Podcast 21 – William Adoasi, Vitae London

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.

11 December 2019

Listen to episode 21:

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Show notes

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.

Marketing

  • 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.

Social good

  • 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.

Ambassadors

  • 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!

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Jamie Maddison has written for a range of publications including Lonely Planet, Geographical, Diplomat, and Hidden Europe.

Article updated on: 24 March 2020

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