I got the chance to speak to William Adoasi, Founder of Vitae London a luxury watch line with a cause. The brand has so far, built a reputation for its classic designs and a commendable social cause “Your watch – their future”, as proceeds from every watch purchased, go towards the education of a child in South Africa. Vitae London has been endorsed by the likes of Richard Branson, Emilie Sande and recently, Yvonne Orji to name just a few backing the cause to change lives in sub-Saharan Africa through luxury, London fashion. Pretty impressive for a brand that launched under 2 years ago! So, as the business works on scaling up and entering into a new phase of development, I hoped to get further insight into future plans and the man behind the brand…
annette abena: Tell me about yourself: your background, occupation etc.
William: My name is William Adoasi, I’m 26 years old and I run a watch brand called Vitae London, Vitae meaning ‘life’ and our whole mantra is about changing lives. With each purchase, we support a child’s education in South Africa.
In terms of my background, at 16 whilst studying for my A Levels I had my first job in Sales. I then went on to start my own business – a Sports Academy funded by a government initiative at 19 and ended up doing uni part-time. When I was 22, due to some constraints I had to close the business down and went to work in the City as a Senior Sales Recruitment Consultant.
Vitae London – ‘Walmer’
annette abena: Tell me about your business journey with Vitae London so far:
William: We launched Vitae London in December 2015. I would say Vitae was birthed out of frustration – being frustrated with working in the City, working very long hours in a job that I wasn’t passionate about and being frustrated with the situation of a lot of children in Africa in general.
My dad was the first in his family to learn how to read and write. He grew up in adverse poverty so to see the power that education had on his life, and ending poverty for our family really inspired me to do that for other kids.
Also, my wife went to South Africa to volunteer with House of Wells (the South African based charity Vitae London is now partnered with), about 5 years ago and we’ve been sending money every month to support children’s education. So I just wanted to do something like that on a larger scale.
Vitae London – Season XI
annette abena: How would you describe the brand to someone who is unfamiliar with it?
William: At Vitae London we make elegant, luxury watches with a cause. So there’s a heart behind what we do. What I feel a lot of the time is that when other brands tie products with causes they produce substandard products and to me, that’s only a disservice to the cause. So we’re really happy about the quality of the product and really passionate about the impact we’re making.
annette abena: You’ve taken the charity/ social enterprise route with Vitae London. In recent times there has been a lot of stigmas attached to charity/ aid, especially where it pertains to Africa. Do you believe there is still a place for charities like House of Wells, and business models like the kind you are building with Vitae London?
William: 100 percent. House of Wells was actually founded by Africans for Africans. Their plan was to start at the bottom of Africa and work their way up and they’re already in South Africa and Zimbabwe. So I just found that amazing because they (the founders), were comfortable here in the UK, but felt it on their heart to start new lives in Africa for the sake of the children. The issue I have is when the Western World tries to give handouts to Africa and because I believe our people do not need handouts they need hand ups. We need people across the diaspora to look back and see what we can sew into the lives of people back home, that will help them for generations to come instead of just giving them a free meal for tomorrow.
William distributing school uniform to South African school children
annette abena: Is there any scope for expanding into any other partnerships?
William: Our dream for 2017 is to set up the Vitae London Foundation. The first place we will be planning to make an impact with the foundation is Ghana – where my parents are from and where I’m from. And again, we just want to spread across Africa and impact as many people in this area as much as possible. A lot of people ask me why I started in South Africa (as a Ghanaian), but for me, my heart is just Africa. I reckon if any African goes to South Africa and sees the poverty there, they would not feel distant from that.
annette abena: Aside from your plans for the Vitae Foundation, what other short and long-term goals do you have for the business?
William: A lot of people ask what are we going to do next or what we are going to do differently. I just want to do what we are doing now, but on a bigger scale. So far, we have been able to distribute over 2,000 items of school uniform to children in need and this year I just want to grow that, next year I want to grow that even more. Our heart is to keep growing our reach and impact. Millions of children go out without education across Africa and we just want to do as much as we can to help alleviate that
Vitae London – Season VI
annette abena: What advice would you give to other members of the diaspora about setting up a brand and business?
William: Firstly, I would encourage the diaspora to head back to the motherland. I went to S.A to see the impact we could make and the scale of the work to be done. Check out what’s going wrong there so that you can use the resources and the benefits we have here, to impact and to get it to a level playing field.
So I would just encourage people to go back, to see what makes their heart ache because everyone’s got something that they’re passionate about – mine is education and poverty because of the story of my dad. But you may go out there and see something else totally different.
Go out there, find your passion and be apart of the change.
To shop and follow the Vitae London journey visit: www.vitaelondon.com
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