Richard Branson Backs London Startup Helping African Children Get Ahead - Dispatch Weekly

October 14, 2016 - Reading time: 5 minutes

Richard Branson backed William Adoasi, 26, from South London for a watch startup called Vitae, giving 10 percent of the profits to a charity that helps children in South Africa by providing them with uniforms.

Richard Branson’s Virgin StartUp

Richard Branson who is known for: Virgin Galactic, Virgin Airlines and for his purchase of Necker Island; is investing in startups with Virgin StartUp, the not-for-profit arm of Virgin, helping aspiring entrepreneurs, including Adoasi who was given a £20,000 ($24,500) loan.

Adoasi was also chosen from 1,000 loan recipients to be an ambassador for entrepreneurship in the UK.

“[Branson] spoke about the importance of having the story and the face behind the brand pushed, because that’s what makes you stand out, that’s what gives your brand the soul,” said Adoasi.

Initially, Adoasi thought that putting his face on the brand would not necessarily convince others to buy the product, but Branson, who has a networth of $4.9 billion (according to Forbes), highlighted that it is authenticity and the story that gives the company its soul.

Adoasi: His Story, Risk and Giving Back

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Adoasi always wanted to work for himself, saying, “I always knew deep down that I had to do something of my own.”

He designed the watches and made sure that the factories followed ethical practices. With around £8,000 of savings, he quit his job and started the business.

The watches are sold online and at Boxpark in London, and Le Tresor in Johannesburg, from £145 ($177) to £165 ($201).

Despite the risk, his venture is starting to pay off. In 11 months, Vitae London sold 412 watches with a turnover of £52,180, allowing him to purchase 780 items of school uniforms for children in South Africa.

His advice for those wanting to start their own passion projects is, “Do everything you do with a spirit of excellence.”

“If your product is just as good, if not better than those already in the market, and you have got a unique selling point, then there’s no reason it won’t succeed.”

The Role of Social Media

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Adoasi has acknowledged the ever-increasing role of social media in business.

According to Yahoo:

  • There are 800 million active users on YouTube that spend an average of 15 minutes/day.
  • 53 percent of people recommend companies and products on Twitter.
  • The average consumer mentions brands 90 time/week with family, friends and co-workers.

“In this day and age, social media is almost everything, if you went back 50 years ago, I would have no chance of starting a watch brand in the UK and seeing it thrive.”

Celebrity fans for Vitae London include: Paloma Faith and Emeli Sande, who have helped to give the brand exposure.

Would you give up your day job, investing your life savings into a passion project? If so what would it be?

DW Staff

David Lintott is the Editor-in-Chief, leading our team of talented freelance journalists. He specializes in covering culture, sport, and society. Originally from the decaying seaside town of Eastbourne, he attributes his insightful world-weariness to his roots in this unique setting.