For a number of people, business goes beyond just making money. Business is a tool for impacting lives and creating change, a means to make the world a better place. William Adoasi is one of those people.
William Adoasi is the founder of Vitae Group (Vitae London and Vitae Photography). The 26 year old Ghanaian based in London has had four businesses to his name and now has dreams to build Vitae into an empire similar to that of Richard Branson’s.
William quit his job as a recruiting consultant to bring Vitae to where it is today. Vitae’s most prominent venture is Vitae London, a watch brand birthed out of London that directly transforms the lives of children who have either been orphaned or live in poverty. Each purchase from their classic range of watches supplies a child in Africa with two sets of school uniform, a bag and footwear to see them through the year
Vitae London is a watch brand based in London, England. The journey in designing watches began as there had always been the desire to produce stunning watches like those of old but at prices that don’t break the bank.
The goal as an organisation is simply to combine classic and beautiful design with social justice. Pairing minimalist concepts with stylish modernity, the watches are subtle yet slim sophisticated timepieces suited to everyone.
Vitae is Latin for life, so the whole mantra behind the brand is to be the fashion brand changing lives. William has always loved watches, especially those from the 60s, like the original Patek Philippe watches, but he couldn’t find many that were reasonably priced with that same look.
He became passionate about making that come out and giving back at the same time. So with each watch the brand sells, the brand provides a child with the basics needed in order to get to school for a year. That’s usually 2 sets of school uniform, a pair of school shoes and a school bag. For a lot of these children, education is free but they can’t get to school without these basic resources.
There are over 30 million children in sub-Saharan Africa that are currently out of education. William’s vision is to work towards bringing those numbers down and have a globally recognised brand.
At 16 whilst studying for his A Levels, Williams had his first job in Sales. William did a year of university, after his A-Levels, but then dropped out at 19 to start his own business – a sports academy called Starlight Sports Academy funded by a government initiative. Some of his friends had become FA Level 1 and 2 qualified during college but weren’t doing anything with it whilst at university.
So he decided to sell them into primary schools and help after-school clubs, which was really cool. Sadly, funding got pulled so he had to close that business down when he was about 22. He went back to university part-time, whilst also working in the city as a Senior Sales Recruitment Consultant. He was doing that for a few years and making really good money but he wasn’t satisfied. Growing up, he had always dreamed of working for himself, so the frustration of working long hours for someone else, combined with the realization that he wasn’t fulfilled by money alone, became his motivation.
In 2010, one of Vitae London’s Founders traveled to the stunning vista of Port Elizabeth to volunteer with the South African based NPO, House of Wells. The NPO exists to restore hope, dignity and release the potential of children and youth in Africa. Created by two British missionaries in 2008, the objective of House of Wells is to improve the lives and encourage the development of children and youth across Africa.
While there, William’s wife had witnessed the massive impact a little money could make for the children out there, especially around the area of education. William’s dad was the first in his family to learn to read and write, breaking a cycle of poverty that had been going for generations. He had always aspired to be a part of the change around education in Africa. So with that and the frustrations over his job, he thought why not start a business where he could accomplish both aims? That was how Vitae was born.
Sending money to schools in South Africa was a great idea, but he was thinking of a more sustainable way he could support them on long-term basis. He initially got the idea around December 2014 to start a t-shirt brand, and whenever a t-shirt was bought it would support a child for a month and help them out.
So he built the website, designed t-shirts, did everything and was ready to launch around March 2015 and then he just got the gut feeling that he wasn’t really inspired enough by the idea and he also felt like everybody was doing t-shirts (it was a bit outplayed). So he decided he wasn’t going to go with that. At this point, he was racking his brains for ideas when he realised his uncle does a lot of training out in Asia – Japan, China.
He was thinking about the products his uncle used to be in contact with, and he has always loved watches, so he did a bit of research into watches, the different styles, designs etcetera, designed some watches and sent it out to factories out there. They sent him samples – the first two samples he actually hated but he just kept going to and fro getting samples until he was finally happy. Around May or June 2015, that’s when he finally found a sample he was happy with, and he just ran with the vision from there. For William, Vitae was birthed out of frustration, being frustrated with working in the city for long hours at a job he wasn’t passionate about and being frustrated with the situation of a lot of children in Africa in general.
His experience with House of Wells inspired him to help transform the lives of youth in Africa by working with charities on the ground and embracing the spirit of some of the world’s most difficult to reach youth. Many children in Africa lack the access to and resources of bare necessities which we in other areas around the globe may often take for granted.
He works within several provinces where education is actually free, but many youth are unable to take advantage of such learning opportunities due to their lack of access to school equipment, such as uniforms and shoes, which are required to attend school. When you purchase a watch from Vitae London, you directly help transform these children’s lives. Each watch purchased from their classic range of watches supplies a child with two sets of a school uniform, a bag and footwear to see them through the year. Through you, we aid the efforts of making education and learning for children in Africa possible.
William can’t do anything without a deeper meaning. Now that he has this giving back element within his company, it creates a bigger drive every single day because he knows if he pushes harder, he is literally going to change lives. Nothing can motivate him more than that.
In terms of obstacles, it was tough to raise the initial capital for his business and it was hard convincing his wife when he quit his job to invest the money they had saved up for a mortgage into starting a business. William’s wife has been supportive through everything, believing in him and the brand and working towards accomplishing their goals.
William went to South Africa three times last year and got to see the impact his brand was making by distributing over a thousand items of uniform to children in need. It has been great to see peoples’ stories continue to flourish each time he visits. It’s been a really strong start! The brand has gotten 8000 + followers on Facebook, 20,000+ on Twitter and 40,000 + on Instagram since launching. It has sold in over 26 countries, with recent backing from Richard Branson and endorsements from the likes of Paloma Faith and Emily Sandé. He has also been able to not only sell watches, but be a voice to inspire younger people.
The dream for 2017 is to set up the Vitae London Foundation. The first place the brand will be planning to make an impact with the foundation is Ghana – where William’s parents are from and where he is from. He just wants to spread across Africa and impact as many people in this area as much as possible; to do the brand is doing now, but on a bigger scale. So far, they have been able to distribute over 2,000 items of school uniform to children in need and this year, William wants to grow that, next year he wants to grow that even more. His heart is to keep growing our reach and impact. Millions of children go out without education across Africa and he just wants to do as much as he can to help alleviate that
What William has done is to not just create a brand that caters for the luxury needs of individuals, but a brand that creates change, one watch at a time.
© 2017, Ona Akinde. All rights reserved.