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By Exec Edge Editorial Staff
Hawkers was launched in 2013 by four university friends in Spain, Alex and David Moreno, Iñaki Soriano and Pablo Sanchez. The goal of the company was to make designer sunglasses more affordable and accessible to everyone. In 2016, Hawkers was valued at $60 million and was considered one of the largest sunglasses companies in the world.
However, it has not always been so rosy for the company. Hawkers started with a $300 investment and started to experience financial hardship within a few years. The company considered closing its doors before outside financial investors took notice. Alejandro Betancourt, leader of O’Hara Administration, an international investment group, stepped in to provide the leverage that Hawkers need to keep going. Later named the President of Hawkers, Betancourt got in early to help drive the direction of Hawkers and provide resources to effectively scale the venture.
The founders knew that creating a sunglasses company meant competing with huge names like Ray-Ban, Prada and Gucci. Those sunglasses sell for hundreds of dollars, but only cost a small fraction of that amount to create.
What made Hawkers different was that it offered similar quality for a quarter of the price. In fact, Hawkers’ sunglasses are created at the same facility as most of the high-end brands owned by Luxottica, the largest designer eyewear company.
Alex Moreno and an LA-based partner, Caleb Garrett, credited Hawkers’ success to their simple product and transparency with their customers. With sponsorships from the LA Lakers, Mercedes-Benz, PlayStation and Usher, Hawkers has had to spend little on traditional forms of advertising.
Hawkers made a name for itself by concentrating on one product and ensuring that the output is of the highest quality. Today, Hawkers focuses on product creativity with new colorings, lens varieties and eco-friendly designs. Hawkers also recently expanded their product line with new contact lenses with a subscription based model.
Following Betancourt’s 50 million Euro investment in 2016, he became the company’s president later that year replacing Alejandro Moreno. The business was able to significantly expand, thanks in large part to those investors that were involved early. Betancourt expanded Hawkers’ reach in Spain and then to Europe, Asia and North America. In 2018, he increased his investment by another 20 million Euros, giving him a 50% controlling interest. By 2018, Hawkers was dubbed one of Spain’s Top 10 Startups of the Year.
Betancourt’s leadership mentality is consistent with Hawkers’ scrappy start in the first two years of operation. He always pushes his team forward. “Never stop trying,” he has said. “You fall down many times. The important thing is to keep getting up.”
Today, Hawkers has more than 200 employees with several offices throughout the world, including Hong Kong, Barcelona, Mexico City, Los Angeles and Elche. They have a market presence in 50 countries and have sold more than 4.5 million sunglasses worldwide. The company now generates more than $100 million in revenue.
Today, Hawkers has more than 6.6 million likes on Facebook, making it one of the most popular fashion companies on the platform. Facebook has featured Hawkers as one of its marketing success stories, noting a staggering 86% increase in engagement and a 51% return on ad spend.
Hawkers started by selling their eyewear exclusively online, which was a strategy used initially to cut down on costs. Today, Hawkers has over 40 brick and mortar locations but still generates 90% of sales from their online store.
The company also utilizes brand ambassadors on college campuses. Its Campus Representative Program has over 5,000 college students that promote Hawkers products at various college campuses in its target markets. These ambassadors promote Hawkers in exchange for concert and festival tickets, plane tickets, Hawkers product and more. While other companies pay their ambassadors, Hawkers only chooses ambassadors that it knows are passionate about sunglasses and Hawkers’ overall mission. It provides incentives but does not provide a wage of any kind to its ambassadors.
Showing ambassador and influencer videos featuring Hawkers has been a huge marketing success for the company. As Alejandro Betancourt notes, “One of the greatest things about the internet is the ability to share videos.”
Betancourt has also been a driving force for many of these more unique advertising and marketing efforts, stating “Ideas are the result of ongoing process of creativity and productivity. I like to speak to people and ask their experiences and then rethink, re-ask and go through strategic themes several times.”