AstroScrambler: How This Viet Kieu Is Changing The Motorcycle Scene
Clinical pharmacist by day and founder of a niche motorcycle community by night, Kin “AstroScrambler” Lam is not the type of person that comes to mind when you think of a road-riding motorcycle influencer. Graduating with high honors at both UC Davis and the University of Pacific and with a prestigious pharmaceutical residency at University of Southern California (USC) under his belt, Kin achieved the Vietnamese-American dream. With immigrant parents who left Vietnam for America in the 1970s, Kin worked and studied hard his whole life. He made his way through the education system, eventually finding success as a pharmacist at USC.
But Kin had bigger plans in mind. One day, he serendipitously stumbled upon motorcycle riding when he got sick of the LA traffic. He started learning more and more about riding and began immersing himself in the community. He eventually started an Instagram page to share his interest, and things just snowballed from there.
In a world where Vietnamese-American expectations of engineering and medical careers are all the hype, Kin finds solace in pouring his time and effort into his passion project: creating a community of Ducati Scrambler enthusiasts and an ecommerce website where he personally curates high quality moto gear for his following. We dive in deep with Kin to see what makes him tick, what motivates him, and most of all, what drives him in his search for a meaningful life.
How did you get started?
I was lounging at home one summer, and I realized I was complacent and not doing much with my time. I was bored, but I wasn’t willing to go out since LA traffic is unbearable. So I did some thinking, talked to some friends, and stumbled upon motorcycles. I’m an outdoors person at heart, so the combination of freedom on the road and the ability to go off-roading really appealed to me. I fell in love with riding, and I started a page to share my interest. With little expectation, things just sort of took off from there.
“If I’m comfortable, I’m uncomfortable.”
I fell in love with the Ducati Scrambler. It’s both a throwback vehicle and an adventure bike — two important pieces of my personality intertwined into one aesthetic moto. I started looking up stuff about Ducatis. I learned as much about riding as possible and soon that transitioned into customization as well. I started immersing myself in communities of people who rode Scramblers. When I get into something, I really really get into it. The nitty gritty, the details, the little quirks. That’s just the person I am. I’m a serial obsessor.
And so, naturally, I obsessed over Scramblers, and I wanted to know everything about them. I became so frustrated because, at the time, there was little information online for novices like myself. There wasn’t a visual feed where I could gather my information. That’s where I came in. I saw the lack of information as an opportunity for me to become a contributor in the motorcycle-space, so I took a leap of faith. I started small, with an Instagram page. I remember nervously making my first post with zero followers. When I made it to 100 followers, I was ecstatic. I was building something from the ground up. From conception to fruition, this thing was gaining traction.
Who and what has influenced you?
From my family, I learned to be an opportunist. It’s hard not to be when you’re born into a family of Vietnamese refugees, loved ones who left their homeland, their comforts, their people, for an unknown nation, a foreign land so far from home. My parents came here not speaking a lick of English. When my mom was only 16, she landed in Little Rock, Arkansas, surrounded by no Vietnamese people, trying to scrape by selling fireworks and working at Jack-in-the-Box. Fast forward to now and my mom is a fluent English speaker, becoming the top saleswoman at World Savings, and completely self sufficient. My dad earned his bachelor’s degree from San Jose State University and became an engineer at Western Digital.
From my family, I learned to be risky, to be ambitious, to be unhindered in the pursuit of my dreams. I learned that how bad you want to push something determines where you go. I know being a social media influencer isn’t a traditional route of success for a Vietnamese American – I mean my family still barely understands what I do and why I do it – but I don’t think success is about taking traditional routes. I believe that success is forged in obsession and the undiscovered areas of joy that you find.
Sometimes, you just get tired of monotony. You want to build something, to do something creative, to do something non-traditional. I think that’s part of the appeal of this project. Before starting AstroScrambler, I followed the traditional path. By the time I had finished my residency a few years back, I had fulfilled the safety-net career that many Asian parents want for their child. I put my head down and checked boxes off: strong GPA in undergrad, transitioned straight into a competitive pharmacy program at UOP, then into an impacted pharmacy residency at USC. Everything on time and with high marks – no years off. It wasn’t until a couple years ago did I see that I wanted more from life; a 9-5 wasn’t enough for me.
What differentiates AstroScrambler from other influencers?
I never considered myself an influencer. The page, in the beginning, was a simply a repository for me to share information that I felt would be helpful to other novices like myself. Soon, the followers began pouring in and I found myself having more influence. It then evolved from an image repository to a platform.
My mind is always spinning, one step, day, week, month, year ahead. I’m looking at the data, the analytics — what information might be helpful? How can I optimize my content for long-term growth? How can I build a community around this following? How can I make AstroScrambler the hub for all things scrambler-related? I want to become the go-to, the central hub for all things Scrambler. I want to educate and build a passionate and collaborative community.
What are you up to these days? What’s your focus?
I’m transitioning to building the website right now. Previously, I had no experience in user-interfaces, search engine optimization, e-commerce, and WordPress. I had to dig in and learn everything on my own. As the page continues to grow, I am determined to make the website a new platform for information and a hub for riders to share their personal and riding experience. In addition, there is always the need to improve the website and mobile user experience. I want to bring some writers on board and create a blog as well.
The best part of this experience is having the opportunity and platform to learn new stuff everyday; it’s what most drives me to put in the hard hours. I have always wanted to work with creative and passionate people, and I have brought on some interns who drive me to be the leader I have always wanted for myself. Finding out what people are really strong at and utilizing them in that potential has always been my strong suit, and when I leave work I get to tap into that skill set nightly!
What is your advice for aspiring Vietnamese entrepreneurs?
Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone. It’s not all guts and glory. I work 10 hours a day as a clinical pharmacist, and when I come home, I can’t just unwind and watch Netflix and crack open a beer. On the day-to-day, I do 7-5:30 at the pharmacy and then my 8-midnight at home, grinding out AstroScrambler. On the second shift my work varies. From getting in touch with suppliers to optimizing my website’s’ search statistics and doing an advertizing course on Google University, I’m just looking for ways to develop the AstroScrambler brand, and to strengthen its influence. It’s a lot of work, and you have to be purposeful with your actions or it’s easy to burn out.
For aspiring entrepreneurs another thing is to always seek to solve a problem. In the Ducati Scrambler world, many people didn’t understand the rationale behind the parts they were buying. There was little knowledge. I sought to remedy that by educating the community. By doing my due diligence and researching modifications and meeting with top motorcyclists, I became a trusted resource in the community. People started to put a lot more confidence in purchasing the things that I purchased. Though there is a long way to go, I look forward to the challenges ahead.
Thanks for speaking with us. Any final thoughts you’d like to share?
It is important to always know your purpose in doing something. When you put your head down and work, it is very easy to lose sight of those things. As it stands, I can live very comfortably as a clinical pharmacist, but I have more than myself to take care of. My parents, my sister and family deserve the best. I want to be able to create something that can provide me the means to give them the experiences that they could have never imagined. Whenever I get tired or want to slow down, visions of paying off all of their debts provide me that reason to keep going. I want to give them what they gave me, and that drives me every day.