Why did swapping watches with Sir Richard Branson catapult this business to success?

Celebrity endorsement: Richard Branson wears Vitae watch by Will Adoasi

CEO of Vitae Will Adoasi swaps watches with Richard Branson live on stage

William Adoasi, founder and CEO of ethical watch Brand, Vitae London recently sat down with Business Leader Magazine and explained how celebrity endorsements spiked sales in his brand.

Richard Branson, Paloma Faith, Emeli Sande and Philip Schofield are just a few names that endorse the brand, that was only set up two years ago.

With such a rapid rise, that includes a moment where Richard Branson swapped to a Vitae watch in a live debate, Adoasi is now looking to grow the business even further.

Vitae also work within several South African provinces where education is free, but much of the younger generation are unable to take advantage due to lack of equipment and uniforms – which are required to attend school.

Each watch purchased from Vitae’s classic range supplies a child with two sets of uniform, a bag and footwear to see them through the year.

What was your job history before Vitae?

After my A-levels at 18, I went to Uni for a year before dropping-out to start my first business – a sports academy. At the time, I knew lots of people with sports qualifications who weren’t doing anything. We paired with the council to take advantage of a particular funding package aimed at getting more sports coaches into primary schools. I did that for about three years while finishing my degree until the funding was stopped by the government. Then I went to work in the city as a recruitment consultant for three years before starting Vitae at the age of 25.

What is the history of Vitae?

We launched Vitae in 2015 and quickly managed to get some great celebrity endorsements, which gave us a great early boost. We started selling watches in 26 different countries around the world and supported some amazing charity work in South Africa. But we wanted to expand what we could do to support the charity.

To achieve that aim, we launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo a couple of months ago. This gave us an opportunity to spotlight our new Walmer Midnight Series as well as gain a financial boost. We’ve received some amazing attention and are three-quarters of the way towards our £20,000 target which will allow us to begin more ambitious projects in South Africa.

Vitae London classic collection

Alongside the charitable aspect of the business, how have you grown financially?

Celebrity endorsements have been really important for growing the brand and we managed to connect with some high-profile people like Emeli Sande and Paloma Faith. We also got a start-up loan from Virgin to help us grow and expand and, as a result, I got to meet Richard Branson who gave us his personal endorsement too.

We’ve also seen great success with PR. When we were featured in CNN, we immediately gained sales in five new countries. So PR has really helped us reach a wider audience.

When looking for investment, do people look at the social impact as much as the financial result?

We’re in talks with a number of investors at the moment. I find that a lot of the older, more experienced investors still want to dig into the financials to see if the brand is still viable when they’re giving away money to charity. They almost don’t believe that giving away money helps make money. But that makes for an interesting conversation because the reality is that giving money allows us to reach celebrities and publications we wouldn’t have otherwise who offer placement and endorsement, improving our overall sales.

William Adoasi during a visit to a school in South Africa

How did you get celebrities to endorse your brand?

Really, it largely come down to the six degrees of separation. I used my network to connect with likeminded celebrities, reaching out with our vision, and they seemed keen to get on board. It’s an easy sell as they love the watches and the charity work.

We also got our Twitter account verified pretty early, so I randomly tweeted Branson when we started the business and he tweeted back with some support. Then, a few months later, I applied for a Virgin Startup loan. Out of thousands they chose a handful for the funding, including Vitae.

A few months later they chose me as a Virgin Ambassador and last year I had the opportunity to go to Branson’s house to get to meet him. He must have been impressed with my speaking skills as I was chosen to speak at a panel session with Branson. I got to meet him again then, which was a great opportunity to give him a watch live on stage, which he immediately swapped for his old watch and a wad of cash!

Is there a large financial advantage to this?

Whenever we’ve had a celebrity endorsement, we’ve seen a spike in sales. It’s hard to pinpoint specific numbers as we’ve often had lots of other activity going on at the same time. But, for example, when Martin Smith endorsed us, we saw a 23% spike in sales.

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