Evan Hakalir ’03SB Co-Founds Successful Children’s Clothing Line
Evan Hakalir ’98YUHSB, ’03SB, co-founder of children’s clothing line Andy & Evan, describes himself as “a lifelong entrepreneur.”
“As a little kid, I was always involved in some kind of business—like the time I ran a car wash out of my parents’ garage and subsequently flooded the place—twice,” he said. “When I went to Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy/Yeshiva University High School for Boys, then yeshiva in Israel, then the Sy Syms School of Business, I was always looking to sell something, and starting Andy & Evan was a natural outgrowth of that.”
He loved everything he learned at Syms because it matched his inner entrepreneurial spirit. “I loved everything there was to learn about business at Syms. I took many classes in entrepreneurship, including a Friday class where invited business professionals came in to speak to the students about their fields and their success stories—that was by far my favorite class.”
After graduating in 2003, he worked in banking and commercial real estate, but in 2008, while he was working at a boutique real estate finance fund focused on structured finance and off-market real estate-related opportunities, the real estate market completely bottomed out. The fund went out of business shortly thereafter, having been invested in South Florida, where real estate losses were especially heavy, and he and a (now former) partner were suddenly free to pursue business ideas they had been discussing at their synagogue and other social gatherings.
They first tried out an idea involving custom-made men’s dress shirts but moved into children’s clothing when his then-business partner’s son was born. They crafted a dress shirt for him with a bottom snap closure and, on the suggestion of an associate, brought the shirt to a wholesale trade show for children’s clothing. “We were swamped for three days straight,” he recalled. “So, we took that one product and, by 2010, had built a collection around it, a brand around it and a business around it. Over the last eight years, we have kept finding niches to fill, white space in the marketplace—we started selling through stores like Nieman Marcus and Nordstrom, becoming a reliable supplier for them while always looking for more opportunities.”
As with any business these days, Hakalir has had to manage the continual changes in retail as the industry moves from location-based to online selling (a point he emphasized in a January 2017 video interview). “Today, you have to live in many different places; you can’t just live in brick-and-mortar retail anymore,” he explained. “You have to be up on all the latest technology to be a strong digital partner to your retail customers, and also build an online presence and a direct connection with your audience through social media and trade shows and ‘new parent’ events—we hope that all of this creates demand for our products and allows us to continue to build our brand.”
“What satisfies me about what I’ve been able to do with the company,” he noted, “is how much I have enjoyed the chance to create a product, something from nothing.” He added that “when I see the transaction, see all the labor coming to fruition—there is something so satisfying about that. In fact, sometimes it’s hard to believe that you’re really working as you’re creating something, then selling it and delivering it and seeing it in your customers’ hands.”
The prospects look good for the continued growth of the company, which sells its products all over the world. “We have found that moms and dads will spend more on their kids than they’ll spend on themselves, grandparents will continue to buy products—and there are always new babies.” China is a great example of an international market ripe for growth, where the government has changed its family policy to allow for more children. “Think of the growth that will generate over the next 10 years.”
Evan Hakalir lives with his wife, Aliza Bogner Hakalir ’o3S, and his two daughters on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.