OJUNI is a new brand initiative that is the brainchild of Liverpool-based creative Olayka McKay. It is a lifestyle brand centred on video game culture.
With two main strands, it is both commercial, in that there will be physical merchandise, and community-led, with an aim to bring together gamers into a safe and inclusive space. OJUNI was originally created as a support network for trauma survivors, but has since expanded to include gamers of all backgrounds. However, sticking to its initial concept, the promotion of wellbeing through gaming is still very much a part of the structure of OJUNI.
As a black, gay woman, it is extremely important to Olayka that OJUNI is inclusive of everyone. The gaming industry is far from perfect and there is so much discrimination in all forms in many gaming communities. The purpose of OJUNI is to challenge these prejudices and provide a welcoming environment for everyone, regardless of their race, gender, age, identity or even standard of gaming.
Although OJUNI is currently an online brand, Olayka and her team of volunteers plan to organise meet ups for members to socialise, network, and even take part in activities that help local communities, such as litter picking. From Toxteth, Olayka is passionate about her community and wants her brand to be rooted in her values.
We had a chat with Olayka about her goals for the future of OJUNI and the importance of the values she wants to instil in the brand.
Olayka McKay (OJUNI) Interview
Alternatively, you can read the interview transcript below.
Liverpool Noise: Hey Olayka! We think OJUNI sounds like such a cool initiative. Could you tell the Liverpool Noise readers a bit about yourself and the concept behind OJUNI?
Olayka: Hello. My name is Olayka. I’m a freelance creative. Whether I am working on an external project or an internal project, I’m always working on something. External being photography, videography, post production, graphic design. Internal being tapping into new frames of mind or changing the way I think. The concept behind OJUNI is to build a lifestyle brand, but also the people who invest into that brand, I want them to be welcoming, accepting, just all round good people. So right now, as I’m designing things, clothes and other things that I want to be able to bring forward, I’m also trying to lay the foundations of what this brand is about, like the values of the brand.
LN: We’re curious; what does the word ‘OJUNI’ mean? Is there a story?
Olayka: The word OJUNI doesn’t actually mean anything. I have researched so much into marketing. I’ve done, you know, a few things in the past, and I knew I wanted my brand to be fun, so I wanted the word to be fun to say, and a bit like, confusing and enticing people. I also wanted it to be under six letters. So, yeah, I just went through the alphabet, crossed out what I didn’t like and just kept doing that until I had the word OJUNI. And I liked it. So I kept it.
LN: Tell us a bit about the core values of OJUNI; community, inclusivity and wellbeing. Why was it so important to you to build OJUNI around these values?
Olayka: Community, inclusivity and Wellbeing are core values in my life. So it’s only right that if I’m building a brand, they are the core values within the brand as well. With Wellbeing, I’ve spoken about mental health from probably when I was like 16 or 17 openly online. Inclusivity in my life, I have a lot of different people coming in and out of my life from different races, different backgrounds, people who identify in loads of different ways. The community, growing up where I grew up, which is in Toxteth, you learn what a community means. You need the right community to build you as a person and that’s what I aim to do also with this brand. Not just sell things, but also add value to people’s lives as well.
LN: What got you into gaming? Do you have a particular favourite type of game?
Olayka: All of my family games. And they’ve gamed since I can remember. My Nan plays Mario still to this day, my cousin and her boyfriend, they’re mega gamers.They’ve got every game console that you can think of. My other cousin as well. She has probably every game console that you can think of. Her son also games. My two sisters game, I think it’s just woven into our family.The type of games I like to play..I play all different types of games to be honest, I like probably more adventure games if I had to pick. But I do like a game of Fall Guys too.
LN: We can picture OJUNI taking off quite well in Liverpool, the city already has two venues dedicated to gaming! Do you have any OJUNI events or meet ups in the pipeline?
Olayka: Hopefully it does take off in Liverpool. I do want to do meetups and events. I have already tried to do an event but then covid hit. I plan to do meetups. I want to do more like cleaning the streets up where I live, which is Toxteth. Sometimes I’ll be walking through the streets and there’s just rubbish everywhere and I go to a different area, and it’s not like that. So they’re the type of things that I want to do. Also going on jogs or doing workouts together. So I do want to get there, but that is in the pipeline. But it just needs to be the right time and with the right people.
LN: You describe OJUNI as a lifestyle brand. Tell us more about this.
Olayka: When I describe OJUNI as a lifestyle brand, it means that it’s a way of life, not just a brand that sells stuff. So you will have, for example, Rolex. You know what type of lifestyle someone leads or wants you to believe that they lead if they buy a Rolex. Red Bull sponsors many sports people and even gamers, now. You have Nike, you know, ‘Just Do It’, for people who are driven on one goal and will do anything to get to that goal. My lifestyle brand OJUNI is rooted in gaming culture and as I said earlier, building on particular values, looking after yourself, looking out for other people and including everyone.
LN: Where do you hope OJUNI will be this time next year? Do you have any exciting plans?
Olayka: In a year’s time with OJUNI, I want to have a solid foundation of people who are fully involved and support the cause. I want to have a solid team who I can pay. I also want to be able to design clothes because, as I said, I am a creative. I feel like that’s where I really thrive. I’m trying to take it city by city, so hopefully it will be a name in Liverpool that has a buzz in the next year.
LN: How can people get involved? What can you expect from being a member of the OJUNI community?
Olayka: If you want to get involved, just shoot me a DM. I already have three people on the roster who are volunteers and are willing to help me. So if you want to get involved, literally just shoot me a DM. If you don’t want to get involved in that way, just follow the socials, share stuff, get talking in the comments, get familiar with people. Even jump on a game with me, I’m always streaming online on Twitch. So yeah, if you want to get involved, either follow the pages or DM me. What I hope people can expect from the community as we are still building it, is a safe space to be who you are and express your thoughts and feelings without judgement. That’s what I’m hoping for. Obviously, I can’t control every aspect of the community. All I can do is provide foundations and hope it builds from there. And if we do get any mean people, we can exile them from the online community. But what you can expect from me in the community is support in ways that I can help. So any suggestions for games, if you want to jump online if you’re having a down day, we can play some games. That’s what you can expect.
LN: You’ve recently expanded your team and you’re still looking for more volunteers. What roles need filling and how can people volunteer?
Olayka: We’ve recently expanded. We’ve got three new members on the team, which I’m so grateful for. There are still positions going. I do need help with graphics and videography because I literally do that all myself and that’s probably the biggest load of work. So if you are interested in that, again, shoot me a DM or email me and I’ll see if you can fit in with our team.
LN: Lastly, how can our readers keep up to date with all things OJUNI?
Olayka: If you want to keep up to date with what OJUNI is doing and all the things that we have in the pipeline, there’s a newsletter, and you can subscribe to that by finding the Instagram. Or you can follow the Instagram. Follow the Twitter. Follow the Tik Tok, just get involved. If you want to really keep up to date with what we’re doing, get involved and make yourself known.
You can keep up to date with OJUNI by following the socials and signing up to the newsletter: https://ojuniofficial.wixsite.com/ojuni