How Investor Alejandro Betancourt Developed Hawkers into a Multimillion Dollar Company — ValueWalk
Hawkers is a vertically integrated and digital-first sunglasses company based in Spain that opened for business in 2013. From the beginning, the company set its sights on competing with major sunglasses brands Oakley and Ray-Ban. Hawkers achieved that goal in 2016 by raising significant funding from multiple investors.
A Brief History of the Hawkers Sunglasses Company
Alex Moreno, a co-founder of Hawkers, explains that the company started with just a $300 investment and little outside funding. To compete with the bigger brands selling sunglasses for up to $200 a pair, Hawkers created simple and affordable sunglasses priced between $20 and $40.
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By offering a reliable product and paying close attention to customer feedback, Hawkers was able to penetrate the competitive sunglasses market and compete with the biggest names in the industry. The success of the company attracted the attention of well-known angel investors like Alejandro Betancourt.
Hawkers Funding Team
Hugo Arevalo and Felix Ruiz, the co-founders of the Spanish social networking site Tuenti, were among the first funders for Hawkers. The investment group O’Hara, led by Alejandro Betancourt, was instrumental in allowing Hawkers to scale and become a major player in the sunglasses industry. Hawkers did not name its other funding partners.
How Hawkers Used Its Funding to Create a Worldwide Presence
Hawkers decided to open the company to investors after operating independently for the first two-and-one-half years of its existence. The company used part of its funding to consolidate its operations in Australia, France, Italy, Germany, Portugal, and the United Kingdom. The move came at a great time since Hawkers Sunglasses were already exploding in popularity in the United Kingdom.
Hawkers also took the opportunity to expand into new markets starting in 2016. When the company began in 2013, it had annual revenue equivalent to $17.72 million United States dollars. By 2016, that figure had increased to $82.67 million after obtaining funding and pursuing worldwide growth.
Successful Sales Strategies Used by Hawkers
The Hawkers team did not go into business with the idea to sell sunglasses. They arrived at that decision after researching which products were the easiest to sell. Sunglasses met that criteria for the following three reasons:
- Low barrier entry
- Low wholesale prices
- Millions of potential customers since most people wear sunglasses outdoors
Hawkers originally sold a brand of sunglasses known as Knockarounds. The Knockarounds brand was growing steadily in the United States at the time but had not yet penetrated markets outside the country.
Once the Hawkers team settled on selling sunglasses, their next step was to set up Facebook ads. Before doing so, they made offers to several young people who were popular on Facebook to act as influencers to their friends.
Each person who agreed to the deal received several free pairs of Knockarounds sunglasses that they photographed themselves wearing and shared on their Facebook accounts. They were so successful selling the sunglasses that the four young entrepreneurs became official Knockarounds distributors in Spain within six months. However, this was not completely satisfying to them because they were still selling someone else’s brand.
Hawkers Sunglasses Began as a Shopify Store
The founders of Hawkers developed the company name, product design, and product launch strategy in late 2013. This came after they visited China several times to locate the best manufacturer for their new sunglasses line. Hawkers’ first venture into selling their own product was the launch of their Shopify store.
Once established as their own company, the Hawkers team continued the strategy of giving away free sunglasses to people with large numbers of social media followers. They also expanded their word-of-mouth advertising efforts to Instagram. As the company’s growth took off, the management team continued to develop influencer relationships with an added strategy. They allowed influencers to offer their own customers a discount and gave them the opportunity to earn commission on every sale.
Hawkers also developed a Campus Representative program to form partnerships with more than 5,000 college students to act as brand ambassadors. Students spread the word about Hawkers through hosting parties and events. In exchange for their services, students receive free plane tickets and admission to concerts and festivals.
Social Media Selling Is the Biggest Success Factor for Hawkers
After seeking investors in 2016, Hawkers had the funds to invest in aggressive marketing campaigns. With much of its marketing taking place via social media influencers, Hawkers has made up to 90 percent of its sales through social media since 2016. The company now has an online presence in 140 countries outside of Spain.
Hawkers Leadership Credits Much of Its Success to Alejandro Betancourt
Alejandro Betancourt had years of experience as an angel investor and managing investment portfolios for O’Hara Administration. After becoming one of the original investors in Hawkers, Betancourt took over as company president in November 2016. The company also named Nacho Puig as CEO at that time.
Together, the two leaders have struck deals with other fashion brands. One of the partner companies of Hawkers is El Ganso, a popular clothing line in Spain. Betancourt and Puig were also instrumental in expanding the Hawkers market across Asia, Europe, and North America.
Alejandro Betancourt became the majority owner of Hawkers in 2018 when he increased his investment by $23.62 million dollars. He now holds 50 percent control of the company’s capital. Although he has experienced tremendous success helping to grow the Hawkers brand, Betancourt understands that success does not always come easily. His advice to other would-be entrepreneurs is to expect setbacks but not to let them get in the way of pursuing their dreams.
Originally published at https://www.valuewalk.com on April 16, 2020.