“If all inside you calls “I want this, I can do this, it can only work,” then you should do it. One should at least try it, but it would also be good to have a Plan B if it doesn’t work.”
Christina Plaka always loved drawing, and when she discovered Mangas, she was hooked. Mangas is a form of Japanese cartooning, comics and animation. As Christina explored this art form, she began to develop comic stories, win drawing competitions, and have her drawings and stories published in a series of books. To further master the art, Christina studied Manga drawing as part of a master’s program at a university in Japan.
Germany does not offer a strong market for Mangas, so Christina took on jobs as an illustrator. Self-marketing her art was challenging and securing enough jobs to make a living often felt like a game of luck. In order to make ends meet, Christina held side jobs as an office manager, but these roles felt distant from her skills, knowledge, and interests.
While working as a German teacher at the Japan centre, Christina realized she really enjoyed teaching. One day she decided to start a Manga school to combine her passions of art and teaching. Although it was a risky moment, as she did not have any savings or financial security, Christina had a strong intuitive feeling that it was going to work out well.
Christina stumbled upon KIZ (Communication and Innovation Centre) by chance. KIZ offered her affordable rent for an office space which was attractive to her because she could start her business without major risk. Through Youth Business Germany (YBG), KIZ offered Christina interesting workshops and coaching.
Mentoring through YBG was incredibly beneficial for Christina and she participated in the program for 6-12 months. Her mentor gave her great new ideas and helped her explore new visual ideas. Christina also learned the importance of time management and gained the confidence to trust that she could improve her work as she moves forward.
“If I had not participated at YBG, I would still have my business, but I would have my limited view. I would have missed out on thoughts of all that is possible for the future. I would not have the wider vision, and the courage to approach improvement and growth, to dare to achieve higher.”
Through YBG, Christina participated in the Entrepreneur University (Söder Jugns), a very big and recognised start-up networking event in Germany. She was inspired to organise a similar event for the Manga scene and discussed with the organisers of the event about this vision.
Soon after its creation, the business grew quickly and required new teachers and an expanded office space. To keep up with the school’s growth, Christina hired former students to help teach classes and complete administrative work.
Christina now has 65 permanent students and offers different levels and contents of classes. Recently, demand has increased significantly, and she started a waiting list for her courses. In the long-run, she envisions opening several branches of the school in Germany, creating an agency and editorial for Mangas, opening a Manga café, library, and museum, and establishing an online store for merchandising.
Christina’s advice to other young entrepreneurs:
“It is helpful to have a sounding board, to talk to someone who knows you and listens. While you pronounce your thoughts you often already come to solutions. I still continue to meet my mentor occasionally.”
KIZ provides advice and support to anyone willing to start a business through a 12-month scholarship that provides basic entrepreneurial tools, a mentorship program, and access to YBG network. YBG is part of the Youth Business Europe programme, a regional initiative supported by the Citi Foundation to help young entrepreneurs to start or grow a business.