Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Gigi Murakami, Owner of Koyuki Panda LLC., located in Brooklyn, NY, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

I'm a freelance illustrator, manga (comic) creator, and online shop owner. My work contextualizes the black and female experience through horror, and science fiction, while infusing Japanese manga art and vintage American comic and pulp aesthetics. My work is for people eager to engage the Black female experience and Black horror in a novel way.

Tell us about yourself

My name is Gigi Murakami, and I was born in The Bronx, NYC. I consider myself an alternative blerd (Black nerd), and I've been drawing ever since I could hold a pencil. I never realized that being a professional artist is essentially being a creative business owner, but with that, I started my business in 2018.

Initially, I created artwork and products that were more "vanilla," as I like to put it (lol). Within those first two years, I was unhappy with what I was producing, but I couldn't understand why at the time.

I had a huge deep dive in 2020 and asked myself what I wanted my art to say, how I wanted it to look, and how it was related to me and my tastes. I realized that I wasn't being honest in my work and decided to pivot to horror, sci-fi, and overall darker—more alternative themes and imagery, and I've been moving in that direction since then.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Being able to cultivate an online community of other people who felt like I did growing up—being a lover of art, anime, manga, nerd culture, and alternative fashion and music, but not feeling brave enough to fully accept those things about yourself because of the knowledge that your inner community likely won't accept or support you—this is especially true when you're a person of color.

I think being able to provide that kind of supportive community and give The Kollective (the name of our community) the support I needed when I was younger has been really rewarding for me.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

Managing all the tasks! Because my business isn't only product based, it can be challenging to halt everything so that I can work on storytelling and manga creation.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Adapt the mindset of a student—there's always something new to learn.
  2. Be flexible to change.
  3. Don't be afraid to do things differently.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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