Hawkers is one of the top sunglass companies in Spain and the world. It began as a startup with only $300 but grew so fast that demand was soon outpacing supply. In 2016, Hawkers suffered losses due to changes in the fashion industry, and the company had to seek external funding. That was when businessman and entrepreneur Alejandro Betancourt López stepped in. Now the majority shareholder of the company, Betancourt used his leadership and expertise to bring Hawkers to where it is today.
Background: Alejandro Betancourt López
As the son of a musician and the great-grandson of former Venezuelan president Hermogenes Lopez, entrepreneurial passion is in Alejandro Betancourt’s blood. His background in business began at Suffolk University in Boston, Massachusetts, where he majored in both economics and business administration. He started his career with leadership positions at several companies, including Guruceaga Group, ICC-OEOC, and BGB Energy.
With a decade of experience in business management under his belt, Betancourt decided to start his own company. He co-founded an energy firm, which specialized in the engineering, procurement, and construction of thermonuclear power plants. Betancourt’s goal was to improve electrical energy production processes in his home country of Venezuela. Under his leadership, the company became one of the most important private energy firms in the country. His work led to the development of eleven thermonuclear power plants in the country, which created 12,000 jobs and helped over 700,000 families.
Betancourt then became a leader of the asset management company O’Hara Administration. The company has invested in a variety of international projects, including an African bank and a European internet company. It also became the largest shareholder of petroleum company Pacific Exploration and Production Corp, where Betancourt served on the board of directors.
Because of his years of work in the energy industry, Betancourt knows the importance of protecting the environment. He has participated in projects such as World Beach Rescue Day and created the Green Program, which funds energy efficiency and reforestation campaigns.
Despite the demands of his business career, Betancourt makes time for community initiatives. He supports educational programs about science, technology, sports, and the dangers of drug use. He also built a new wing at Carmen Salles School at Cuidad Bolivar. As Alejandro Betancourt López said, “We simply cannot move forward without contributing towards [our communities’] progress and development.”
Accelerating Hawkers’ Growth
Alejandro Betancourt became involved with Hawkers when a friend asked him if he wanted to invest in the company. He was excited by the chance to do something new and modern, and eager to get involved. He and a group of investors dedicated $56 million (€50 million) to the company. Two years later, he invested another $21.5 million (€20 million), becoming an owner of 50% of Hawkers and president of the company.
Alejandro Betancourt López brought in Nacho Puig as Chief Executive Officer of Hawkers. An experienced brand strategist in the sports and fashion industry, Puig worked together with Betancourt to create strategies that would accelerate Hawker’s development. Under their guidance, the company grew from its humble $300 beginnings to earn more than $100,000,000.
Harnessing the Power of the Internet
Betancourt used technological innovation to disrupt traditional business models. He brought Hawkers to the next level by encouraging their use of social media for marketing. The company’s preferred platform is Facebook ads, and they now have over 6.6 million likes on Facebook.
Betancourt also pushed for Hawkers to sell a majority of its products online. Though Hawkers has some brick-and-mortar stores, 90 percent of the company’s sunglasses are sold online. This allows customers around the world to easily find and purchase Hawkers sunglasses.
Hawkers also uses brand ambassadors for marketing through a program called Hawkers Campus. In this program, university students with over 1000 Instagram followers can promote Hawkers products on social media. The initiative benefits both Hawkers and the students. Students gain expertise in digital marketing and get to be involved in exclusive activities with other top brands, while Hawkers reaches a wider audience. Currently, more than 5000 students are members of the Hawkers Campus community.
These strategies are a stark contrast with most sunglass companies, with their reliance on brand image for marketing and their heavy reliance on brick-and-mortar stores. Although following a non-traditional path was a risky decision, as Betancourt’s favorite quote says, “Fortune favors the brave.”
Since social media is a cost-effective marketing channel, Hawkers is able to charge only $20 to $40 for their products, significantly lower than the $200 price of a pair of Ray Bans. This positions Hawkers as a seller of high-quality, affordable sunglasses. The company focuses not on the wealthy elite, but on the average customer.
Alejandro Betancourt Lopez knew that fashion-conscious shoppers would want to accessorize their outfit by pairing their clothes with stylish sunglasses. He forged partnerships with other fashion brands to create a style collection that included Hawkers sunglasses. These partnerships paid off. A collaboration deal with El Ganso, a Spanish clothing line, increased engagement by 86 percent.
Additionally, Hawkers has endorsement deals with major celebrities and companies. These include Usher, Dani Alves, Felipe Massa, Nicky Romero, Fernando Verdasco, Paula Echevarria, and Lionel Messi, who even has his own line under the Hawkers brand. Hawkers’ products have been used by companies such as Smart, PayPal, Kia, and Mercedes-Benz. They also have a sponsorship agreement with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Hawkers: A Bright Future with Betancourt
According to Alejandro Betancourt, “Ideas are the result of an 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.”
Betancourt’s ideas for Hawkers provided access to customers from all around the world. Thanks to him, the company has gained a presence in 50 countries and sold more than 4.5 million pairs of sunglasses. With a visionary leader like Betancourt at the helm, there is no limit to what Hawkers can accomplish next.