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Alee Pingol

While sunglasses brands may sometimes seem like they’re a dime a dozen, there’s no denying that there are certain brands that achieve a level of success far beyond their peers. Yes, e-commerce has leveled the playing field for sellers of these and other products, but it takes the right combination of quality items and savvy marketing to make a splash in a crowded marketplace.

This is part of what makes the story behind Hawkers Sunglasses so compelling. What started as a small project between friends has since grown into one of the largest sunglasses’ brands in the world — here’s how this unlikely success story came to be:

Humble Origins

Hawkers Sunglasses grew out of the platform Saldum, which was created by Alejandro and David Moreno, Iñaki Soriano, and Pablo Sanchez Lozano to sell secondhand products online —essentially, a Madrid-based version of Craigslist.

Though the group of entrepreneurs recognized the great potential of online sales, Saldum had not achieved much success. However, after Lozano’s brother returned to Spain from the U.S. with some Knockaround brand sunglasses, the group decided to invest $300 on sunglasses that they could resell on Saldum for a profit.

In an interview with Inc., Alejandro Moreno explained, “Because we had $300 when we started the company, we never looked at anything as a failure because no matter how big the company grows, if we were to shut down tomorrow, we only lost a few hundred dollars.”

Fortunately, the initial attempt at selling sunglasses proved to be a huge success — so successful, in fact, that the group soon became Knockaround’s official distributor in Spain. Despite this, the group wanted to manufacture their own sunglasses — something to match the quality of brands like Ray-Ban and Prada, but at a fraction of the price.

With a prototype in hand, Moreno went to the source of these luxury sunglasses — Italian manufacturer Luxottica, the same company that is used by high-priced sunglasses brands across the globe.

After striking a deal with Luxottica, the stage was set to launch Hawkers Sunglasses as the latest e-commerce sunglasses brand. Light and durable, the sunglasses could match the quality buyers had come to expect from luxury brands, without the need for exorbitant pricing.

While Hawkers Sunglasses was able to achieve sales success right off the bat, the entrepreneurs behind the group found costs rising significantly. In 2016, major financial losses led them to consider shutting down the brand entirely.

Fortunately, they were able to achieve additional financing through angel investor Caleb Garrett, who helped bring the brand to the United States, and Alejandro Betancourt Lopez, who led a 50-million Euro investment that eventually led to him becoming the company’s president …

All the pieces were now in place, and Hawkers Sunglasses has never looked back.

Pathways to Success

An outside financial investment is far from the only reason why Hawkers Sunglasses has become a brand worth over $60 million. After all, many other brands receive sizable investments and fall flat on their face.

The e-commerce brand focused on social media from the start, well before others in their niche began to pay much attention to Facebook or Instagram. By getting involved in Facebook Ads early, the founders were able to learn how to better tailor their content to appeal to their target audience.

As founder Pablo Sanchez explained in an interview with Fashion Gone Rogue, Hawkers Sunglasses “launched a lot of trial campaigns, and we would carry out some reverse engineering based on the results. We tried to find out how the Facebook algorithm worked, depending on the variability of the results.”

Brand collaborations were among the tactics that the founders discovered to work well in driving engagement and website traffic. According to CEO World, a 2017 collaboration with Spanish clothing brand El Ganso increased engagement by an astounding 86 percent, introducing a new (and relevant) audience to the Hawkers Sunglasses brand.

The brand’s diverse approach to accruing brand ambassadors is also noteworthy. While Hawkers Sunglasses has done more “traditional” celebrity endorsements from celebrities such as Usher and Dani Alves, it has also put a particular emphasis on recruiting college students as brand ambassadors.

The Hawkers Campus program recruits thousands of college-aged students in Europe, the United States, and elsewhere. College students with over 1,000 Instagram followers who can showcase a passion for the brand and are willing to actively showcase the sunglasses as part of their lifestyle get a range of perks. Prizes include exclusive Hawkers Sunglasses products, and even iPhones and festival tickets.

This creates a win-win for both the brand and its college-aged ambassadors. Hawkers Sunglasses gets further exposure among one of its primary demographics — college-age students who want to look stylish without breaking the bank. At the same time, the brand ambassadors can grow their own social media following while obtaining enticing perks.

With such a varied approach to digital marketing, the brand has been able to rely almost exclusively on social media for its growth — to the tune of over $100 million in revenue.

Facing the Future

The incredible success that has been achieved by Hawkers Sunglasses should serve as both inspiration and outline to other aspiring e-commerce entrepreneurs. Selling directly to your customers through your own e-commerce site can help you achieve a significant profit while still offering competitive prices.

By investing the effort to make a quality product and implementing the right pricing and marketing moves like Hawkers Sunglasses, you can also put yourself on the path to incredible growth.

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