How my social enterprise has raised finance and generated income.
Will Adoasi, founder of Vitae London, spoke to fundraising.co.uk about his ethical social enterprise.
Vitae London works within several Sub-Saharan African provinces to help give children access to education. For example, with every watch sold from the new Elmington collection a child is gifted a solar lamp from local charity Pen to Paper Ghana. This means the children don’t have to travel for hours or burn harmful fuels in order to study in the evenings.
Just under four years ago my watch brand Vitae London was birthed. It was created by combining my passion for fashion and elegant products with my passion for compassion and the content of Africa.
The idea for Vitae London emerged after my wife Claudia visited Port Elizabeth in South Africa. She volunteered with a non-profit called House of Wells. She found the impact they were making – empowering young African children to realise their potential – so inspiring that she wanted to make a long-lasting contribution.
In addition to this, I have always recognised the importance of education and been passionate about it. My father was the first person in his family to learn to read and write. This has been a powerful inspiration and made me determined to give many more children the opportunity for a better life.
For these reasons being able to combine my passion for fashion, jewellery and education has been incredible.
From this small initial idea, we’ve sparked into a company with global reach (having sold in over 30 countries) and into a family of supporters with social justice at the heart of everything we do. With customers all around the world, we have been able to gift children with over 2,000 school uniforms and solar lamps in Sub-Saharan Africa’s hardest to reach villages. This has only been possible with the support of our global Vitae London family. We’re determined to ensure that every customer purchase changes a life for the greater good.
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We do it all for them ❤️ In South Africa we partner with a local charity called @houseofwells_africa helping them by providing school uniforms & supplies for the children from underpriviledged circumstances. We aim to be the difference when it comes to changing education in Sub- Saharan Africa. That is why with every #vitaelondon watch our customer purchase, this provides school uniform,shoes and supplies to a child for a whole year.
One of the most difficult aspects of starting any new business (which is significantly heightened when it’s a Social Enterprise) is cash-flow and finance. Here are some of the key ways we’ve been able to generate income.
This is the most commonly known style of crowdfunding due to the market leaders in this space: Kickstarter and Indiegogo. This style of crowdfunding involves members of the public contributing relatively small amounts of money to projects in exchange for a direct reward. I love reward-based crowdfunding because there is a very clear give and take.
We have successfully run two of these campaigns (on both Kickstarter and Indiegogo) and one of the biggest lessons in doing so is understanding the power of generating leads and awareness even before you launch. A lot of people go into the campaigns blind and assume that because they have an amazing product/cause people will naturally flock to it. But I’ve found in order to have a great campaign you need to reach at least 30% on the first day alone!
This route to finance is a lot newer and is not spoken about as much. Equity crowdfunding is the process of allowing members of the general public to buy shares within your business with very small amounts. This is a great move for the industry as it allows people to profit from the success of small businesses when they may have not had access to these kind of opportunities in the past.
We ran a campaign on Seedrs for this earlier in the year and within just over a month we raised over £100k from over 600 people.
My biggest lesson on this campaign was the importance of constant communication to the community on the benefits of buying into a young company and the processes.
Amplifying your cause with celebrities and influencers
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 was selected to be mentored by Richard Branson who gave us his personal endorsement too. Finding celebrities whose heart beats the same beat as your cause can be monumental in increasing revenue. No matter how small you are as a company it increases your reach in a massive way.
We’ve got many of our endorsements through social media networking and understanding the other people out there who believe in our vision. This also provides a great level of credibility as people already vouch for what these celebrities say. Whereas a typical promotion and ad comes straight from you this comes out of the mouth of people who are adored and respected.
The world is changing. It’s time that we come together as one and are at the forefront of this social change. We must be the change we want to see, and it is our duty to raise those who are less fortunate up with us. These are just a few of the ways we’ve been able to increase our income and therefore impact more lives. I hope it inspires you to know the different ways it’s possible to make a positive change happen.
The above article first published on fundraising.co.uk in Nov, 2019.