Fabulous People: Lani Gobaleza and Amy Truong

Married couple Amy Truong and Lani Gobaleza are the founders of PARU, a San Diego-based specialty tea company offering loose leaf teas, original blends and house-milled matcha (as well as an online shop and monthly tea subscriptions). “We source directly from small farms in under-represented regions in East Asia and Southeast Asia, and we have a dedicated tea lab where we develop our own blends inspired by our cultures.” Learn about Amy Truong and Lani Gobaleza…

Hometown: Amy: Torrance, CA; Lani: San Diego, CA

First job: Amy: I worked at a fast food restaurant in Torrance. I was curious about how big companies operated. I was surprised and delighted by how much work went into it. I’m the type of person who likes to keep moving, so it was a great way to learn.

Lani: When I was 16, I worked for a chocolate and coffee shop in a touristy part of San Diego and was promoted to manager within the first few months. I learned a lot early on.

Favorite ways to spend your free time in CA: We love visiting other Asian-inspired establishments, especially small businesses. We also love going to the San Diego Zoo and learning more about the incredible work and research that’s being done. We have two Pomeranians, so we kind of have our own zoo at home, too.

Your biggest accomplishment and why:  It’s a tie: starting PARU and working together at PARU as a married couple!

The biggest obstacle you overcame: Starting a business is difficult as it is. Starting a business as queer Asian American females came with a lot of specific challenges that we didn’t realize we’d face. Growing up in predominantly Asian American neighborhoods, we often felt uplifted, supported and represented, but that’s not always the case outside of those safe and familiar places.

Soon enough, however, we viewed those obstacles as opportunities. We asked ourselves how we could improve or what else we could learn, even after years of tasting, blending, sourcing, selling and serving tea. Adopting a lifetime student mindset sets you up for success. If you go into something thinking you’re a master, then you’ll have no place to go and nothing to grow.

Someone who inspires you and why: Amy: My mother because she gave birth to me. Lani: My mother because she was the youngest of 10 children but took care of everyone in the family while raising three children on her own and working multiple jobs.

Advice to someone pursuing a career path in what you do: Take time to really understand your vision at the very beginning and make sure all your goals and the way you do things stem from that same vision. Beyond that, it’s about rolling up your sleeves, putting in the work and building a dynamic team who believes in what you’re doing.

Favorite quote: Amy: “Nothing worthwhile happens overnight. Every big dream is the culmination of thousands of tiny steps forward.” —Julie Zhuo

Lani: “You must not ever stop being whimsical. And you must not, ever, give anyone else the responsibility for your life.” —Mary Oliver

Something someone would be surprised to learn about you: People are often surprised when they find out we’re the business owners and founders because they say that we look young. It’s not uncommon for someone to walk into the shop and ask if one of our fathers owns it. Even after we explain, they sometimes assume that we opened the shop straight out of college when we’ve both had more than a decade of professional and leadership experience (Amy as an Operations Manager in Food//Wellness and Lani in Education and Tech).

We’d say though since we’ve connected with our communities online and in person, there’s a lot more acknowledgement, curiosity and respect than there are assumptions, which is wonderful.

What makes someone fabulous: Accountability, culture (a sense of knowing who you are and what has helped shape you), humility, kindness, empathy, confidence and community.

Top-of-page image credit: Studio Luniste

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