The University of Texas and Kendra Scott are partnering to equip more women to become entrepreneurs through a joint interdisciplinary leadership program.
By Courtney Runn, Photos by Rick Kern/Getty Images for Kendra Scott, Renderings courtesy of Kendra Scott
Kendra Scott is trading her signature yellow for burnt orange. Yesterday afternoon at Bass Concert Hall, the jewelry CEO announced The Kendra Scott Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute. A joint initiative with the University of Texas, the interdisciplinary program is designed to unleash a new generation of women leaders and entrepreneurs.
Students trekked across campus to line up an hour early for the announcement, young women filling the first and second floors of Bass, cheering and filming Scott’s keynote speech, a panel with actress Freida Pinto and Bachelorette contestant Rachel Lindsey, and a concert by country singer Cam.
“I’ve walked into a lot of boardrooms where no one looked like me,” Scott said in her keynote speech, noting she felt no one took her seriously.
Scott started her now billion-dollar company with $500, and for 10 years, received no financial funding. She was told a successful fashion brand couldn’t be based in Texas, which only fueled her fire for proving the naysayers wrong. Through the institute’s mentoring and funding opportunities, she hopes more women will have access to the role models and financial backing they need to succeed.
The institute will include a comprehensive approach to education, with a workshop and speaker series, an accessories-design and -merchandising class through the College of Natural Sciences, a consumer-products class through the McCombs School of Business, a seminar class taught at the jewelry headquarters, internship opportunities, mentoring opportunities, venture-funding opportunities, the Change the World Women’s Leadership Summit hosted by UT and, to serve as a hub for the programming, a newly redesigned student center housed in the College of Fine Arts building.
According to Jan Ryan, the executive director of entrepreneurship and innovation at UT, the program is funded by Kendra Scott, with additional student resources provided by the university, and all students are welcome to participate in any of the programming elements.
“[Kendra Scott’s] heart beats for community,” Ryan says. “She wants to build community inside of UT, both for women with each other, but also for women with the outside so they can connect to businesses and mentors.”
Ryan says the curriculum will uniquely consider business topics from a woman’s perspective, offering students the tools they need to overcome industry and gender barriers.
“It’s not just about going into business that makes you have an entrepreneurial spirit,” Scott says. “It’s taking control of my future and saying, ‘I want success. I want it to be like this.’ And this institute is helping give [women] the tools to do that.”
The institute will be open to UT students in spring 2020.