Hawkers Co. started with nothing more than a few friends and a few hundred euros. Initially, the sunglasses were merely a vehicle to finance a more tech-focused vision. However, it only took a few years before their side hustle became their core business.
In 2016, the company sold €60 million in product, with about €54 million of sales coming straight from social media. This is a financial success that was made possible with the help of forward-thinking investors like Alejandro Betancourt. See how Hawkers overcame its stumbling blocks to cinch a strong market share and set a strong example for up-and-coming companies.
In 2012, four entrepreneurs in Spain were hoping to create their own version of Craigslist, a community hub where people could find any number of resources. Yet their initial efforts were stalled by a lack of funds, leading them to search for other streams of revenue. They tried buying some sunglasses from California and were pleased with the profitable results. It led the founders to focus their attention on the popular fashion accessory instead.
Support from Alejandro Betancourt
Alejandro Betancourt was known in the finance industry for his successful investment group O’Hara Financials (later O’Hara Administration). His instincts and skills would prove critical to boost sales for Hawkers, particularly when it came to crafting a marketing strategy for the sunglasses. Even when the company hit roadblocks, Betancourt pushed his motto: “Never stop trying. You fall down many times. The important thing is to keep getting up.”
Since bringing him in, the company has sold millions of pairs of sunglasses, established dozens of brick-and-mortar stores all over the world, and attracted customers from more than 50 countries. The company is known to generate more than $100 million in revenue per year and carved out a strong space in the fashion eyewear industry. With offices in high-profile cities, including Hong Kong, Barcelona, and Los Angeles, Hawkers is in the right locations to spot emerging trends in its key demographic.
Hawkers did enjoy some success on its own, enjoying a strong debut on social media from the very beginning. However, their initial launch wasn’t their product, and the company wanted to change that. If the founders were going to design their own version, though, they would need enough funding to undertake the production process. Alejandro Betancourt immediately saw how this company could fulfill a niche in the market and how it could go about finding its audience without blowing its budget on advertising.
Today, social media is swamped with brands trying to make their mark. There are still plenty of opportunities to be found on sites like Facebook and Twitter, but it’s undoubtedly more difficult to be heard above the noise.
Hawkers Co. didn’t have to face the same battle in the mid-2010s, though, and the company got in relatively early on influencer marketing. In fact, Instagram would name Hawkers a success story in advertising, connecting with people who already purchased and loved the product. It was Alejandro Betancourt who understood how to leverage the power of the influencer and use it to keep sales going in the right direction. He particularly saw the potential behind the relatively new platform known as Instagram.
It’s far easier to sell something that you love, and the added incentives from Hawkers just made it that much easier. Influencers received small discounts for sunglasses and related products plus a commission for getting friends and followers to buy them too. That word of mouth would be critical to the brand and eventually saw Hawkers partnering with college students to promote their brand on campus.
Hawkers has also made it a point to respond to fans directly. When there’s an issue with their processes, they work hard to correct the problem as quickly as possible. When the company’s e-commerce site started to falter under the weight of all the traffic, they were able to scale up, so their customer base wouldn’t scale down.
The company makes transparency a priority, letting customers know when their orders have shipped and when they should arrive. The supply chain can lead to a lot of confusion, especially if the left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing. With Hawkers, customers are kept in the loop.
A Financial success
Alejandro Betancourt knows that the road to higher profits isn’t always clear. It takes the right person to look beyond traditional advice to predict what’s happening in the market before it happens. Influencer marketing on Instagram wasn’t something that professors would have taught in a business class back then, even though it’s a universally accepted type of marketing today.
It’s a risk that other companies have to be willing to take too, even when the stakes are high. Hawkers might not have invested all that much money into social media marketing, but they did invest a lot of precious time. If it had backfired, it would have been a major blow to the company. Betancourt was able to help keep the company on track, though, overcoming initial hurdles to ensure that customers would appreciate the inherent style of the product.
Hawkers and Co. latest product is an eco-friendly pair of sunglasses, made with responsible materials and 100% sustainable packaging. When their key demographics love the outdoors so much, this was a natural fit for the company. This is more than a play for a bigger market share; however, it’s a social justice issue that will only gain more traction as time goes by.
New startups shouldn’t get the impression that success comes easily or through random chance. Hawkers had the foresight to bring in investors who understood the market and could harness that understanding to implement smarter strategies.