Nearly a decade ago, four young entrepreneurs and friends from Spain worked together to launch a website called Saldum. They envisioned the website as a thriving secondhand market where people could buy and sell anything below retail cost. Eighteen months into the venture, Saldum had not even reached 50 sales.
Discouraged but not willing to give up, Pablo Lozano, Iñaki Soriano, and brothers David and Alejandro (Alex) Moreno began doing part-time eCommerce work on the side to finance Saldum. They soon discovered that their customers were earning more in sales each month than what they had charged them to get an online store up and running. Realizing they could earn more money selling new products online, they decided to go that route even though they were unsure what they would sell.
Sunglasses to the Rescue
The group of four friends and would-be business owners started searching for a low-cost product that was easy to sell and had a large pool of potential customers. They had their ideal product before too long. After all, nearly everyone needs at least one pair of sunglasses.
The idea came to them after Pablo’s brother returned to Spain from studying in the United States wearing a pair of Knockaround sunglasses. Knockarounds were wildly popular among their peer group, which led the entrepreneurs to pool $300 to purchase 27 pairs from the manufacturer in California. This proved to be a profitable decision, so they continued to buy more Knockaround sunglasses until they soon found themselves brand ambassadors.
Replicating a Successful Advertising Strategy
Pablo, Iñaki, David, and Alejandro placed their first Facebook ad a short time later, recruiting influencers who had large followings to post photos of themselves wearing Knockaround sunglasses. The influencers happily agreed to do so in exchange for a free product.
The advertising model was so successful that the brand ambassadors sought more influencers and soon sold thousands of sunglasses every month. While they expected to feel content with their success, all four expressed that they would rather be selling their own product. Soon they were on their way to China to locate sunglasses suppliers and set up their first Shopify store.
As owners of their own business, the four friends used the same influencer advertising strategy on Facebook and later Instagram with their own sunglasses they had named Hawkers. They also relied heavily on word-of-mouth advertising to sell record numbers of their branded sunglasses. Sales were high enough for the new brand to make waves in the sunglasses market, but they were ready to compete with major brands like Ray-Ban. They just did not have enough funds to do so.
Enter Angel Investor Alejandro Betancourt Lopez
The Hawkers team determined that the only way they could up their game was to raise money through a Series A funding round. In October 2016, the small team raised $56 million in United States currency to develop Hawkers into the company it is today. Hawkers was the first sunglasses company in the world to create vertically integrated, digital-first sunglasses that could compete with the likes of Ray-Ban.
Hugo Arevalo and Felix Ruiz, founders of the Spanish social media application Tuenti, lead Hawkers’ first round of funding. Business professional Alejandro Betancourt Lopez was one of the biggest contributors. He owned the O’Hara Investing Group at that time. Several other large investors did not wish to disclose their names or companies publicly as Alejandro Betancourt Lopez did.
Alejandro Betancourt Lopez Saved Hawkers and Became Its New President
Before meeting Alejandro Betancourt Lopez through their first funding series, the four friends were struggling to manage Hawkers from a financial perspective. Despite earning millions in sales each month, expenses were almost as high. They seriously considered going out of business just two years after launching the company.
After his initial investment, the friends offered Alejandro Betancourt Lopez the opportunity to become company president in November 2016. Alejandro Betancourt Lopez’s first recommendation was to hire a CEO named Nacho Puig, which he immediately accepted. Puig then took over operations and business development for Hawkers.
Thanks to the investment and leadership of Alejandro Betancourt Lopez, Hawkers has expanded across Asia, North America, and Europe to become the most recognizable sunglasses brand on those continents. Betancourt Lopez and Puig also collaborated with several fashion brands in Spain to make Hawkers part of certain style lines.
Alejandro Betancourt Lopez obtained controlling interest in Hawkers in 2018 after contributing another $23.7 million in funding. Today, Hawkers earns annual revenue of $60 million just seven years after four friends pooled $300 to launch the company.