If Nancy Silberkleit, co-CEO of Archie Comic Publications Inc. in Mamaroneck, can take a global enterprise and tack on a personal mission, so can millions of business women who want to discover their inner entrepreneur and then use it for good.
Her advice? “Never let anyone define who they want you to be – you know who you are.”
When Silberkleit inherited 50 percent of her husband’s comic book business – Archie Comics – in 2008, she wanted to take an educational approach to comics and illustrate modern-day themes of bullying, obesity, depression and suicide using the personal lives of Archie and his friends.
However, her co-CEO Jonathan Goldwater, who inherited part of Archie Comics after his brother Richard Goldwater passed away within the same year as Silberkleit’s husband, had a different opinion.
After courtroom sagas and numerous disagreements with Goldwater, Silberkleit decided to take matters into her own hands. She started her own comic book called Rise Above and incorporated her culturally relevant themes using her own resources, funding and publication. With the help of her daughter, accountant and a team of freelance artists and writers, Rise Above became a $20,000 investment that served as a public announcement for children who need guidance on how to deal with social pressures.
“I was utilizing capabilities that I didn’t know existed until I tumbled into Archie Comics and went into publishing and further developed my talent and expertise,” Silberkleit said. “I tell women that it’s challenging to be an entrepreneur because you’re going to meet many adversaries.”
Silberkleit knew she wanted to bring education into her comics once she discovered the power of the visual medium. But she couldn’t implement her ideas at Archie Comics even as the co-CEO. She then found the willpower to create her own brand and started her own foundation last November to help fund her comic book business. She discovered that her market is children and teens and she would access them through educational venues.
Silberkleit received recognition through press releases and was invited to speak at several schools in Yonkers. She has attended conventions both nationally and globally to talk about being a female entrepreneur in the comic book business who wanted to bring social issues to the youth. Her comic book has reached people in Germany and India and regions of Africa. Her next step, however, involves a return to Riverdale High and Archie, taking the ageless teen and his friends to the Ministry of Education in China with the help of a company called Trajectory based in Boston.
With 25 years of experience teaching art class in a New Jersey public school, Silberkleit discovered her passion for social issues related to children and learned to embrace that as a business woman.
“Whenever I meet women in positions of leadership, I hear they’re minimized,” Silberkleit said. “It’s extremely challenging being pushed around, but it also pushes you to find a way around it and that’s the beauty of being an entrepreneur and fulfilling your dreams.”
Most recently, Silberkleit created a documentary and continues to attend business conferences where she speaks about her career in comic book making. She is determined to incorporate the theme of bullying and being gay and committing suicide in her next comic book.
“As more people get to understand my mission – that comic books are an academic resource for communicating in this world – there will be more people who will utilize the graphic platform,” Silberkleit said. “It gives me more freedom to explore my passions in a deeper, thorough manner.”