The man behind the luxury watch brand Vitae London is a social entrepreneur, ploughing his profits into helping schoolchildren in sub-Saharan Africa.
A watch says a lot about its wearer. A luxury watch that not only tells time and expresses discerning taste, but that also makes a difference in the lives of schoolchildren, speaks volumes of the wearer’s social consciousness. It says even more about its maker, 28-year-old Ghanaian William Adoasi.
How did the idea for the business start?
“Vitae London was birthed out of frustration. The first thing that frustrated me was the fact that I was working a job in the city and earning good money – but money alone wasn’t satisfying me. I always had a passion for watches and the fashion industry, so working a job in which I couldn’t explore these passions was tough.
“Another frustration was seeing that there was so much potential being lost across sub-Saharan African because children didn’t have the basics to go to school. My father, who is from Ghana, told me often how he was the first in the family to get an education; this broke the cycle of poverty in our family.
“My wife had visited a charity in South Africa some years ago, and it affected her so much that we sent money every month to support children through education. Sitting at my desk one day, I began to dream about how we could scale up the work we were doing and have a positive influence on more children’s lives.
“This is how Vitae came about: I combined a passion I’ve always had for fashion with my passion to change lives. I convinced my wife to allow me to quit my job and invest our savings into the business. Luckily, she said yes!”
Why luxury watches? And how did you come up with the name for the brand?
“A luxury watch is seen as a statement of affluence – I wanted to create a timepiece that symbolises giving back. ‘Vitae’ means life; we will always be the fashion brand that impacts lives.”
Why South African schools?
“I’m of Ghanaian heritage, so people often ask why we didn’t begin our work there. But we truly believe in our partner charity, House of Wells, and their aim is to start in South Africa and work through the entire continent. I’ve been to South Africa three times in the past two years, and I’ve fallen in love with the people. We want to create opportunities for the poorest children of the nation.”
How does a purchase of a Vitae London watch benefit the schools you work with?
“With every watch sold, we supply a child with two full sets of school uniform, a pair of shoes and a school bag.”
What’s your business raison d’être?
“For me, the greatest businesses on earth are the ones that solve problems. I wanted to ensure that we not only created beautiful timepieces but that we disrupted a thriving industry for good, in a positive way. I think it’s important for more businesses to see social impact as a core tenet of what they stand for.”
Skin in the Game
Initial investment £7 000
Current business value £2 million
Lesson learnt “To begin with, we bootstrapped our business. We’ve recently been able to secure some VC investment, and we will use that to scale the business. I would always recommend that people start things on a shoestring budget if possible, before looking for outside funds.”
Words by Thando Ndabezitha