Meet William Adoasi, founder of Vitae Group (Vitae London and Vitae Photography), who started up his first business at 19. The 25 year old Londoner has had four businesses to his name and now has dreams to build Vitae into an empire similar to that of Richard Branson’s. The entrepreneur quit his job as a recruiting consultant to bring Vitae to where it is today. Vitae’s most stand out 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. I spoke to Adoasi about his inspiration, how he would like to impact the world through social entrepreneurship, his greatest fears and why he quit his job.
The first business that I set up. I set up a business calledStarlight Sports Academy, when I was about 19 years old, and at that point I was hiring sports coaches and then selling packages into schools. There was a national business competition called the Mini Mogul Awards, for under 30s, so out of a few thousand contestants I actually won that, so I had to pitch my business idea and I won a grant for that. So I’d probably say at that time, that was my proudest moment to date, but a lot of things are bubbling under at the moment, which I think I’d say will be my proudest moment.
William Adoasi, Founder of Vitae
My wife went on a business trip to a charity out in South Africa called House Of Wells, and left inspired, so we did our best to send money every month and support them. But I was thinking of a more sustainable way I could support them long-term. I 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 I built the website, designed t-shirts, did everything and was ready to launch around March last year, and then I just got the gut feeling that I wasn’t really inspired enough by the idea myself, and I also felt like everybody was doing t-shirts (it was a bit outplayed). So I decided then I wasn’t going to go with that. At this point I was racking my brains for ideas, and my uncle does a lot of training out in Asia – Japan, China, and I was thinking about the products he used to be in contact with, and I’ve always loved watches, so I did a bit of research into watches, the different styles, designs et cetera, designed some watches and sent it out to factories out there. They sent me samples – the first two samples I actually hated, just kept going to and fro getting samples until I was finally happy. Around May or June last year that’s when I finally found a sample I was happy with, and I just ran with the vision from there.
I am so glad that you went with watches rather than t-shirts! It shows that you’re very willing to make things work. How do you know that what you’ve decided to do now is the right thing to do?
That’s a great question. I personally don’t really believe in coincidences, and too many things have aligned with this business that have just highlighted to me that it’s the right thing to do, and that it was meant to be. To me, it’s just looking out for the signs that what you’re doing is inspiring others as well, so as soon as I started getting countless messages from people saying that it’s inspired them, asking me for advice, to me that’s a bit mad because it only just launched, but the amount of movement we’ve made in the past three month alone has just been crazy. I’m so excited about what’s to be, and to me it’s clear where it’s going to go.
What I’d say is that network is everything, and it’s not a thing where you start your business and make all these friends instantly, but just in general, in life, just network the heck out of it. It’s going to get to the point where you need someone or they need you, and it’s just a bit mad how it’s all happened to one guy that’s mentored me and looked after me a lot and who helped me a lot on the music front, so we were really close, and through him I’ve met loads of different people. Because of networks and relationships I’ve established with him and other people I’ve managed to get our watches to some quite well-known people within the music industry, especially on the Christian front. One of the biggest Christian labels is one called Integrity Music, so they have artists like a guy called Israel Houghton, Martin Smith, all those guys, and I’ve actually built relationships with some of those artists and they’ve approached me to partner with them, so we’re discussing partnerships with them now. Just because of relationships I made years ago, I’ve seen that a lot of our sale have come about because of those artists. So make sure you hone in on relationships, and don’t just use people, make sure you actually give something to people and they’ll always come back.
100%. I don’t know how I’d be able to work this business off the ground without the people that I’ve connected to, so that’s one of my phrases – your network is your net worth. It’s massive, it’s everything.
And what obstacles have you had to overcome to get to where you are today?
In terms of obstacles, it was tough to raise the initial capital, and the difficult thing is trying to get the next capital in order to buy more stock to sell more. I’m really optimistic about the future, but where I don’t have a full-time job to get the income, that’s where it’s difficult.
Networking: Don’t just use people, make sure you actually give something to people and they’ll always come back.
So what led you to quit your job – was there a pivotal moment where you thought “yeah, I’m done, I’m gonna do this full-time”?
Yeah, for me personally, I’ve always known that I wanna run my own businesses and I want to be my own boss. I’m not knocking people who don’t want to, it’s just personally my dream. That’s always been one of my drivers. I can’t imagine working a 9 to 5 for the rest of my life, going into an office supporting someone, it’s just not how I’m wired. It’s always been my driver to run my own thing. I just feel like there’s no limit it as well, with 9 to 5 you’re limited to a salary, I was commission-based a lot so I could determine how much I was earning, but now within business, ten years I’ve got the potential to be a multi-millionaire. I’m not saying I hope to be, but there’s that potential, there is the opportunity for that. If you’re working for someone, there’s the opportunity for a 5% pay rise in ten years. That’s what keeps me going.
What fears do you have, or have you had, in your journey to see your dreams materialise?
This is going to sound a bit crazy, but one of my fears is growing too fast, purely because with growing too fast, there could be a lieu where there’s not enough stock, because it takes a while to get it manufactured and produced, so that’s one of them. I want a nice, steady growth. I can’t really say I have that many fears – I wholeheartedly believe in this business and I can see where it’s gonna go.
Do you think growing too fast might be a good problem to have? Or is it just devastating?I think it could be a good problem, but it just takes too much to produce more stock, so it’ll just prove to be a headache for me as I could potentially get a lot of customers that want it there and then for a birthday gift or something specific to that moment but I can’t produce it within that timescale, and then it can lead to a bad reputation in the market. Though it could be a good problem, it’s something I’d rather not have. My growth right now is pretty good and I can continue on this tangent, plan better, and take it from there.
If you ruled or had the power to change the world, what – if anything – would you change first?
A lot of people would say feed the hungry or clothe those in need, which I think is great, but I would make education cheap and accessible for everyone, and give them the means that they need to get to that school. So it’s nice having free education, but if they haven’t got the school uniform, or the transport to get to school, then the education is nothing. In a generation’s time, without education, everyone will be back to where we are as a state at the moment, which is why education is most important. Also I’d like to educate them to become entrepreneurs rather than just good workers because that will create job opportunities and alleviate a lot of the problems that currently exist.
I like that answer a lot, it really made me wonder what happened in South Africa. What did you learn while you were there?
It was one of the most humbling things I’ve ever partaken in. While I was out there, just to hear some of the stories, it’s really driven me to go so much harder with this business. One child that we supported, when he was six years old, he saw his dad stabbed to death in front of him. He’s 10 years old now. He’s part of the House Of Wells charity that we support, and he has been truanting and not going to school as much, his mum was struggling to even give him a school uniform, so what actually happened is that his confidence has been knocked so much by not having the right clothes. So we got him a full set of school uniform from the sales of the watches, and the reports were amazing. It drove him to go back to school just because he’d got school uniform, and then he was so excited to be going back. He was so grateful and humbled by it all and he felt loved, where he hadn’t in the past. So, to me, that’s what’s really opened my eyes and pushed me to even more driven. It’s literally changing a child’s life.
William Adoasi in South Africa with children
I’d definitely say humble yourself and take advice from others. Just open up your mind to receive advice from others. One thing I love to do as much as possible is watch videos about “zero to hero” success stories, it’s crazy to see someone who comes from nothing make it. I don’t read as much as I should but definitely read up on people who have made it from nothing, watch as many documentaries on these people. If you’re hearing these good stories then you can see what people have overcome, and then you don’t think about the fears, you think about the potential.