Hawkers Co. began with four friends who wanted to finance their website development. Their story is a testament to just how profitable it can be to turn to the right person for help. After some initial stumbles, Alejandro Betancourt Lopez was able to catapult this company off the ground.
We'll look at how Hawkers got its start, how it managed to grow and why bringing in Alejandro Betancourt worked to their advantage. Learn more about how he was able to leverage influencer marketing long before it was even popular.
The Very Beginning
The four founders of Hawkers were originally working on something akin to a Spanish version of Craigslist. The development was slow-going though, and not making nearly as much money as they had hoped. In the midst of looking for other income streams, they stumbled upon pairs of sunglasses from California and managed to sell them at a profit. And in doing so, they had found their ideal product.
To improve their reach, the friends decided to concentrate on influencers, looking for young people who were popular with friends on Facebook. They gave them a few pairs of sunglasses (at no charge) on the condition that they photograph themselves with the eyewear featured somewhere in the shot.
Using this strategy, it took just six months to become the official distributor of a California-based brand called Knockaround. Yet the friends didn't want to just be a distributor, they wanted to create their own product. This is how Hawkers was founded.
Bringing in Alejandro Betancourt
The company might have been riding high off their initial debut on social media, but if it wanted to launch its own product, the company needed additional funding to really make a splash.
Alejandro Betancourt had already built up his reputation with his successful investment group O'Hara. Hawkers brought him in at the very early stages to help drive sales and revenue. He was more than ready to use his experience to raise Hawkers up from relative obscurity to superstar.
Alejandro Betancourt knew that influencer marketing could be successful for the brand. After Hawkers found manufacturing companies in China and launched their Shopify store in 2013, the staff designed campaigns for Facebook and Instagram. The latter business was just beginning to gain traction, and Hawkers decided to concentrate its efforts on the photo-based platform.
Social media marketing is accessible and affordable — it's also extremely difficult to get right. When so many companies are struggling to stand out, it's tough to catch a customer's eye. Multiply that by the already divided attentions of the typical social media user, and it's even more of an uphill climb.
Instagram named Hawkers as one of its advertising success stories because they were able to connect through the influencer medium. By identifying influencers within its existing customer base, they could incentivize people to spread the word for a product that they already loved.
Influencers might offer small discounts for the products and receive a commission for attracting customers to the brand. In 2016, the brand sold $70 million worth of product, of which $65.4 million came from word-of-mouth and social media. The company also worked with thousands of college students, making them brand ambassadors on campus. All ambassadors had to do was head outside donning their sunglasses and let the inherent style and benefits of the brand do the rest.
When Hawkers comes under scrutiny for something, they also make it a point to fix the problem immediately. This was primarily how the company was able to scale their business. With so many sales taking place online, the company clearly needed an e-commerce site that could keep up with the traffic.
Hawkers' platform today keeps customers informed, letting customers know the status of their delivery. The platform connects with the supply chain logistics so there's no ambiguity about when and where the customer's products are. It also allows for customization of its products, allowing the company to continue innovating their line to meet changing consumer preferences.
It took just three years for Hawkers to go from a few hundred dollar investments to $100 million in profits. The company today has sold millions of sunglasses, set up dozens of brick-and-mortar stores worldwide and has customers in more than 50 countries.
It's managed to carve out a sizable space for itself in the market, becoming a notable competitor in the fashion eyewear industry. The company also employs hundreds of people in offices located in Elche, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Barcelona, and Mexico City.
As the company looks ahead, the emphasis will be on eco-friendly production processes. Hawkers primarily markets to the younger demographic, with the average customer being just 27 years old. The person behind a pair of Hawkers' sunglasses understands the threat of climate change. They want to support companies who treat our planet with the respect and care that it deserves.
It would be relatively easy for company owners of today to dismiss Hawkers as a success story. You might reasonably argue that the only reason why social media worked for the company is that the founders happened to be in the right place at the right time. Today, influencer marketing is by no means an anomaly and customers are savvier than they once were.
Yet to discount the company's growth would be a huge mistake. When the founders needed money, they turned to an investor like Alejandro Betancourt Lopez to give them a boost. It was he who was able to get the company's finances in order. He's also a natural leader and go-getter, someone who's always trying new things and determining what works.
He also understands the power of adapting to the reality of the world. As other types of mediums become obsolete, such as magazines and books, people will continue to turn to the web to get their content. “One of the greatest things about the internet is the ability to share videos," Alejandro Betancourt has said.
Companies that want to follow in the footsteps of Hawkers cannot repeat their strategy exactly. What they can do is search for investors who believe in their vision and understand how to implement it correctly. As times change, companies need to have their fingers on the pulse of what's next.
Hawkers is more than just influencer marketing. It's a company that has managed to achieve phenomenal growth in a short amount of time primarily because it was able to see which way the wind was blowing. Investors were attracted to the founders' spirit as well as their ingenuity in marketing on such a tiny budget.
As social media audiences grow and change, it remains a smart way to connect with customers. And even if the actual strategies behind influencer marketing have to shift, it's clear that Hawkers has the ability to anticipate what customers are looking for so it can meet their expectations.