Kendra Scott discusses how she built her business and the importance of giving back.
By Janaye Barbin, Photos courtesy of Kendra Scott
In the 17 years since Kendra Scott appeared on the cover of Austin Woman, she’s built something truly remarkable. Since the company’s inception in 2002, she’s kept her focus on uplifting her community, always looking for ways to give back.
As a new mom and entrepreneur, she reveals she struggled with burnout. “In the initial stages of my business, there were moments when juggling motherhood and running a company felt overwhelming,” she admits. She credits her support system for helping her through difficult times in her book Born to Shine. “I quickly realized the value of having a supportive team,” she says, “specifically, many of my girlfriends [who]were also young mothers at that point in time.
During those early days of managing my company, they came to my aid when I couldn’t manage school drop-offs or pickups.” Her colleagues would help look after her sons if she needed to bring them to work. “We’d set up a play area, and my team and I would take turns looking after them during meetings. I have countless examples. But the core lesson here, especially for women navigating their careers, is to build a reliable circle and lean on them during those challenging moments.”
As an entrepreneur, she’s faced many obstacles. However, she’s adamant about not letting failure get in her way. “Drawing from my personal experience, I can confidently say it’s crucial to reshape your perception of the term ‘failure.’ Those moments often labeled as ‘failures’ should instead be seen as valuable lessons and chances for personal growth. If it wasn’t for my first business venture, The Hat Box, which closed after five years, I wouldn’t have my jewelry brand today.”
Scott uses “failures” to create opportunities for growth. “In the world of entrepreneurship, ‘failure’ and ‘mistakes’ often walk hand in hand. Yet what truly counts is your perspective on these experiences and the actions you take in response. These challenges present chances for personal development. I owe a significant part of who I am today to the highs and lows I’ve encountered along the way. And I wouldn’t change a thing about it.”
When she founded Kendra Scott in 2002, she chose to model her business around three principles: family, fashion and philanthropy. “Our everyday choices are steered by [these]three core pillars,” she says. “These pillars guide us in creating positive change, building meaningful relationships and inspiring others to shine, whether it’s within our headquarters, our retail stores or beyond. They are a huge part of my life on a personal level. We consistently embrace this ethos because it is who we are.”
For Scott, philanthropy is a necessary part of business. “Giving back is the truest form of success. I started this company with the intention to [first]do good and sell jewelry second.” One of her philanthropic endeavors was the creation of the Kendra Scott Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute (KS WELI). Through the institute, she’s been able to support future female entrepreneurs. “As a female founder, I’ve seen firsthand the challenges women often face in the workplace. I wanted to make an impact on young female entrepreneurs and empower them by giving them the tools they need to successfully start their businesses and [provide]mentorship from experienced female business leaders. So, in 2019, we opened the KS WELI,” she explains.
“Through KS WELI, we aim to strengthen the next generation of courageous, creative women leaders who want to change the world through business and beyond. My goal is for this program to spark a conversation around what the next generation of leaders and entrepreneurs will look like. With our work at the institute, whether it’s through a speaker series, leadership workshop or simply a networking opportunity, we hope to encourage the world to follow our mission of empowering female leaders.”
Looking back over her career, Scott recalls the time when the team of Dominican designer Oscar de la Renta reached out to her. “[His] team called and asked if I could attend their spring 2006 runway show during New York City’s fashion week. That [experience]really helped solidify my designs and my company within the fashion industry. I am forever grateful for his time and words.”
The launch of the Kendra Scott Foundation stands out to her as well. “This year, in March, we launched our foundation, a component of the Austin Community Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization that’s committed to empowering women and youth in the areas of health and wellness, education and entrepreneurship. Through the foundation we will be able to deepen our investments and impact in these areas.”
Scott has created her brand from the ground up, giving back to the community at every step. No matter how much she achieves, she makes sure to stay true to her core values. “All of these milestones were celebrated and seen as ‘successes.’ All the while remaining true to our community-first approach, which I believe has continually propelled our business forward.”