Five Minutes with Kendra Scott
Oct 17, 2017 08:54AM
● By Maleesa Johnson
Her jewelry has become a staple in women’s accessories, but Kendra Scott, CEO and founder of Kendra Scott Design Inc., had more than her fair share of bumps along the road to success. We asked this inspiring mother of three boys to share her journey of building her Texas-based $1 billion company and her passion for giving back.
I opened my first business when: I was 19, and full of desire to prove myself. When I learned the devastating news that my stepfather, Rob, had been diagnosed with brain cancer, I immediately left my freshman year of college and moved to Houston to support him during his treatment. During what would be the last year of his life, Rob inspired me to open my first business, a hat store where I designed and sold comfortable, fashionable hats for women undergoing chemotherapy and donated a portion of proceeds to cancer research.
In hindsight, I wish: I could go back and tell my 19-year-old self that there are no mistakes in life. You will hit roadblocks on your way to success. The key to finding that success is pushing past them. Looking back now, I know that closing The Hat Box was far from a mistake. It was a bridge that took me one step closer to making my greatest dreams come true.
I was inspired to start making Jewelry when: I wasn’t finding the pieces I was looking for. I saw a white space in the market for gorgeous, quality jewelry made with genuine stones at an attainable price point. So, I decided to make my own.
From then to now, my designs: remain very much the same. Every Kendra Scott collection is thoughtfully designed in our Austin studio, using a blend of old-world techniques and modern technology. We have become known for our colorful gemstones, custom cut stone shapes, and handcrafted design elements that make each piece of jewelry truly unique.
Being a mom of three and the leader of a growing business was: an immense struggle, and one that I still face daily. Truthfully, some days I have no idea how I can get everything done. But I wouldn't have it any other way. I always say I am a mom first, and balancing my commitment to my family with my commitment to our business is a challenge I choose to take on every day.
I started selling directly to customers instead of buyers during: the 2008 recession. It was a difficult time that turned into an amazing opportunity for my company. All around us businesses were shuttering their doors, but we decided to take a risk. It was then that I decided to move away from my strictly wholesale business and begin to speak directly to my customers. In the midst of the recession, we open our first retail store, launch the Kendra Scott website, and create the Color Bar™ by Kendra Scott. We were faced with a necessary challenge and, as funny as it sounds, the recession was one of the greatest gifts for our company.
The first time I realized Kendra Scott would succeed was: when we opened our first store. I wanted to create a unique store experience where customers felt at home, at ease, and always ready to come back. The response we got was unbelievable! People fell in love with our open, welcoming atmosphere and our “WOW!” customer service. That shift is what allowed us to take my business to where we are today. By the end of the year, we will have 75 stores nationwide.
My No. 1 inspiration to pursue my dream was: my Aunt Jo. As a gorgeous, energetic fashion director with impeccable style, she introduced me to the fashion world, and taught me about things like trend forecasting at a young age. She encouraged me to dream big and follow my passions, which inspired me to pursue my love of fashion.
Opening my first retail store in Austin: certainly gave my small business the wings to fly. If it hadn’t been for this supportive community, I don’t believe I would be where I am today. We have certainly evolved from 15 years ago, when I was going door to door around Austin selling my designs, but I will always be proud to call Austin the home of our brand.
The three core pillars of Kendra scott are: Family, Fashion and Philanthropy, and have shaped my business, our culture and the decisions we make every day. Not only do we treat each other like family, we also live out our philanthropy pillar through our dedication to giving back. And no matter how large or successful we may grow to be, we will always look to those three core values as our foundation.
My passion for philanthropy began: with The Hat Box, and the moment my stepfather Rob spoke the three words that I’ve carried with me every day since: “You Do Good.” Even in the midst of his battle with brain cancer, he taught me that the most important thing I could do in life is use my talents to better the lives of others. That is why philanthropy plays such an integral role in both my professional and personal life to this day.
My average day is: so different from one to the next. One minute I could be speaking in a board meeting, and the next I am sitting with my design team to create our next collection, or flying across the country to visit our newest store. The only constants are my favorite green smoothie for breakfast (we call it Kendra’s Green Jade at our office), and sitting down at the end of the day to have dinner with my family.
Something surprising about my business is that: our office is made up of 98 percent women. I am proud to uphold a culture that supports a healthy work-life balance for the women – and men – in our office. Everything from our robust benefits package, which includes 100-percent paid parental leave and matched 401K, to unique perks like our in-house nail bar, fitness center, smoothie bar and paid philanthropy days, cultivate a friendly and inspiring work atmosphere. Down to the design of each of our office spaces, I want to make sure we are constantly fostering a culture that promotes transparency, collaboration and workplace pride.