Time is money for London-based luxury watchmaker William Adoasi, and he is now using it to support quality education in sub-Saharan Africa.
William Adoasi grew up in one of the roughest council estates in London and for as long as he could remember, wanted to get out. His parents emigrated from Ghana to the United Kingdom (UK) before Adoasi was born and, being the first of seven children, he saw first-hand the chaos that surrounded his estate in Peckham, South London.
A social housing project built by local authorities to provide shelter and other amenities like schools and shops, council estates in the UK have become notorious as breeding grounds for various social problems over the years.
This prompted two former prime ministers, David Cameron and Tony Blair, to advocate for the redevelopment of these estates citing their propensity to entrench poverty as well as create an environment for criminality to thrive, as the core reasons.
To shield Adoasi from the negative elements of the estate, his parents encouraged his education. Adoasi did well enough in school to secure a scholarship and move into a private boarding school in the midlands, and finally, out of the council estate.
“One day a fight broke out in a rugby game between my team and another team and I heard some of my teammates calling the other team ‘council estate scam’, not knowing that I grew up on a council estate myself. It really shaped the way I am in terms of my drive because there is always a part of me that wants to disprove the myth of a council estate boy who does not amount to anything in life,” says Adoasi.
Initially the drive was simply motivated by his need to create a luxury life far away from the tentacles of poverty that always gripped his childhood. His determination to succeed led him to drop out of university to start a sports academy, with which he made a six-figure income by the age of 19.
“I [ran] that for two years until the government pulled the funding, which meant that it wasn’t viable anymore,” says Adoasi.
After that stint, he worked in London as an insurance broker and recruiter. During this time, he went back to school and finished his education and, very soon, began to think outside the confines of his nine-to-five job for a way to make more money.
He was always interested in watches and by the time he was in the city, Adoasi was making enough money to upgrade his taste to the high-end brands, the likes of Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet. That was when his light bulb moment happened.
“I wanted to find a middle ground of a watch that was super premium and has a high-end aesthetic, made with high-end materials but with a price point that wasn’t wild… I started speaking to multiple factories and haggling prices down between the factories until I perfected my sample batch,” says Adoasi.
At the age of 26, he quit his job and became the founder and lead designer of Vitae London.
“I felt that working in the city was a drain on me and that I had to do something with a bigger purpose where I wake up everyday and my motivation was not just money. Vitae means ‘lives’ in Latin. Our mantra from the get-go was to be the watch brand changing lives,” says Adoasi.
After launching the brand, Vitae London got shortlisted by Richard Branson to receive a startup loan of £20,000
(approximately $25,000 today) out of 10,000 applicants. To date, the brand has raised a total of $190,000 from the likes of US-based venture capital firm, Backstage Capital and, with that, total sales revenue to date is around £1.3 million ($1.6 million).
Adoasi has also kept his promise – 10% of everything the company makes goes back to empower children in sub-Saharan Africa to receive quality education. Through a partnership with charity organization, House of Wells, he has supported over 10,000 children with school uniforms and finance.
Vitae London is also currently stocked in leading US retailers, Macy’s and Nordstrom. The partnership with billionaire mogul Branson also helped attract other celebrities to the brand.
As Adoasi reflects, two things stand out for him.
“Firstly, entrepreneurship is about creating something much bigger than yourself… Secondly, money is a great motivator but if it is the only reason you get out of bed, then you have an unfulfilled life.”His next milestone is to be able to go to his parents and tell them they no longer need to work, and from the looks of things, time is on his side