Alejandro Betancourt Invested Early in Hawkers Sunglasses, Led to Incredible Dividends — The European Financial Review
A manufacturer and retailer of sunglasses, which are both trendy and affordable, the Spanish accessory company Hawkers has roots in an entirely different industry. Before establishing Hawkers in 2013, company founders David Moreno, Alejandro (Alex) Moreno, Iñaki Soriano and Pablo Sánchez Lozano created and operated a proprietary online second-hand merchandise sales platform under the name Saldum.
The transition from Saldum to Hawkers began when Mr. Lozano returned from the United States with sunglasses from a company called Knockaround. After he showed these glasses to Mr. Soriano and the Moreno brothers, the four young men decided that Knockaround products just might have significant resale potential.
After some preliminary discussion, the team decided to launch an extremely modest test venture. They spent $300 on 27 pairs of Knockaround sunglasses.
The success of this venture went far beyond the team’s initial expectations. They sold all 27 items online extremely quickly and made a generous profit.
Emboldened by this performance, they repeated the process a number of times, selling considerable (but still relatively moderate) numbers of Knockaround sunglasses over the course of several months. After following this modest business model for roughly half a year, they became the official distributor for Knockaround within the country of Spain.
Despite the profitability of this arrangement, Mr. Soriano, Mr. Lozano and the Moreno brothers wanted something more. Driven by their desire to market and sell their own brand of sunglasses with a dual emphasis on style and affordability, they founded Hawkers shortly before New Year’s 2015.
Although extremely limited, Hawkers’ initial business model was successful from the very start. The company was able to compete against Gucci, Prada and other luxury brands by selling sunglasses of similar quality at a far more reasonable price point. In short, Hawkers offered products for less than $50 while its competitors’ products typically cost more than $200.
When it came to marketing its specific products and promoting general business growth, Hawkers initially relied heavily on social media platforms such as Facebook. After drawing data from a number of trial campaigns and crunching the numbers very carefully, the Hawkers team determined that Facebook offered them the best bang for their relatively limited marketing bucks. They needed to reach a narrow audience of extremely motivated consumers, and (in the words of Pablo Sánchez Lozano), “Facebook allows you to do that on a small budget.”
Within a year under this marketing model, however, Hawkers found itself in an extremely precarious position. In short, it had largely outgrown Facebook, and it was desperately struggling to keep pace with rising consumer demand. As it invested in its own staggering growth, the company began to accumulate mounting expenditures that were rapidly outpacing its incoming revenue, and this was occurring despite achieving monthly sales rates in the millions.
This is where angel investor Leopoldo Alejandro Betancourt Lopez came in. Joining forces with Hawkers in the middle of 2015, he took the company from the edge of bankruptcy and put it on the path to its current position as one of the most successful manufacturers of sunglasses on the market today.
A Venezuela native who studied business administration and economics at Suffolk University in Boston, Massachusetts, Alejandro Betancourt Lopez already had a strong track record as a business owner, a serial entrepreneur, a senior executive and an angel investor. He is perhaps best known as the founder and administrative head of the multinational asset management company O’Hara Administration.
Although his partnership with Hawkers began at a significant low point for the company, Alejandro Betancourt Lopez saw his involvement as a way to follow his favorite aphorism: Never stop trying. “You fall down many times,” Mr. Lopez has always been fond of saying. “The important thing is to keep getting up.”
To fund his new vision for Hawkers as a major international brand, Alejandro Betancourt Lopez brokered an agreement with O’Hara Administration investors to deliver $56 million in company funding. This massive capital infusion allowed Hawkers to quickly bring its operations to scale in order to meet its incredible customer demand.
Alejandro Betancourt Lopez negotiated this initial round of funding in October 2015 and took administrative control of Hawkers in November 2016. At his recommendation, Hawkers installed Experience Group leader Nacho Puig as its new Chief Executive Officer.
Driven by Alejandro Betancourt Lopez’s considerable administrative and operational changes, Hawkers expanded its brand outreach to cover the whole of Europe, Asia and North America. Mr. Lopez also grew Hawkers online presence with a specific focus on social media platforms that cater to its primary target demographic of young adults.
Fortunate to catch Hawkers in the early stages of its development, Alejandro Betancourt Lopez was able to mold its global brand image and operational strategies from scratch, placing it on the path to major success before it had a chance to make substantial mistakes.
Capitalizing on the explosion of growth that he engendered in 2016, Alejandro Betancourt Lopez arranged lucrative collaborations with several like-minded fashion brands in 2017. Hawkers’ partnership with the Spanish apparel company El Ganso, for example, yielded a digital ad campaign that helped boost Hawkers’ customer engagement by 86 percent.
Alejandro Betancourt Lopez also achieved exceptional results for Hawkers by specifically targeting college students. The Hawkers Campus Representative Program recruited approximately 5,000 college students to act as brand ambassadors throughout Europe, the United States, Australia, Mexico and Colombia. To qualify as an ambassador, a student must have at least 1,000 Instagram followers, have a genuine love of Hawkers sunglasses, and commit to sharing Hawkers products on his or her individual social media pages.
In 2018, Alejandro Betancourt Lopez deepened his role with Hawkers even further, becoming its majority shareholder early in the year and becoming its President several months later. As a result of his ongoing involvement with the company, Hawkers has bloomed into a $70-million company that sells well over 10,000 pairs of sunglasses each and every day.
Originally published at https://www.europeanfinancialreview.com on April 15, 2021.