2 Minutes With … Lan Pham, Founder of SANG Vietnamese Coffee

On being unfazed by rejection

Lan is the founder and CEO of SANG, a Vietnamese coffee brand. Her dream is to share the bright and bold flavors of Vietnam, representing Asian-Americans in the CPG space.

We spent two minutes with Lan to learn more about her background, her creative inspirations and recent work she's admired.

Lan, tell us …

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

My family came to America in 1980. We were leaving war-torn Vietnam, and my mother made the brave decision to come to the States by boat with her eight children. We moved around a lot before settling in Orange County, Calif.—better known as Little Saigon. Today, I live in New York City with my two kids and dog Mochi. 

How you first realized you were creative.

I have worked with brands across e-commerce, hospitality and strategy. While those roles didn't exactly spark my creativity, they equipped me with the skills needed to launch SANG, which lets my creativity run wild.

A person you idolized creatively early on.

I've always admired my mom's creativity and ingenuity. From sewing gold to my diaper to hide the only money she had from Thai pirates when we left Vietnam, to leaving her homeland behind and reinventing herself in a foreign country (without knowing the language, culture and food), my mom has been a constant inspiration. I always knew I could do anything because of my mother. 

A moment from high school or college that changed your life.

All the times someone called my food "smelly." I remember how my mother would make us delicious Vietnamese food to take to school, like spring rolls or stir fry. But I'd be so embarrassed that I'd throw away the food and take a PB&J sandwich instead. 

A visual artist or band/musician you admire.

I love Taylor Swift. Her music and songwriting are unmatched. She's an amazing performer, and she's one of the smartest businesswomen.

A book, movie, TV show or podcast you recently found inspiring.

I'm currently watching Lessons in Chemistry. The main character, a scientist played by Brie Larson, is unbothered by men who tell her where a woman's place should be in society. She is always proving them wrong. I can't imagine trying to be a working single woman in the 1950s. She is an inspiration as I build SANG. 

Someone or something worth following on social media.

SANG—sorry for the shameless plug.

One of your favorite creative projects you've ever worked on.

Last year, we launched "Strong, Yet Sweet," and that'll forever have a special place in my heart. We compared our Vietnamese iced coffees to Vietnamese moms—both are strong yet sweet. We created a video accompanied by several cheeky social media posts.

I'm also really proud of this funny little ad that pokes fun at Vietnamese names—which was a big hit among a lot of our customers. 

A recent project you're proud of.

Our latest campaign: "Robussin: A Celebration of the Robusta Coffee Bean." We wanted to highlight just how amazing Vietnamese robusta beans are, and why they're better for you and the environment. But obviously, we wanted to do it in a fun and quirky way. So, we came up with this concept of a Vietnamese grandma/rap star who drops some hard facts. This campaign was extra special because we worked with an almost entirely Vietnamese/Vietnamese-American cast and crew.

Someone else's work you admired lately.

I've always been a big fan of Liquid Death's witty and sarcastic marketing. I also adore Lakuna Design. They're my design partners and they're the ones who gave SANG its color and life. 

Your main strength as a creative person.

My ability to remain unfazed by rejection—because you get that a lot of that in the CPG/start-up space. 

Your biggest weakness.

Second guessing myself. 

What you'd be doing if you weren't in advertising.

I always knew I wanted to do something in the food and beverage industry. I once had the idea of launching a juice company for kids. But boy, am I glad that didn't work out!

2 Minutes With is our regular interview series where we chat with creatives about their backgrounds, creative inspirations, work they admire and more. For more about 2 Minutes With, or to be considered for the series, please get in touch.

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