AnimeChicago Spotlight is an interview series highlighting local organization leaders and personalities. Today we’re chatting with the anime-influenced artist AnimeSpice about her latest crate business Manga Spice Cafe!
AC: Tell us a little bit about yourself, and how Manga Spice Cafe started out.
AS: Back in my high school days, I was the project and event planner for the anime club. I used to pack gifts for the club members and come up with all kinds of fun and engaging activities for us to do. I even neglected homework one Christmas break to create information sheets for each and every anime we watched, in case anyone needed catching up.
Fast forward to now, I’m running a company that sends recently released manga and edible gifts to subscribers monthly.
AC: What inspired you to break into the fan crate business?
AS: Geek boxes and fan crates are popular nowadays because they create an experience that you can keep with you, and you can look forward to getting next month’s surprise. It’s exciting! Pulling together a box for subscribers each month is very similar to what I was doing in my old anime club. Planning, curating, and creating information sheets to help people learn something new. We’re getting people excited about owning physical manga again. Furthermore, it’s a cozy way to enjoy and discover new manga, while being served yummy Asian snacks and drinks.
AC: What can people expect from a Manga Spice Cafe subscription?
AS: Manga Spice Cafe is about the maid and manga cafe experience. In Japan, you can visit a maid cafe and interact with a sweet maid who serves you fun and decorated meals, snacks, and drinks. Visiting a manga cafe, you can search through a large collection of manga and find new titles you can curl up with on a seat in a reading room. I’ve combined the two experienced into one, to create a manga maid cafe in a box! Every month subscribers receive 3 brand new, recently released, first volumes of manga from different genres, plus a handful of Asian snacks, and a special cafe drink, such as the ever popular Ramune soda.
AC: If you could build the perfect box for yourself, what would it contain?
AS: Lots of love. Seriously! With the increase in digitization of reading material and the closing of bookstores, the value of physical hard copy books has gone down. Publishers feel it, even the manga artists in Japan who depend on book sales to continue doing what they do. Reading free, pirated scans on the internet doesn’t support anyone. And if there is no face to the name, it’s that much easier to not care. When I put together these information sheets to include in the box, subscribers get to know the artists behind the books they are reading. They connect with artists, the real people, who dedicated their time and energy to create the stories they are holding in their hand. There’s also a small section in the booklet to showcase some of the art of these talented manga artists. A perfectly crafted box to me is one that creates this sort of real value.
AC: Do you have tips for illustrators who want to build their businesses?
AS: Fail often and learn how to pivot. Many obsess way too much on being perfect and having everything figured out right away. Sitting around, comparing your work to others and then ultimately deciding that your work will never be good enough is self-defeating. Whether you treat your art as a hobby or a business, you have to get accustomed to failing. In fact, you will fail often because that is the only way to succeed. Learning to pivot means when things don’t work, you re-adjust, try a slightly different approach, and keep moving forward. Put yourself out there, get feedback, and focus more on learning what it takes to be successful.
AC: How can people find you?
MS: You can visit us online at mangaspicecafe.com to subscribe or learn more about what makes our box awesome. You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and maybe even at your local convention! For every monthly box, we write an unboxing review on our blog to show you what you may have missed. Our next box contains a copy of Dragon Ball Super plus other Dragon Ball goodies so don’t miss that!