With $500 and a spare bedroom in 2002, Kendra Scott used her creativity and gift to make handcrafted jewelry to begin selling pieces door to door. In the midst of a financial crisis and with a newborn baby in her arms, Scott sold out all of her pieces on the first days of her venture.
11 years later Kendra Scott is now the CEO of Kendra Scott, based in Austin, Texas, and her jewelry is sold in over 800 stores internationally. Her pieces have been worn by Katherine Hiegel, Hilary Duff, and Cameron Diaz to name a few, and she’s been a featured guest on talk shows like The Rachael Ray Show.
But, the transition from door to door saleswoman to multimillion dollar CEO had many steps in between. After selling her pieces door-to-door, Scott recruited friends and supporters to help her launch her first small jewelry store in Austin, Texas. Scott previously started a store called “Hat Box”, where she designed hats for chemotherapy patients.
Her interests lie not only in fashion, but with nonprofit organizations as well, including Meals on Wheels, Dress for Success, and Blessings in a Backpack.
She’s had numerous recognitions including the 2013 “Fashion Influencer” award by the Pantone Fashion Color Report and was named one of the top ten “Austinities” of 2011. Her Agenda spoke with Kendra Scott to discuss her secrets for success and advice for millennial women.
Her Agenda: Do you have a personal motto? How did that become your motto?
Kendra Scott: My personal quote as well as one of the company’s motto is “dream it, live it, love it!” I dreamt of becoming a jewelry designer, then decided to live out my dream, and now I absolutely love it. It is so important to focus on something you are passionate about. It is the key to happiness and success. This motto, along with “Family, Fashion, and Philanthropy” are the core philosophies that continue to drive the success and unique positive environment at Kendra Scott.
Her Agenda: What tools do you use to balance being a professional woman and your role in your family?
Kendra Scott: I founded my company when my first son was born, and I did that for many reasons, but mainly because I’ve always wanted to have a career that allowed me to put being a mom first. Having my own business allows me to be the best mom I can be, while doing what I love – designing jewelry. Family was one of the core philosophies for my business and remains so today. The way I work allows me to always be present in my children’s lives, even if that means staying up until 1:00 am working after they’ve gone to sleep. I’ve always done whatever is necessary to make sure that when I’m with them, the focus is on them and them alone.
Her Agenda: What was your initial vision for the company? Did you envision it becoming so successful and lucrative?
Kendra Scott: Kendra Scott literally began out of the spare bedroom of my home with just $500. After making jewelry for myself and friends, I saw an opportunity in designing beautifully handcrafted pieces in bright, bold colors and I seized it. What started out as a hobby quickly took off to amazing heights after I sold my first collection to local Texas boutiques. Now, 11 years later, we have seven namesake stores, with more to open in the near future, and are sold at over 1,000 retailers worldwide, including Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s. I have always had big dreams for my company, but I would have never imagined it becoming this successful when I first started. I couldn’t be happier and more blessed that I get to do what I love for a living and I am so excited to see what’s in store for the future as the brand continues to grow.
Her Agenda: What advice would you give to someone coming into a major leadership position for the first time in their lives?
Kendra Scott: My first piece of advice is to be confident in yourself! Believe whole-heartedly that no one can do the job better than you. When you exude confidence, others will naturally follow you. Once you have built that self-confidence, make it your priority to lead by example. Don’t ask someone to do something that you wouldn’t do yourself. Make sure your colleagues know that you are open and available to them and that they can always feel comfortable coming to you with any questions or concerns. And with that being said, make sure you listen. Being a good listener is so crucial to being an effective leader.
Her Agenda: What is your inspiration when it comes to the design and feel of your company’s products?
Kendra Scott: I am first and foremost, inspired by the modern woman. I think about her as an individual while designing each season, and take note of everything–from what she’s wearing to the places she’s traveling to the soirees she’s attending. Naturally, I look to the runways each season to find the hottest colors and trends, but I also allow my own travels to have a profound impact on my designs. All of my 2013 collections were inspired by my travels, from our Summer Island Escape collection inspired by my trip to Bali to our upcoming Fall Modern Treasures Collection, inspired by Egypt.
Her Agenda: As a boss, what qualities do you look for in a potential teammate and a potential business partner?
Kendra Scott: As a business owner, I have learned that the ability to choose your team is a gift. If I could give advice to other business owners, it would be to exercise that right and be picky. Your team and your partners become an extension of your family, and one that you’ll likely be spending hours on end with, so choose wisely. One of the reasons my business has grown exponentially in the past few years is because of the team I now have, but the ability to find such an incredible team developed over time. I had to learn to truly communicate and define my company values carefully, and find people that would have the same purpose in mind while bringing their own unique talents and strengths into the mix.
Her Agenda: What is your plan of action to ensure that you, as well as your company, continues to grow and expand?
Kendra Scott: I am beyond thrilled to have seen my company grow so quickly. We are now a global, multi-million dollar company featured in the world’s most prominent fashion magazines, worn on celebrities across the nation, and sold at topmost retailers worldwide. Our number one goal is to be a brand that people are not only excited to wear, but also is recognized as something people want to be a part of. This is why philanthropic and community efforts are so important to us. Each time we open a new store, we spend countless hours making connections with local philanthropic and community organizations to plan in-store events like our “Kendra Gives Back” parties. The grassroots level of involvement with one’s community is so incredibly important and I think it is one of the factors that sets us apart and has helped us grow.