How Ashna Mankotia built an audience from a viral personal finance video
The Toronto native is a product manager by day and TikTok creator by night
When she's not at her desk working as a senior product manager at Morning Brew, an American media company best known for its flagship newsletter of the same name, Toronto-based Ashna Mankotia is (like many of us) on TikTok.
But Mankotia isn't just scrolling on the app—she shares snippets of her life, nuggets of wisdom, and hauls to an audience of over 95,000 followers. Since starting her TikTok account in 2020, Mankotia's videos have accumulated more than 2.3 million likes, and she's partnered with popular brands like mattress company Endy and Aperol.
Here, we discuss the viral video that helped grow Mankotia's TikTok audience, her personal finance journey, and the advice she would give her younger self.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Tell us a bit about yourself:
I was born in India and immigrated to Canada when I was four, and I now live in Toronto. I am currently a senior product manager on Morning Brew's education team, where I support the development and growth of the company's newest business unit. It's funny because I didn't even know what product management was when I graduated from university—I kind of stumbled into it. The role is a mix of skills that I'm good at (like strategic thinking and relationship-building), and it's great because I love building things and seeing what I've built with my team in the real world. I've been on Morning Brew's education team since June 2020 and was recently promoted.
I'm also a creator on TikTok where I like to show snippets of my life, from clips of a day in my life to shopping hauls. I started posting on TikTok when the pandemic first hit for fun, but there was a time when I wanted to be a YouTube creator even back when it wasn't as huge of a platform, like in 2007. I was around 14 or 15 years old and flirted with the idea of starting a channel, but I was too young and a little nervous to really put myself out there. When TikTok came along, it felt like the right time to start posting online. For one, it's easier to use than YouTube, and I'm in a place where I'm more secure about who I am and care less about what people think. While figuring out a balance between my day job and content creation on TikTok can be tough sometimes, it's been a lot of fun.
What kind of career or life advice would you give your younger self?
Be intentional about networking: We think booking a call with someone or connecting on LinkedIn is all it takes to network, but it's important to take it a step further and actually do your homework. In the past, I would book coffee chats with people I admired and had nothing prepared. I try to have empathy when people do this with me, but I think it's important to consider what exactly you are looking for from a coffee chat. You need to be strategic and have specific questions before you approach someone for a coffee chat. One example is: What skills do you feel you have right now to go into your current role? If you could start your job over again, what's something you'd do differently?
Figure out what you enjoy—and take it slow: I think when you're early in your career, or at least when I was, you're in such a rush to make more money, get a better title, and climb the so-called corporate ladder. There's just so much hurry. If you can financially afford it, take your time to learn, and figure out what you like doing instead of chasing something that you think is really sexy and exciting (in terms of pay and title). If you have a 30-kilometre hike, you wouldn't sprint the first kilometre, right? You would take your time. The same goes for your career: You will grow so much in the 30 to 40 years you spend working, both professionally and personally, so don't be so hard on yourself to have it all figured out right out of the gate. Eventually, the confidence (and the $$$) will come, too.
Have an abundance mindset: It's being confident enough to know that good things will come your way and that you will have the tools to navigate that when life gets hard. I truly believe that whatever life you want for yourself, it's possible. Whatever you're thinking is your dream life, think bigger. It sounds so cheesy, but a big part of attaining success (whatever that means to you) is you really have to believe that it's possible.
One of your most popular TikToks is about your finance tracker. Can you tell us about your personal finance journey?
My personal finance journey really started just a few years ago. Around the time COVID began, my friend (who is in finance) looked at my salary, looked at my expenses and said: There's no reason you shouldn't have your student loans paid off in a year or two.
That conversation made me reflect on the fact that I never actually thought about my financial goals and what was important to me. I wasn't tracking any of my expenses, either, which is ironic because a TikTok video I made on the finance tracker I use went viral. I actually grew a lot of my audience through that video.
I spent a lot of time during the pandemic learning about personal finance, like what the difference is between a TFSA and an RRSP. I had been using a TFSA as a savings account for so long, not realizing I could invest with it. There are just so many things that no one teaches you. Especially coming from an immigrant family, my parents taught me a lot about the basics—including how to build credit and the importance of saving—but nothing about investing and growing your money to build wealth because they didn't know themselves.
Having that knowledge has helped me feel so much more secure about my financial future. Just sitting down and learning helped me quadruple my net worth in two years, even though I started with little.
What's something you recently splurged on?
I bought a Coach bag as a promotion gift.
Do you have any money regrets?
I'm pretty good with my finances, so there's not much I'd take back. But I do regret it whenever I skip a workout class because I get hit with a fee—and there's nothing I hate more than an unnecessary late fee. It's like double regret for skipping the workout and then paying for it, too.
What are some of your favourite books and podcasts?
Books: A book I recently read is A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza. But in general, my favourite genre is Hallmark movies (read: white people in small towns falling in love). If I'm reading non-fiction, it's typically articles and blogs.
Podcasts: I'm a true crime podcast person, so one of the ones I like listening to is My Favorite Murder, which Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark host. For a podcast about murder, it's lighthearted and, at times, even funny.
How do you typically start your mornings to have a productive day ahead? I wake up between 5:30 and 6:30 am and have to start with some kind of movement. I love the classic hot girl walk, so I'll do that for 45 minutes to one hour. Other times I'll do a workout class; I enjoy Barry's Bootcamp.
What are some of your work-from-home essentials? A good setup makes such a difference. I need a comfortable chair, monitor and laptop stand. I also have a great coffee setup, complete with a coffee grinder, espresso and drip machine.