Navigating Global Expansion: Alejandro Betancourt López’s Blueprint for Hawkers’ Success

Picture of Alejandro Betancourt Lopez sat at a table in a pink shirt

Image: Alejandro Betancourt Lopez

What does it mean to move a company from good to unstoppable? For Alejandro Betancourt López and Hawkers, it means going global.

Before Betancourt López came aboard the sunglasses brand, Hawkers was a small business with a dedicated customer base, but no strategy for growth. As it became clear that the sophisticated yet cool products were catching on, its founders decided to bring in a professional who could guide the company to the next level.

Enter Alejandro Betancourt López. With a net worth of more than $2.6 billion, he had a sound track record of backing winning enterprises. After he invested in Hawkers, the team brought him aboard as president in 2016.

That changed everything.

Alejandro Betancourt López: Charisma, Connections, and Acumen

Before Alejandro Betancourt López took over the reins at Hawkers, the company was doing an impressive 60 million euros (approximately $59 million) in sales per year. Despite the clear demand, the company was on shaky financial ground.

Immediately after joining the team, Betancourt López put his charisma, connections, and business acumen to work leading Hawkers to a fundraise of around $56 million. He invested the money directly into social media marketing, betting on the brand’s ability to reach young and in-the-know consumers in a space where traditional companies weren’t yet competing.

“It was not only one thing or one post made out there,” he shares. “It was a continuously developing working relationship that made us achieve a big audience. Actually a branding campaign brought a lot of conversion into sales. And that’s what we’re trying to achieve.

“Not only growth by conversion in, in advertising, purely advertising social media, but creating branding campaigns that also can bring conversion, but also a lot of brand awareness and coolness to the brand. And that’s something that we’re finding to be very effective. And we’re going to continue to build on it.”

It was a bold move. The sunglasses market is dominated by few companies, and very few startups have carved out a space in the hyper-competitive and fickle sector. But Betancourt López had done his homework. He believed that the less-expensive products Hawkers offered could be a hit with a demographic who are both trendy and price-conscious. So he went all in. He placed a massive bet that digital advertising and influencer partnerships would give Hawkers the push it needed to reach financial maturity.

“The way I see it is nothing risked, nothing gained. You have to take risks in order to succeed, but you also need to do your due diligence. I do not advocate taking crazy risks. That is foolish,” he said. “When you take a risk, you need to be fully aware of the consequences and fully understand what you are going to do if it goes badly. That is being a good risk-taker. You must be able to live with the result if the situation goes bad.”

Luckily, it paid off.

The results were immediate. Soon, Hawkers Sunglasses had pulled itself out of financial peril and posted healthy profits every quarter. But Alejandro Betancourt López didn’t stop there. He doubled down, using the same tactics to take Hawkers worldwide.

Connecting All Over the World

With the digital tools that allowed Hawkers to market its eyewear to specific consumers in Europe, Alejandro Betancourt concocted a strategy to sell sunglasses across the pond.

By continuing to partner with sports icons and social media megastars, he guided Hawkers to successful openings in Latin and South America. The affordability, durability, and high style associated with the brand found a natural audience with younger consumers. In countries like Peru and Colombia, strategic endorsements from celebrities — such as singer Manuel Turizo — lent the brand credibility.

“We’ve been very successful in Mexico,” Betancourt López said. “We are one of the leaders in Mexico, and it’s a country that just population-wise is as big as almost all of Europe, or half of Europe. This is a country that we’ve been putting a lot of resources into lately, and we want to expand not only on the digital presence, but on the physical presence by opening stores. In the next two years, we should be opening some stores there and some optical services in different places in Mexico.”

Location, Location, Location

As it turns out, when superstars like footballer Lionel Messi don your shades, it can have a significant impact on consumer behavior. But could the digital word-of-mouth and celebrity-endorsement strategy work in the United States? Alejandro Betancourt López was determined to find out.

After making inroads throughout Spanish-speaking countries, the U.S. was an obvious next step. But with a crowded culture, how would the eyewear company stand out?

The same way it always had. Now supplied with a much larger budget, the brand signed endorsement deals with Lionel Messi, the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team, and chart-topping singer Usher, and sales continued to climb.

 And, with his finger on the pulse of the culture and his net worth skyrocketing, Betancourt López changed with the times. Hawkers couldn’t rely on simply being a lower-priced and trendier alternative to sunglasses made by Gucci. So, they began to out-compete established brands in new ways.

Gaining the support of modern consumers means winning their hearts and minds. They want a product that’s personalised, made by a company that’s responsible. In response, Hawkers launched its H20 line — biodegradable sunglasses made from recycled materials pulled right out of the world’s oceans — and redoubled its commitment to customer service.

It was a move that Betancourt continues to take great pride in. When asked what change in business he wishes he had made sooner, he confided that communicating with customers at every level is paramount to modern success.

I would insist on greater transparency in customer service in any business I started,” he said. “Today, my businesses immediately update customers on problems with their orders, no matter where they are in the supply chain. This wasn’t always the case, but making this change has led to greater brand loyalty and customer goodwill.”


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