At 27 years old, Will Adoasi is the founder of Vitae London, a watch brand with a conscience based in London, that has the stamp of approval from Richard Branson himself.
The oldest of seven children, Will credits his parents with shaping him to be the man he is today. Having recently launched the latest range (Season IV) of his watch brand, Vitae London, we interviewed him to find out what drives his passion for philanthropy, how he started his business and his plans for the future.
Melan Magazine: Can you tell us about your educational and professional background?
Will Adoasi: I grew up in south east London between Camberwell and Peckham and attended a local primary school. I was quite a bright pupil and so when I was 11, there was a big culture around sending children to boarding school, and so I sat some exams and managed to get a scholarship and went to a school near Birmingham, in Stourbridge called Old Swinford Hospital. I was at boarding school from year seven to 11, and then for sixth form I came back down to London for college, at City of London. I then did a year of university and then at aged 19 I started my first business called Starlight Sports Academy.
Because I didn’t know any young black guys that sell watches, i.e no one that looks like me. I always felt growing up that what we need more in our community, the black community, is more role models and people going into areas that just haven’t been ventured into yet. I’ve always loved watches, I’ve always been fascinated by them but I always felt intimidated by that dream of starting a watch brand because I’d never seen anyone else do it and that’s what really inspired me to go down the path of watches.
And when did you realise that you wanted to go into the watch business?
When I was in college there was a watch going around, the Aquamaster, that everyone wanted to have at one point, so I really got fascinated by watches then. Then in the early noughties, Michael Kors was obviously doing really, really well, so I’ve always loved the look of watches basically and watches that are a reasonable rate that just look really slick. However, it wasn’t until early 2015 when I first had the vision to start Vitae London. At first, I was like “yeah let me do t-shirts.” But I thought I know so many people that do that kind of business. And there’s nothing wrong with it but I wanted to do something unique and I knew I always loved watches so that’s when I did a big research project to find out how to go about doing watch manufacturing. The kind of costs that it involved and so on and by December 2015 we launched the watches. Even though I did loads of research it was still quite a pretty fast process in terms of being able to quickly identify there was a gap in the market and actually make it happen.
How would you describe Vitae watches and who is it for?
I describe them as elegant, a modern take on a classic watch and in terms of who it’s for, it’s funny because we’ve had 18-year-old university students seeing one of their favourite singers wearing a watch and going to buy it and then we’ve seen 60 year olds. We had a 60-year-old couple email in saying they heard me talk about the vision on the radio and then they wanted to buy a watch for their 40th year wedding anniversary for each other. So, we’re seeing a phenomenal mix in terms of who’s bought it. Because the watches are classy and elegant they reach most demographics and also, because of the heart behind our business and the fact that each watch supports a child through education, for a lot of people again it just seems like a no brainer to want to get one.
Financially, how did you start up?
Literally at the start my wife and I had saved up a bit of money towards a mortgage, towards a deposit on a house and I somehow managed to persuade her to allow me to quit my full-time job in the city where I was making good money, to start this business and to actually use that money we’d saved up to start it. Thankfully, she said yes, so, that’s kind of where it all stemmed from.
What can we expect from the new range, Season IV?
It’s a modern take on our existing Warmer Midnight range. This was because a lot of people were asking if they could have it with other additional colours and highlights, so we made it happen. In essence, it’s the Warmer Midnight but with highlights in rose gold, gold and silver. And you can actually get the matching strap for it as well.
Why is the philanthropic arm of your business so important to you?
For multiple reason. First and foremost, my dad, who is from Ghana, was actually the first in my family line to learn to read and write and that was actually really pivotal in his life in breaking the chain of poverty that was going on for generations. He really struggled for the money to get to school and going to school just broke that cycle of poverty and it’s surreal to think that, I now get to live in one of the biggest cities in the world when my grandparents couldn’t even read or write. So, just seeing the power in that and the power education has in unlocking potential. It’s always been in my heart to unlock that potential for as many children across Africa as possible. It was inspired by my wife as well, so a few years ago she actually went to visit the charity we support before I’d even heard of them or anything. That trip to South Africa had a real impact on her life, and we’ve been sending money every month to support them. Vitae London was birthed out of me seeing how we could scale that up and how I could use my entrepreneurial spirit to support even more children. That’s how it, kind of, came be.
How long have you been operating and how successful have you been?
We’ve been going for about a year and a half now and we’ve distributed over 2,000 items of uniform to kids, so yeah it’s been an awesome start.
You were selected by Richard Branson to be an ambassador for entrepreneurship, what qualities did he see in you?
I think it’s first and foremost based on the power of the business and what the business stands. I think it’s just in line with a lot of his beliefs about how business should do good, first and foremost and also, I’ve spoken at a few events for Virgin and represented Branson at events and I spoke at an event even before I was an ambassador and just talking about entrepreneurship and I think the whole Virgin family and team are just impressed with the way I conducted myself and answered a lot of their questions, so that’s how that relationship kind of came about.
Six months in, we were fortunate to get a 20,000 loan from Virgin start up, which was a great injection to help us bring in the new stock. Obviously, I’ve been able to meet Richard Branson quite a few times and get endorsements from him. I’ve been able to go across the country and speak at various events on behalf of Virgin start up and in collaboration with them, which has just been great to spread the profile of the business and get more people to talk about it, so yeah, it’s been a great, a great partnership.
What would you say to someone who’s got a dream or an idea but is hesitating about starting?
People often seem intimidated by the scale of their dream. But I would always say don’t be scared to start small. If you can do something small every single day, that can contribute towards that dream even across the course of a year you would see that by the end of the year you’d have actually spent a whole year building that dream and you would be able to see the fruit of that and be able to see the impact of that as well. I always encourage people to not be intimidated by the size of the dream and just set out to do one small thing every single day to contribute towards that and before you know it you will actually see that dream come to fruition.