To say that we are in awe of the global billion dollar empire that Austin-native Kendra Scott has built is a major understatement. We were absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to ask Kendra about her career journey, personal life, and where she sees herself in 10 years. Her continued dedication to the expansion of her business and to supporting charities (she never says “no” to a nonprofit request) after all that she has accomplished is seriously impressive.

Read on below for our exclusive interview on how Kendra’s humble side hustle turned into a business phenomenon! 

Kendra Scott’s Office

Cafe

Kendra’s now immediately recognizable jewelry designs, which she created as a side project in her spare bedroom with $500 and a dream, have gained a loyal following across the world and are sold in over 60 Kendra Scott Designs brick and mortar stores and by major retailers like Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus. Her business employs over 2,000 people and continues to expand with new categories like home decor and beauty products.  As you can imagine, we wanted all the details, read below to get to know Kendra and see how she manages it all in our exclusive interview. 

In the past 16 years, you have grown your business from a $500 project in your spare bedroom to a billion dollar global brand. There have of course been multiple stages, decisions, and big moments along the way, but in a nutshell, what do you attribute your success to?

KS: Our three core pillars of Family, Fashion, and Philanthropy have been crucial to our success. I founded this company on those three values because I wanted to build a culture that stood apart from the rest. We are a brand that loves and supports each other, pours passion into the work we create every day, and wholeheartedly believes in the importance of giving back. With a culture like that, we are lightning in a bottle!

You initially launched Kendra Scott Designs without a business school background. What are the most valuable business lessons that you have learned along the way? 

KS: Becoming an entrepreneur starts with a vision. You have to know what you want your business to be, and then discover how to differentiate yourself in your market. What will make people come to you instead of someone else? You’re guaranteed to face roadblocks, but you learn so much when you push past them. Your drive, your passion, that is what will make you a successful entrepreneur. If you don’t have that, it doesn’t matter what your idea or background is.

Of course, knowing the ins and outs of your company is essential to being a great leader. After starting my business, I attended MIT and graduated from their Entrepreneurial Masters Program in 2009. It helped me take my business to the next level, and taught me so much about strategy and leadership.

Jewelry-making was a side hobby of yours while you were pregnant and working at a magazine. For many entrepreneurs, taking the initial leap of leaving a job and venturing out on their own is the most difficult step. How did you decide to take the leap and not look back?

KS: My company started with $500 and a dream, in the spare bedroom of my house. Designing and selling my own jewelry was the best chance I had to support my family financially while trying to be the perfect mother, chasing my dream of fashion, and giving back to my community. Sounds impossible, right? Yes it was a big risk, and no it was never easy – but for me, failure was never an option.

When you launched Kendra Scott Designs, you focused on a collection of a few unique designs that quickly became recognizable. Was there a moment when it hit you that you were really onto something and that your business could be very successful?

KS: In 2006, we began producing our first-ever custom stone shape: the Danielle. I was noticing every other jewelry designer using pre-made stone shapes – everything in the industry looked the same. I was determined to bring my customer something unique, something they couldn’t find anywhere else, and I set out to design our first custom cut stone – the first of many that are now recognizable with the Kendra Scott brand. Seeing the success of those iconic, yet versatile shapes was when I knew we had made a name for ourselves.

In 2010 you opened your first retail store on South Congress. You now have 75 retail stores and your Color Bar experience has become iconic. Tell us about your vision for the retail store and how having a direct relationship with your consumer through brick and mortar has shaped your business.

 KS: Shopping for jewelry can be really intimidating. In most jewelry stores, everything is behind glass and you have to ask a sales associate for help if you want to try something on. I knew that if we were going to open a retail store, ours had to be different! I wanted our customers to be able to sip champagne, chat with our sales associates, and have fun. We have been able to interact with our customers on a different level and truly learn about who they are – what they like, what they care about, and how we can support them. Everything we do at Kendra Scott is personal and authentic, and our customers know that we truly care.

You’ve expanded your company from a jewelry line to home products and nail polish. Do you plan to continue growing these areas of the business and adding other product categories?

KS: Of course! As a jewelry designer, craftsmanship, distinctiveness, and attention to detail are always top of mind. Everything I do comes from that jewelry designer’s perspective, and I am excited to continue our expansion into new categories, creating beautiful products to accessorize every part of your life.

Your business is built on the pillars of family, fashion and philanthropy. You and your company are renowned for the generous product and financial donations you have given to multiple organizations throughout the years. How do you feel like these three pillars, especially philanthropy, have impacted your business model and company culture?  

KS: Our three pillars have inspired such an incredible, loyal following. We help others because we truly believe that giving back is the truest form of success. Our customers believe in the work we’re doing, and keep shopping with us season after season because they know we genuinely care about them and their communities.

Women around the world are envious of your amazing headquarters in Austin with a fitness room, manicure stations, nursing rooms, and more. Tell us about why it is important for you to have these amenities for your employees.

KS: My dream was to create a home away from home for every employee. Every element of our office was designed to show my team how much I appreciate the work they do. If they want to have a meeting over manicures or bring their kids to work with them, our space gives them the flexibility to do that.

You’ve accomplished so much already it seems hard to imagine there being more! But what are your next big goals for Kendra Scott Designs?

KS: We’ve grown a lot in the past few years, but we’re not slowing down any time soon! When I think about Kendra Scott becoming a legacy brand that will last for generations, I imagine continuing to give back in big ways, expand into new categories, and open stores in new markets. I say it all the time, but we’re just getting started.

Personal

 You are mother to three sons. What is your favorite way to spend quality time with your family in the midst of running your business? Do you have any weekly routines that help you take time away from the office to be with them?

KS: We love being outside! Austin has so many parks and outdoor spaces, and we take every opportunity we can to enjoy the warm weather and sunshine our city is known for.

How do you unwind and stay healthy while running a billion dollar company, traveling frequently to your regional stores?

KS: No matter the season, I always feel at peace in our Colorado mountain home. It’s my favorite place to unwind and unplug with my family!

You’ve been very involved in the interior design of your office and you are currently renovating your home. Have you always been passionate about interior design? Where do you find your inspiration for interiors and how does it differ from gathering inspiration for new jewelry designs?

KS: I have always loved interior design – to me, what you put in your home is just as important as what you wear. Just like with jewelry, I find myself most inspired by travel. New places, cultures, people, and architecture have influenced every space in my home.

Tell us your morning routine.

KS: There’s nothing really routine about my mornings anymore, but my two musts are quality time with my boys before they head off to school, and my favorite green smoothie to help me start my day. (We call it “Kendra’s Green Jade” at our office smoothie bar!)

Describe your personal style in a few words:

 KS: Classic, with a modern flair. I love timeless, feminine silhouettes, but can’t resist a few unexpected details! Self-Portrait is my favorite brand because they use texture and architectural lines to create beautiful clothing that catches the eye.

The best part about working and living in Austin?

KS: Austin is a creative, supportive community that really gave my business the wings to fly. We would not be where we are without this city, and I am so grateful to live and work here. The food isn’t so bad either!

Never leave home without:

KS: A beautiful piece of statement jewelry. As you can imagine, I’m constantly changing out my accessories, but I always like to wear one piece that really stands out.

 Ideal Saturday:

KS: Spending quality time with my boys and my husband Matt in our city – especially if we stop at Torchy’s for tacos!

Your mentor / role model:

 KS: My aunt was the fashion director at a Midwest department store and had a huge influence on me as a child. I learned so much from her about trend-forecasting and how to make fashion accessible for others.

 Where do you see yourself in 10 years? 

KS: Still doing what I love, but hopefully going on more vacations!

 

Photos courtesy of Kendra Scott Designs

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