Hawkers is unquestionably a sunglasses powerhouse in today’s market. They stormed the playing field in 2016 after a somewhat rocky start as one of those wild ideas that took off. For a $300 self-built company, they had done well on their own but remained a small fish compared to their growth now.
“Because we had $300 when we started the company, we never looked at anything as a failure,” said Co-Founder Alex Moreno. “Because no matter how big the company grows, if we were to shut down tomorrow, we only lost a few hundred dollars.”
However, Hawkers didn’t shut down and the founders have now watched their $300 idea move into a $100 million brand.
The idea actually started as a Craigslist-style website for second-hand merchandise, but they struggled to get traffic to their website (Salum) and didn’t make many sales. With a vision for the importance of online sales, the four friends decided to purchase 27 pairs of sunglasses from a knock-off brand in the US. When they sold the sunglasses quickly, they got more and became the official distributor for Knockaround sunglasses in Spain. Even though they were successful they didn’t want to just be distributors. The four friends decided to market their own brand of glasses to compete with the high fashion styles at a fraction of the price. In 2013, the Hawkers brand was realized.
They brought in an American investor in 2015 to help increase their reach by opening up to the US. With nearly all marketing done through social media (Facebook and Instagram) the company was able to drive nearly all sales through their eCommerce store. Yet, they still ran into increasing expenses that put a financial strain on the young company.
The company ran into losses and product supply issues by 2016. Expenses had increased and the company was floundering, despite making millions each year. The founders decided to do some rounds of funding and select a leader with a strong sense of business. That early round of investors infused the company with 50 million euros. Alejandro Betancourt Lopez joined the team as President, investing his money in 2018 to even become the largest shareholder at 50%.
Alejandro Betancourt Lopez earned two degrees from Massachusetts’s Suffolk University. His education in economics and business administration has been a huge vantage point to help the small startup to become a major vision wear player. Coming from a family with a heart for business, Alejandro Betancourt Lopez had already played angel investor to businesses across a number of industries. He was responsible for creating his own businesses too, as founder of O’Hara Administration and Auro Travel.
His move to Hawkers allowed him to enter a new industry with a company sorely lacking in technical understanding. The grassroots-style following and clever marketing were a good start, but the company was running into supply and cashflow issues. Alejandro Betancourt Lopez joined to help turn Hawkers into the powerhouse it’s becoming today. He recommended Nacho Puig as CEO to run the company’s operations.
Under the leadership of Betancourt Lopez, the company has thrived to become a recognizable sunglasses brand throughout Europe, North America and Asia. It continues to sell online, so the newest venture fits right in.
Hawkers is moving into prescription contacts and offering a unique sales approach that fits the current climate perfectly. People can get their vision needs met without ever leaving their homes. They can set up subscription boxes to come once a month or on the schedule they choose. Each box of 30 contacts is a high-quality daily-use prescription lens. Hawkers has brought its low-cost approach to daily use lenses.
The company is adamant that its products aren’t lower quality. By cutting out most of the distribution chain, they can pass savings onto the consumer.
Hawkers acquired Loopas to consolidate and move quickly on the prescription lens idea. Betancourt Lopez had been looking into lenses for three years and decided the time was right. Taking on Loopas allowed them to utilize an already established model for distribution and logistics. Working with a European manufacturer, the company is able to produce and ship their Hawkers contact lenses directly to consumers.
This direct model helps cut the cost from 18-20 euros a box down to around 12.50 euros.
During a time when few people want to shop in a store, the online option for brands is key. Hawkers has always had a largely online-based sales approach. Their marketing strategy is based on cutting-edge social media marketing that recognizes the power of word-of-mouth. Co-Founder Pablo Sánchez explained, “The more people you reach out to, the better chance you have of telling them about your idea. Facebook allows you to do that on a small budget.”
The Hawkers Co. Facebook page now has over 6.6 million followers as they move to increase their offerings to their loyal brand fans.
They are on the move to grow once more with the innovative launch of convenient contact lens subscriptions throughout Europe. “Reduce the price, not the quality,” quips the Hawkers website. And, look out, prescription vision world—Hawkers has come out to play.