“The business started with a team with many ideas, and we incorporated it all into our brand. To cut a long story short; a year and a half later the team broke apart, and the business flopped.” – Lao Karunwi
The story didn’t quite end there for Scottish born and nomad, Lao Karunwi and London-born, Nigel Twumasi, the creative entrepreneurs who are behind ‘mayamada’ (my-a-ma-da) – A concept brand influenced by anime and manga that creates comics, clothing, and confectionary based on characters they’ve created.
The comic industry had an estimated $935 million total sales in North America in 2014 according to Comichron; the figure rises substantially after you include sales in Africa, Asia, the UK and the rest of the world. However, the financial gain is not the sole impetus behind the project mayamada, just like most creative businesses there always lies a deeper reason. Mayamada initially started as a business involving a group of friends who had a love for creativity and Japanese manga. It slowly became a business that did not emulate what they set out to do; producing products that reflected individual’s personal interests. The business lost its identity, money, and partners.
A love for writing, a trip to Japan, and a game-changing conversation with an artist redirected the duo’s focus to rebrand and relaunch.
The eye-opening conversation with the artist proved pivotal in the development of ‘mayamada,’
“We were told the presentation, and quality of our products was great. However, our branding was confusing; there’s no association between the products and the brand.”
That was the missing link for Lao and Nigel; the next step was to build a build a brand that would grow and retain customers. After countless discussions, in-depth research, recruiting Pinali, a talented art illustrator, (1 year and six months later) they built a brand with products based on inspiring stories featuring various anime animal characters they created. After meticulously transforming Mayamada, the business partners successfully raised capital on Kickstarter and the Prince’s Trust, which helped them launch their first full comic entitled ‘Samurai Chef’.
Mayamada is more than its products, each of their characters are built to inspire and provoke their reader’s creativity and imagination. Their latest comic is called Serious, and in their first edition subtitled ‘Ambition’ follows the journey of a young man (well, rabbit lol) named Blake who starts his own business along with his best friend, Cassy. Their goal is to become successful and leave the ‘endz.’ “We chose to use animals to depict our anime; we felt that this is something everybody can visually connect to even if you’re not interested in manga and anime.”
Lao and Nigel have travelled across the UK and also France, to various trade shows and comic conventions; most recently Comic Con which had over 130,000 visitors.
“The response from our customers, on the whole, is positive, but we’ve noticed that people are often surprised when they find out we are the creators.”
In the Comic industry, there are not many people who have Ghanaian and Nigerian heritage, and this is something they embrace and see as a positive. “It’s an opportunity to connect with our customers; it allows them to get to know us which in turn strengthens their relationship with our brand.”
The business partners also run creative workshops in secondary schools in and around Haringey, North London, and hold a reoccurring event, GamePad which is open free to the public and fans of Mayamada. Anyone can come along and play classic games on the Playstation, Nintendo Wii and various arcade games (Time Crisis, Fifa, and Smash Brothers are just some of the games you could play). “It’s a great place to socialise and catch a good vibe. We usually have treats, competitions, and giveaways. At one of our previous events, attendees were gifted with the chance to create their flavour of frozen yoghurt, which went down well” said Lao.
Nigel and Lao’s goal is to make their brand a household name by connecting with their audience on different levels.
“We want to engage with our audiences, spark their emotions and ignite their creativity.” – Nigel
Writer & Photographer @Kofi Dwaah