Hawkers Co. started with four friends and a dream of owning their own business.
After a few attempts at different ventures, the founders would stumble upon fashion eyewear from California. Reselling a brand of sunglasses called Knockaround eventually led them to pivot to retail as their sole endeavor.
We’ll look at how the company progressed over the years and why the founders eventually called in investor Alejandro Betancourt Lopez to help. Known for his impressive business acumen and forward-leaning vision, his ideas were able to get the company back on track.
Photo provided by Alejandro Betancourt
Hawkers began in 2013, and it wasn’t long before it took the market by storm. It was two years before the polarized lenses and frames made a variety of “best” eyewear lists, largely because the accessories managed to address the main criteria of nearly every shopper. Practical, protective, and stylish, the sunglasses were selling at the rate of 10,000 units per day by the time 2016 rolled around.
Alejandro Betancourt Lopez was brought in to help the company with its growing demand. These founding friends were nothing if not ambitious, and their commitment to expansion was very real. The only problem was managing cash flow. Opening new stores, manufacturing products, and hiring employees all come with serious price tags. As fast as money was brought in, it was quickly spent.
This is when Alejandro Betancourt Lopez was called in. An entrepreneur who had seen success with the international investment group O’Hara Administration, it wasn’t just his money but also his business savvy that was needed.
After looking at the company’s metrics, he decided to make some changes. One of the first things he emphasized was improved transparency (particularly when it came to the supply chain) and impeccable customer service. However, his most impressive accomplishment was undoubtedly finding a way to improve profits per sale.
It was his decision to focus solely on the power of social media, and there’s no question about whether his ideas worked. In 2016, nearly 93% of the $70 million that Hawkers made came straight from social media.
When you think of fashion these days, you may think of glossy photos on screens. People’s inspiration doesn’t just come from television and standard advertising anymore though. Instead, they look to influencers in their chosen circles. This could be anyone from a sibling to a friend to a minor hometown celebrity.
This kind of marketing isn’t new, but Instagram certainly was at the time that Alejandro Betancourt Lopez decided to take a chance on it. This emerging platform didn’t have the cachet that it does now, but this investor saw its potential anyway. Today, the photo-friendly app actually points to Hawkers as an early success story, encouraging other brands to get in on the Instagram action.
Anyone following the story of Hawkers can recount how the company’s position in the market skyrocketed from Alejandro’s strategies. By partnering with people who already loved Hawkers — the same fashionistas who were already talking up the fashionable styles and comfortable frames — the reviews of the product rang true.
People reading the sponsored content didn’t see an ad; instead, they saw a person who just wanted to tell everyone about their cool sunglasses. The nominal incentives paid, including free merchandise and a small percentage of each sale, were enough to make the influencers happy without putting undue pressure on the marketing budget. Betancourt Lopez would use that leverage to sell sunglasses in more than 140 countries all over the world.
Hawkers Co. has largely relied on the younger demographic for its success. The Campus Ambassador Program the company ran included thousands of people in Spain alone to promote the sunglasses. Alejandro Betancourt Lopez and the founders of Hawkers are determined to honor those who helped them become a success by introducing new products that speak to their demographic’s needs.
You can see this in the company’s line of eco-friendly products, ones that respect the Earth without compromising style. From the production of the sunglasses to the packaging, Hawkers continues to change according to the demands of the market and the voice of the buyers.
There is no such thing as a safety net for an entrepreneur. Embracing risks is an everyday practice. Yet Hawkers should be an inspiring tale for any startup founder who isn’t afraid to ask for advice and take chances on emerging opportunities.