought about our customers.  From there, we’ll see what the challenges that they face are.  And it really can be different things.

For some clients, it might be a mindset issue.  Some of them might have been in some relationships where it just didn’t work out, and as a result, they’re not willing to be vulnerable again.  If you’re not willing to be vulnerable, it’s quite difficult to get into a relationship, and that’s where our date coach will talk them through that.

And there are also some clients who have a very fixed mindset, for example, I have met ladies think there are no good guys left in the world, that all the right guys out there are either married, dead or gay.

If you go around having this kind of mindset, it’s tough to find success, because no matter how many good guys are put in front of you, you won’t recognize this guy as someone who is good, because you already have such a mindset.

Or there are some nice guys.  They are very nice, but they just don’t know how to escalate the relationship to the next level.  They might go on one date, two dates, three dates, and then the poor girl is waiting for him to ask her to be the girlfriend, but he just doesn’t know how to do it.  That’s where we give them coaching as well.

The New Savvy:  You mentioned that you were in banking when you quit.  Can you tell us what happened after, and was it a tough decision to make, for you to choose to do your own business – Lunch Actually?

Violet:  I was working as a management associate at a bank, and the truth of the matter is my parents were already not too happy when I decided to be a banker because I studied law.  So they were looking forward to having a daughter who was a lawyer.

When I decided to give up law and go into banking, they were like, “Okay, fine, it’s not so bad, at least my daughter is going to be a banker.”  But then, when I told them I was going to quit my banking job and become a matchmaker, they were not happy at all.

Their first reaction was actually, “Why not let Jamie do it first?”  Because by then, Jamie had already left his job.  And then they’re like, “Okay, why not let him do it full time, and you do it part-time, and if things work out, then you can quit your job and do it full time with him,” which makes sense, right?  Very practical advice.

But I am the sort of person who either does it or does not do it.  I don’t like to look back and have what ifs.  I’d rather go all the way, and just say, “Oh well.”  That’s how we got started.

I was 24 years old, I wasn’t married, I had no kids, and I had worked for only a year and a half.  So I had no real big fear, and I was like, “What’s the worst that can happen?”  I thought if it didn’t work out, I could always go back to a job and earn more money again and then start my next business.

The funny thing is I have a very good friend in the bank who works in Human Resources. She took me aside one day, and she said, “Violet, you know, if things don’t work out, don’t worry, come back to me, I’ll help you find a job.”  I was really thankful, but I’m very glad I haven’t had the need to take up on her offer.

The New Savvy:  What was every day like then, with your struggles and fears, how did you overcome them?

Violet:  I remember the first couple of days after I left my job I was a bit lost, but it was just a couple of days, and once I got into the rhythm of it, I enjoyed it.  And I think the more days passed, the more I realized that this was really what I wanted to do.  I never knew that I wanted to be an entrepreneur, seriously.

My parents were small business owners, and they never wanted me to do my own thing because they knew that it was really, really, though.  And looking at their friends or their friends’ kids, they felt that a corporate job was the way to go.  I never thought that I was going to be an entrepreneur, but after I had started, I realized that I loved it, because being in a job, often it’s very specialized.

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Like I was working in the bank, I was working in different departments, and the things that I did were a very small slice of what happened in the entire corporation because it’s just that specialized.  But being an entrepreneur, I get to do everything—marketing, sales, and management.  I just thrive on it.  I love it.

Of course, there were challenges, and some of the adjustments I had to make were quite funny, now that I reflect on it.  For example, when I was working at Citibank, I was on the committee of a staff recreation club known as the CitiClub, and I used to make a lot of calls to vendors to arrange events and things like that.

It would be like, “Hi, I’m Violet from Citibank,” and everybody would be like, “Oh, hello, what can I do for you?”  You know, red carpets would roll because people know that big corporation have big budgets.

And after I started my own business I would be like, “Hi, this is Violet, I’m calling from “Lunch Actually,” and people would be like, “Ah! What! Lunch what?  Are you a restaurant?” So it was so stark – the difference, so that was something that I had to get used to.

Of course, after quitting the job and then starting a business, one of the first things we had to do was to look for an office space.  And even that was a challenge.  After we had confirmed on a unit in a building that we liked, and then it was time to get serious and do the paperwork, and then the owner of the building asked our agent, “So what exactly does your client do?”  And when our agent told them that we run a dating service, the building owner refused to rent the unit to us.

But I think that about 12 years ago, dating was just a very new thing.  They weren’t sure what we were doing, and they didn’t want to take the risk.  So I thought that was quite funny.  We had the money to rent a unit, but they refused to rent it to us.  That was one.

Another one was when we wanted to start marketing our business.  We started calling all the newspapers for advertising in broadsheets, but they wouldn’t let us. They said we could only advertise in classifieds, but we didn’t want to do that because we wanted to set ourselves apart from the more traditional matchmakers.  Finally, I met this guy who was willing to run one ad in his newspaper.

Violet Lim, CEO of Lunch Actually, On Building Asia's Premier Online & Offline Dating Service Platforms

We put out an ad, and the next day lots of people called us.  I mean, of course, singles, as well as like other advertisers, other newspapers, who now wanted us to advertise with them.  So those were some of the challenges that we faced because of the stigma attached to this industry.

The New Savvy:  How do you compare the business then and now? Is there still a stigma?  And regarding clients, what are some of the differences?

Violet:  Compared to 12 years ago, of course, the stigma has lessened quite a bit, but there are still some people who feel not so open about sharing with others.  So the stigma is interesting.  It’s two-fold.  The first stigma is getting through your perception of joining a dating agency.  Once people get over that, they join the agency.  But the next level of stigma is to tell others that you have joined a dating agency.

And that’s one of the things that we’ve struggled with for quite a while.  For the longest time, our website never had any success stories with people’s photo on there, because people were not comfortable enough to tell the whole world that that’s how they met.

But now if you go to our website you would see that there are quite some success couples with their face.  They send us their marriage photos and things like that, so I think people are starting to become more open.  In terms of the dating scene, I would say the difference now is that compared to when we first started many, many years ago, there weren’t any dating apps.

Dating apps are something that’s very new, like maybe only in the last couple of years.  So in the past, dating took a long time, from getting to know each other and then meeting up.  But now it’s quick.

The New Savvy:
   Tell us more about your new dating app.

Violet:  I don’t think there’s anyone a perfect platform for singles to find someone, and that’s why if you look at our suite of services, we have our one-to-one dating service, we have the online dating site,   and we the have dating app as well.

In my view, for singles out there the main objective is you need to meet people because dating is a numbers game.  If you think about it, out of the ten people you have met, chances are there might be four or five of them that you like and who likes you back.

Out of these, maybe you go on a date with a couple of them and then hopefully meet someone you want to have a relationship with. That’s very, very optimistic.  But if you think about it, and you ask your single friends, a lot of people do not meet ten people of the opposite gender in a month.

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And even worst, some don’t even meet ten people of the opposite gender in a year.  So if you look at that kind of numbers, it’s quite worrying if people don’t meet people.  So I think dating apps are just another platform for people to meet.

It’s a very quick way to meet people.  But of course, you should know how you use it, like choosing the right people to meet, because the truth of the matter is there are people out there who are using dating apps for all sorts of reasons, so you need to be careful about that.

The New Savvy:  What is the one force of motivation for doing what you do every day?

Violet:  When I first started the business, I didn’t think what I was getting myself into.  I figured it was a great idea; it was a business but it was not just about making money, it would help people as well.  And it was with this mindset that I jumped right into the business.  But honestly, this is a very, very tough business.

This business is very personal.  You’re dealing with people’s emotions; you’re dealing with something that is very close to their heart.  A lot of things that we see and hear from our clients are things that we wouldn’t have known we were just selling them a phone, or a camera, or a cup or stuff like that.

People tend to get very emotional sometimes, and in the early days when we were still very new, and we didn’t know how to manage our clients’ expectations well, some clients would just call up and start scolding our consultants and make them cry.

So it’s something that can be tough because it’s not very clear-cut.  Sometimes in the office, we will be very, very excited, because we will see this match, and we are like, “Oh my goodness, this is a match made in heaven.”  And we can’t wait for them to go out because we think that they are just going to love each other.  They are just going to fall in love and then get married.

So the whole office is buzzing, and like, “When are they going out?”  “When are they going out?”  They’re very, very excited.  And finally they go out, and the next step is that we will call them and ask how it went. And maybe the guy is very happy and says he can’t wait for the second date, but then the girl is not into it at all.

So there are cases like that.  And it’s something that can’t be avoided because as much as we try, it’s still entirely subjective. Back to your question about what keeps me going every day.

I have been very, very blessed—I met my husband, the love of my life when I was 20 and we got married when I was 25.  I’m a very goal-oriented person,  and I remember being a little girl and thinking, “I want to get married when I’m 26.” I beat my goal by a year!

After marriage, we wanted to start a family immediately, so our son Corum, came along when I was 26.  And then our daughter Cara, came along when I was 29.  So I have been very blessed to have a wonderful husband, a loving family, and a career that I love, all before the age of 30.  I thought to myself that there must be a reason why I am so blessed.

I think why I have been so blessed is to help others out there to find the happiness that I have found.  And that’s really what keeps me going because, honestly, there are days when I just feel like throwing in the towel.  You know like when I get nasty, emotional clients, and I’m like, “Why am I doing this?”

But I’ll just look at my family photos.  I’ll look at pictures of my clients that we have helped, and I see the progress in their lives, like from their wedding, then when they have their first kid when they have their second kid, and that’s what keeps me going every single day.

The New Savvy:  If you were to give other women who aspire to be like you, or to be an entrepreneur, advice, what would it be?

Violet:  One thing that has helped me, or worked for me, is just really to develop a thick skin, and just ask.  We are quite thin-skinned, and we are worried what people think about us, or we are concerned about people rejecting us.  The first radio I was on, I had asked to be invited on that show.

So what happened was that back when we had just started our business, a friend said, “Hey, you know 938 Live is going to do a talk show about matchmaking.  Why don’t you get yourself onto that show?”  I think my friend said that as a joke, but I was young and very green, and I thought, “Why not?”  So, I wrote an email to the producer explaining about Lunch Actually and that maybe it would be interesting if I shared some of my perspectives, and she said “yes,” That’s how I got onto the show.

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And I think the show was the opening.  I met my mentor, Miss Claire Chang, on the show.  And after that we continued to chat, and she has been just so inspiring, and helping me, and giving me so much advice in the last ten plus years.  So I think sometimes it’s really about that.  Just ‘wing it’ and say, “I’ll just ask.”  I think just by asking,  I’ve managed not to make a lot of mistakes that I could have made.Violet Lim, CEO of Lunch Actually, On Building Asia's Premier Online & Offline Dating Service Platforms

There are a lot of entrepreneurs out there, or a lot of people out there in general, who are very happy to share with you about their past experiences, their past challenges, and the lessons they have learned.

The New Savvy: What do you think are some of the bigger challenges women entrepreneurs are facing today?

Violet:  I think as a female entrepreneur, one of the challenges we face probably is balancing work and family.  One of the things I often ask myself is, “Can a woman have it all?”

Looking at Claire Chiang, my mentor, I see that it’s possible.  A woman can have it all. I remember Claire giving me this advice about kids, that, in her experience, the time when they are between 3 to 6 years old, and 13 to 16 years old, are the critical years.

It’s very, very important to be there for them and be able to guide them along during these years.  And that’s what I’ve been doing.  So I think right now, I’ve been travelling a lot more, compared to the last 12 years, because now my kids are 7 to 10.  I still spend a lot of time with them, but maybe more regarding quality time.

How I integrate all of these things into my life?  I put into my calendar, a time where I spend with my family. Every month I have a dedicated date with my son and a dedicated date with my daughter.  And I put it down so that everyone, from my PA to my team, sees it on my calendar and knows not to touch those times.

I do sometimes feel the guilt that I think a lot of women entrepreneurs feel, like “Could I have spent more time with them?”  “Would they thrive even more if like let’s say, I can be a full-time mom or things like that?”

But I tell myself that the way that we can inspire our children is also to live the best life that we can live.  And I believe that my kids would also feel short-changed if their mom is unhappy, and not feeling that she has lived up to her fullest potential.

That’s how I integrate these two aspects of my life.

The New Savvy:  What is the experience of working with your husband in business, and then managing a family, and your children?

Violet:  I think this is the best arrangement that anybody can ask for.  When I first started this business with Jamie, my girlfriends thought I was crazy.  They thought I was putting everything in one basket and that it was risky if something happened to our relationship, or marriage, or business.

But the way I see it, I think this is the best arrangement anybody can ask for because there is never any conflict of interest.

For instance, Jamie would never begrudge me for having to work on a Sunday.  Or, if I am asked to fly somewhere to give a talk, he encourages me to go while he took care of the kids. And if I need to leave work early to look after the children, he wouldn’t question that either.

Having said that, of course, there are challenges here and there.  There are times when we have arguments because both of us have very domineering personalities.  So sometimes in meetings at work, our associates just take a step back and watch while both of us are arguing about our points.  We are both very passionate about our views, but we don’t let ego get in the way.

After we finish arguing about what we think is right, we usually just let it simmer down and have a think about it, and decide whose idea was a better idea. It has worked out very well for us.

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Over the last 12 years, we have always either been sitting opposite each other or sitting next to each other at work.  Some couples have told me that they sit at opposite corners in the office to reduce conflict.  But for us, it has worked out well.

We have a lot of ‘couple’ times as well because when I do not have lunch with anybody else, we usually have lunch together.  So that’s like our dating time as well.

The New Savvy:  Can you give us one or two dating tips for today’s modern women?

Violet:  I think it’s quite stressful for today’s modern women.  Because you have your work, you have your career, and at the same time, you feel that you want to find someone and eventually settle down as well.

My tip is to “approach dating like how you approach your career.”  I know it doesn’t sound very romantic, but at the same time, I think it’s something that has worked.

What I have noticed about a lot of young ladies now is that they spent so much time on education, then they go on to get great jobs.  Then, they decide to focus on their career first and before starting to think about dating.

But that’s the wrong approach.  Because your career, as strange as it sounds, can wait.  You might feel that you’ll lose out if you don’t go full force.  The truth is, as long as you have the right skill set, and the right mindset, you can still thrive in your career.

When it comes to dating, unfortunately, (I know this is very not politically correct to say, but I will say it anyway) there is an optimum age to date. So my advice for ladies out there, I would say really “don’t compartmentalize your life.”

It’s better just to see that it’s not mutually exclusive.  You can pursue your career, and at the same time, you can pursue your lifelong happiness as well.  And I think the way to do that is to schedule in time for dating.

Another concept that is on the rise with many young ladies now is that the reason they are so invested in their career is that they feel they can see an output when it comes to investing in their career.  But, they feel that there are risks involved while it comes to investing time in a relationship.

So, I tell them that their career won’t be there to look after them when they’re old.  Their career won’t be the one travelling with them around the world.  Things like that.  So I think it’s important to put things into perspective.  I understand that a lot of people now see things like cost-benefit analysis, but relationships cannot be considered in that way.

I think it is important to set relationship goals just like how we set other life goals,  and take the necessary steps to achieve it, rather than leave it to serendipity.

The New Savvy:  These days, women have more earning power and are more independent.  How do you think this affects the dating scene? What is the right financial mindset for women to have when it comes to dating?

Violet:  Today, many women are well educated and hold excellent jobs with high incomes, and they want to date men who are at least in the same income bracket. The challenge here is that the men that most ladies are looking for are the same group of people.  Because women tend to look for someone who is in the same, or higher, level as them.

It’s just the same group of guys that everybody is looking for.  Lucky for those guys, they have a lot of choices.  So a lot of times it’s not that the lady is not good enough, but just that the guy has a lot of options, and he ends up choosing some other woman.

So what I want to offer is a different perspective.  Most of us have certain criteria of the person we’re looking for, but we don’t understand how this correlates with our marriage.  For example, many women come to me and say they want to date someone who is 1.75 meters tall. But, a man’s height does not have anything to do with whether he will be a good husband or a  good father.

Being 1.75 meters tall doesn’t mean that he will stay loyal to you.  It doesn’t mean that in the middle of the night when your kid is sick, he’s going to wake up and help you look after the kids.  No correlation at all.
Violet Lim, CEO of Lunch Actually, On Building Asia's Premier Online & Offline Dating Service Platforms

So I think it’s necessary to change our perspective and look at what is crucial, qualities like having a caring and loving nature.  Someone who would be by your side.

I think somehow most women are looking out for more superficial things, which are good to have but not relevant to being a good partner.  For example, if he earns more, or he earns the same as you, I think that’s great.  But let’s just say he makes a little lesser, doesn’t mean that his earning power will not increase in the future.

The New Savvy: 
There are a lot of discussions and views on what happens when a woman earns more in a relationship.  What are your views here?

Violet:  The interesting thing is, I do know a lot of real-life couples, either my clients or my friends, where the women earn more than men in a marriage.  I think it’s really up to how both parties balance that.  But, it’s not going to work out well if the girl keeps harping on it.

Ideally, a couple’s earnings should not be a factor in their relationship because when people start to see things in a monetized manner, that’s when the problems come up.  I think women need to realize that how much the guy earns doesn’t say anything about who he is.

Problems arise when we start measuring a person’s worth on how much they earn.  I think a lot of times we struggle with this.  For men, respect is like how love is to women.  So I think for a woman, we want to be loved by the guy.

From the man’s point of view, love is good, but respect is more important to a guy, and I think that’s how relationships and marriages disintegrate because the guy starts to feel that he’s been disrespected for whatever issues.

So a lot of times the marriage breaks down when the guy loses his job.  Because he loses his job and the lady starts disrespecting him because she has always been attributing respect regarding how much money he brings home, and I think we just need to separate that very clearly and understand that our relationship is just not based on how much the guy earns.

The New Savvy:   What are your advice for married couples? Should they have joint banking?  Should they have separate accounts?

Violet:  The finance or the banking arrangement is a topic that’s very close to my heart because this was something that was non-negotiable for me when I decided to get married.  I grew up in a family where my parents have a joint account.

Every month, my dad would hand over his entire salary to my mom, and he would just ask her for money whenever he needed it for anything.  I remember this very vividly, every Sunday my dad and I would have a movie day, just for the two of us, and we would go and watch a movie.

My dad would say, “Hey, go ask your mom for money.”  I would go to my mom, and she would give us money, and then we would go and watch our movie.

As I grew up and saw different circumstances, I felt that my parents’ arrangement was something that worked out very well. I remember this one time in school when one of my friends sad, “Oh, my dad has not paid for my school fees yet.”

From my friend’s conversation, I realized that her mom and dad had separate accounts.  And, based on what she was telling me, I thought that created a lot of problems.  So I decided that if I ever get married to someone, we would only have joint accounts. And, probably, for me, because it was easy because when I first started dating, we were both broke because we put in all our savings into our business.

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We were both broke. Both of us started from zero, and we share everything, and I find that it works well, because one of the biggest contributors to divorce, if you check it out, is money matters.

For us, that’s totally not even in the equation because we don’t have this problem.  If we go for dinner, it doesn’t matter who pays because it’s from the same account.

I’m not saying that this works for everybody because I understand not everybody started dating at the same point as my husband and I.  I know that the decision to join accounts would be a lot more complicated if one partner has a lot more money in their account than the other.

I would say that this is a very, very, important issue, and it’s a problem that needs to be ironed out before marriage. A lot of people go into marriage without thinking of the things that could potentially go wrong.

But, I believe that it’s just so important to talk about finances beforehand, details like how it’s going to be managed, rather than hope that it will somehow work out, because of it won’t.  And as people have more and more commitments in life, it would just get even more and more complicated.

The New Savvy:
  What are some of the financial discussions couples should have before marriage, or before dating?

Violet: Before marriage, you should discuss how you are going to structure your finances.  I know of many different ways that people do it.  Some couples maintain their separate accounts and contribute equally to a joint account for household expenses.

For some, the wife keeps her salary for herself and the husband gives a certain amount for the household. Some others contribute in proportion to their earnings. I think different things work for different people.

I think both parties have to talk it out.

The New Savvy:  For a lot of women, or at least young women, divorce rates are high, it’s very easy for people to cheat nowadays.  You have the internet, social media…right?  How can women protect themselves financially in a marriage or a relationship?

Violet:  This is something that is quite difficult for me to answer because I do not protect myself financially in that sense.  I believe that the most important part is to find the right guy.

In my perspective, we shouldn’t go into a relationship or marriage, with a lot of caveats, like thinking about prenups, or thinking “what if things don’t work out?”  I feel like life is in focus, so I’d rather focus on how I can make things work, rather than what I can do if things don’t work out.  And that’s how I live life.

We have been married for eleven years now, and of course, there are ups and downs just like in every relationship, but I think what has kept us going is that we always put our marriage as number one—on top of our children, on top of our business.  If anything were to threaten our marriage, then we make decisions that would protect our marriage.

I think that works for us because I think that if I start focusing on “how am I going to protect myself, or how I’m going to make sure that my finance is not being affected,” then I think my focus will change. I might not be placing so much emphasis on how to make sure my marriage works.

The New Savvy:  What kind of financial decisions have you made so far?  And what are your biggest obstacles to planning your financial portfolio?

Violet:  That’s fascinating, because of my husband and I, we book together when it comes to our financial planning.  But, my husband mainly deals with our financials.  So I’m not sure how I can ably answer this question.

The New Savvy:  How can we improve women’s relationship with money?

Violet:  I think it’s kind of interesting that financial planning, or even relationship planning, are things that are very practical, and we need to know of, but it’s never taught in school.

I think that was something that I have taught myself.  Even with my associates, I realize that lot of us are not very aware of how to plan our finance, or even what we should we be doing, or how to invest our money, and I think this literacy needs to be improved.

My suggestion would probably to have a level of awareness and encouragement. Personally, I cannot say that I have been doing that as I got married at a very young age. As a result, I left it to my husband to look after our personal finance and our family finance.

The New Savvy:  What are some of the things you would like to learn financially?

Violet:  I would like to find out more about investing,—specifically property investment. In Singapore, property investment is not that easy.  I mean, I have invested in some property in Malaysia, but I think I want to increase my knowledge in that.

The other one is investing in the stock market.  Years ago, when we first started the business, both my husband and I were eager to learn more.  But I guess, it all depends on interest as well, because he went on to learn more.

He went on to invest our money, but I didn’t make much progress with that as I just got busy with other things in life.

These are the two areas that I would like to learn more about.Violet Lim, CEO of Lunch Actually, On Building Asia's Premier Online & Offline Dating Service Platforms

The New Savvy:  You were in the media, and I think people are focusing on your looks, rather than your achievements.  What do you have to say about it?

Violet:  I think I have been very blessed that we have had a lot of media coverage over the last couple of years, and I think some of this coverage has been more prominent than others.

Sometime earlier in this year I was invited by Coca-Cola to be in their advertisement, and that was subsequently shown on billboards, YouTube, on TV, and I started reading some comments about feedback on this video.

It was interesting because their focus was not on what we do, or what I was saying, but it was more on my looks.  So it was something that, of course, was very hurtful.  I felt hurt, but I guess that because this is not the first time that this has happened, I was more immune to it and it led me to write a blog post to reflect on this matter.

I grew up with a low self-esteem because I was fat, had a lot of acne, and I have single eyelids.  A lot of my girlfriends started dating when we were in secondary school, and I was probably one of the few that were not dating.  And guys would come to me, not because they wanted to get to know me better but because they wanted to get to know my prettier girlfriends.

I remember thinking that it was not my fault that I looked like that.  And then I, at one point, was quite resentful of my girlfriends who were prettier, which is quite funny now that I look back on it because it wasn’t their fault that they were pretty.

Then, one fine day, it just occurred to me that there’s no point in focusing on the negatives and that I would just become a cynical and bitter person if I continued to think such thoughts.  And I didn’t want that for myself, so I just started focusing on how I could become better.
I started doing things that were within my control—I joined Toastmaster’s, I worked on my public speaking skills, I ran for office in societies,  and I took up a lot of leadership positions.  I even joined community service events where I met a lot of different people.  And at the end of the day, these skill sets have helped me to become who I am today.

“Thankful that I’m not born beautiful”

The title of my blog post was, “Thankful that I’m not born beautiful” because I believe that if I had been born beautiful, by so-called world standards of beauty, I would not have done all of those things, and I wouldn’t be able to be who I am today.

As for why the world always judge women on how they look?  Or why the focus is always on how we look?  Again, of course, I don’t think this is very healthy, but again I don’t want to focus on things that I cannot control.

There is no point of me going out there and saying, “Hey, no restrictions, stop judging women on how they look.”  Maybe eventually it will gain some traction. But I just think that this is something that will always be there for a while.

Rather than focusing on something that I can’t change right now, I would focus on things that I can change.

10 Financial Questions You Should Ask Your Date

So my advice to young women out there, because I believe that a lot of young women would be going through exactly what I used to go through, is not to worry so much about what others say because it doesn’t matter.

Ultimately the things that we tell ourselves is what’s going to make a difference.

The New Savvy:  In your opinion, who should pay for the first date?

Violet:  For a romantic date or just any date?

The New Savvy:
  Lunch Actually date.

Violet:  Our clients go on so many dates, we feel that it’s unfair for us to tell the guys to pay for every single date.  And technically, it’s not the first date the way we see it because it’s a date arranged by us.  We think that maybe the first date is like finally when after the date arranged by us, they go out again.

But we do tell the guys, “if you like the girl, please pay.”  Why we say that is because we have gotten feedback from ladies on this particular issue. And what they feel is, “If this guy is not even gentlemanly enough to offer to pay on the first date, how is he going to look after me for the rest of my life?”

Violet Lim, CEO of Lunch Actually, On Building Asia's Premier Online & Offline Dating Service Platforms

Maybe that is the right way of thinking or wrong way of thinking, but there are a lot of ladies who feel that way.  But we do tell the ladies not just to sit there and like feel like it’s the guy’s duty to pay.  If the guy offers to pay, you should be appreciative and show your gratitude.  Thank him for the meal.

Do offer to pay for something else, like movie tickets or coffee.  Men do not want to feel that the only reason you are there on a date with them is that you want them to pay.

Some guys have mentioned that they don’t want to date girls who are leechers.  So I think it’s important that, as ladies, we need to be gracious as well.  If the guy offers to pay for the date, let’s be appreciative and also offer to pay in future.

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Founder @ The New Savvy
Anna Haotanto is the Advisor (former CEO) of The New Savvy. She is currently the COO of ABZD Capital and the CMO of Gourmet Food Holdings, an investment firm focusing on opportunities in the global F&B industry. She is part of the founding committee of the Singapore FinTech Association and heads the Women In FinTech and Partnership Committee. Anna is the President of the Singapore Management University Women Alumni. Anna invests and sits on the board of a few startups. Anna is also part of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry Career Women’s Group executive committee. Anna’s story is featured on Millionaire Minds on Channel NewsAsia. She hosts TV shows and events, namely for Channel NewsAsia’s “The Millennial Investor” and “Challenge Tomorrow”, a FinTech documentary. Anna was awarded “Her Times Youth Award” at the Rising50 Women Empowerment Gala, organised by the Indonesian Embassy of Singapore. The award was presented by His Excellency Ngurah Swajaya. She was also awarded Founder of the Year for ASEAN Rice Bowl Startup Awards. She was also awarded the Women Empowerment Award by the Asian Business & Social Forum. Anna has been awarded LinkedIn Power Profiles for founders (2018, 2017), Tatler Gen T, The Peak’s Trailblazers under 40 and a nominee for the Women of The Future award by Aviva



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