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Hawkers Sunglasses See Growing Interest Thanks to Alejandro Betancourt Lopez

An initial purchase of a few hundred dollars' worth of exotic sunglasses for a quick turnaround has turned into one of the more interesting business and branding success stories of the last decade.

Alejandro Betancourt

Today, Hawkers brand sunglasses are seen and enjoyed worldwide. The high-quality glasses with interchangeable lenses have proven popular with all levels of users, from those who want basic eye protection to models and performers who want to look great and accessorize well.

The company has been valued at more than $60 million and sells sunglasses worldwide in a market that was fairly unchanging less than a decade ago.

Before 2010, people wanting shades could either pay top dollar for certain brands of sunglasses that looked good or pay a little for cheap sunglasses that also looked cheap.

Hawkers was able to successfully bring both worlds together. They looked good but had a low price point, making them accessible to just about everyone.

Thanks to forward-looking strategies and marketing ideas from longtime backer and current company president Alejandro Betancourt Lopez, the company continues to find ways to reach more customers worldwide and create more innovative projects, including sunglasses made from recycled plastic that was found as litter in the ocean.

The company also connects consumers to its sunglasses in unique ways, including a group of official and unofficial 'ambassadors' happy to spread the word. Under the direction of Alejandro Betancourt Lopez, Hawkers are primarily available online, along with word-of-mouth buzz.

Growing Fast

The Hawkers story started in 2013 when brothers Alex and David Moreno, along with colleagues Iñaki Soriano and Pablo Sanchez, were looking for online business opportunities for consumer products.

The Spanish college students found unique-looking affordable sunglasses in the U.S. called Knockarounds that they liked and thought would be a hit in Spain.

They ordered about 20 pairs for $300 and sold them for $20-$40 each, a bargain compared to higher-end sunglass brands selling for $200-plus. This first batch sold quickly, and future orders sold well. Before long, they decided to look for a manufacturer, which they found in China, and started selling sunglasses through a Shopify site.

But even though they had high initial sales and growing interest, Hawkers still wasn't financially stable or profitable.

It lost money the first few years, which led company leaders to start seeking out better financial guidance as well as more investors.

They found both with Alejandro Betancourt Lopez in 2016. He grew up in South America, studied abroad, and returned with degrees in business and economics, as well as a strong desire to fund valuable projects. For instance, the longtime entrepreneur started a bank, an Internet company and an oil company. He also co-founded an energy company, an effort that led to 11 power plants throughout Venezuela, which became a source of labor for hundreds and provided power to more than 70,000.

Alejandro Betancourt Lopez was understandably impressed when he ran across Hawkers. The product made their customers feel good about what they were wearing and boosted their self-image in general. Sunglasses are also an easy product to sell that just about everyone has or buys plenty of times throughout their life. Ones that match a particular outfit or style are even more popular.

The sunglass market at the time showed that people were willing to pay much for high-quality shades, but they would prefer if they could pay less for something that looks as good.

He put together a plan that had him joining the leadership team as president, as well as finding funding and expanding to more countries. He was able to bring 50 million euros for continuous funding through a holding company called Saldum Ventures.

Three years later, he and his leadership were able to raise 20 million euros to help sustain the disruptive company and seek future innovative solutions.

Hawkers has continued to see success, with revenue of 150 million euros in 2017 and 300 million in 2018 and is proud to have sold more than 4.5 million sunglasses in 50 countries.

Why Hawkers Remains Strong

Under Alejandro Betancourt Lopez's leadership, the Hawkers success story has involved being open to creative ideas and not following the same path as other sunglass companies. He helped them continue some early marketing efforts as well as gave new suggestions.

Some efforts have included:

  • Social media. Hawkers goes beyond a traditional business page on channels like Facebook. It actively runs campaigns through Facebook Ads targeting potential users in different demographic groups, including age, gender, location, interests and more. By avoiding a brick-and-mortar location, it can contact current and potential customers directly and get them excited about their products. It also has less cost this way than via traditional print media.
  • Online partnerships. By striking deals with everyone from PayPal to DOPE, leaders improved the visibility of Hawkers.
  • Ambassador programs. Rather than deploying sales executives around the world, Hawkers instead has created an ambassador program. Here, style-conscious students at colleges in many countries — one of the target markets — are encouraged to wear and talk about Hawkers to their peers and convince others to go out and buy them. In exchange for representing the brand well, they are offered commissions, discounts, and opportunities for other prizes.
  • Partnerships with influencers. Since the beginning, Hawkers staff regularly looks for online influencers interested in spreading the word about these exciting sunglasses and offered them free pairs.
  • Partnerships with designers, stylists and photographers. One of the best ways to get famous people wearing these products is if the glasses are offered during a photo shoot as an accessory for an ensemble. Then, of course, they are welcome to keep and continue to wear their Hawkers.
  • Custom products. Because the lenses are interchangeable, come in many colors and can be ordered directly, Hawkers lets people order pairs for special reasons, such as a birthday, anniversary, retirement or other milestone or special occasion.
  • Eco-friendly approach. Alejandro Betancourt Lopez and other leaders continue to look for opportunities to focus on sustainability, including looking for ways to help the planet by finding new uses for recycled plastic.
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