Listen to episode 21:
This week, Jamie talks to William Adoasi, founder of Vitae London. They're a watch company with a difference – for every watch they sell, they help a child in sub-Saharan Africa through education.
William Adoasi, Vitae London
Starting Vitae London
- William is an iwoca customer who founded Vitae London in 2016 – a unique watch company that doesn't break the bank.
- Vitae is Latin for life, their aim is to be the fashion brand changing lives – for every watch they sell, they help support a child in sub-saharan Africa through education.
- William has always loved watches and was sick of working a 9-5, out of this frustration Vitae was born.
- After persuading his wife to let him invest his house savings into the first batch of watches, William quit his 9-5 and took on Vitae full time.
From passion to business
- William began by conducting a thorough competitor analysis.
- He also carefully negotiated factories down on price and the minimum order quantity.
- Vitae London is an international business and has now sold to over 30 countries.
The design process
- The first design was very much a process of trial and error.
- William went through four prototypes from multiple different factories until he was happy.
- All factories were independently audited to ensure the factor workers had a good standard of living.
- Watches were designed to appeal to the 'aspirational millennial': people between 25 and 34, working in professional services and travelling.
- Vitae London uses influencer marketing and targeted marketing across social media platforms such as twitter.
- A lot of his marketing is organic, but they are slowly increasing their paid social too.
Funding Vitae London
- Initially, William used iwoca to help fund his business.
- More recently, a venture capital firm from America invested in what he was doing.
- He also opened up to public investment, and had over 600 people invest in a month via Seedrs.
- William refers to his customers as the 'Vitae family', he's had incredible support from them.
- He uses social media, word of mouth and videography to take his brand viral and raise the investment needed to facilitate growth.
Creating watches people love
- William has used organic social media to good effect.
- Before he releases his watches for sale on his website, those who buy they through Kickstarter campaigns are able to offer feedback.
- He asks people what they like and don't like about a product before it goes live, and makes changes to it in order to perfect it.
- This way his customers feel part of the full process.
- Instagram and Facebook favour paid acquisition.
- Members of the Vitae team regularly connect and interact with people on social media.
- Vitae London is partnered with several charities across sub-saharan Africa.
- With each watch that they sell, they help a child through education.
- House of Wells works in Southern Africa – whenever Vitae sells a watch, they provide a child with a full set of school uniform to see them through school for a year.
- Although school has been made free for them, they are unable to attend if they do not have a uniform.
- Vitae is also partnered with Pen to Paper Ghana, who provide a solar lamp for every watch sold.
- For children in Ghana's rural areas, they no longer have to burn kerosine lamps or walk in the dark in order to study in the evenings.
- William finds that the generations care about the wider world a lot more than previous generations, because of this, this model makes business sense as well as achieving social good.
- Every three to six months, Vitae visits the schools he supports.
- Vitae has been endorsed by Richard Branson who wears William's watches most days.
- On top of this, celebrities such as Michelle Williams, Ava DuVernay, Farrell Williams endorse Vitae.
- The social good aspect of the business makes his product appeal to these celebrities and generates exposure and publicity for the business.
William's recommendations for starting a business geared for social good
- A 'buy one give one' model can be very successful.
- Try to incorporate social good into the stem of the business, not just through the profits.
- Always partner with charities that you can trust, help them to reach a wider market.
The future of Vitae
- William wants to build his brand into a household name, continuing to grow quickly as he has already.
- He wants Vitae to be the brand that commits to redistributing wealth fairly, to build schools and remove as many barriers to education as possible.
The big biz whiz quiz
- Rolex is a Swiss company, but it was originally founded in London by Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis.
- William scored 6/10.
Brilliant or bonkers?
'Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.'
Check out Vitae London and support William's business!
Jamie Maddison is Head of Content Marketing at iwoca. He's written for a range of publications including Lonely Planet, Geographical, Diplomat, and Hidden Europe – and is the host of the ‘9 to when?’ podcast.
Article updated on: 11 December 2019