When supporting a family is your motivation, failure is far less of an option. And this was exactly the case thirteen years ago, when Kendra Scott started her business with $500 and a tea box full of original pieces of jewelry she sold to local retailers in Texas. Fast forward to now, and Scott leads a $100 million dollar jewelry company in Austin, TX with over 35 retail locations around the country. Scott is unique in the retail industry as she not only understands the jewelry market, but also how to manage a company of nearly 800 people with 95% of her corporate employees being women. With that in mind, she has designed the KSD headquarters to be outfitted with the sort of amenities attractive for women (yoga, juice bar) and women with children (breastfeeding room, area for children to play). Scott and her company have the admirable core qualities and desirable product required for success.
Have you always loved jewelry?
I have been in love with jewelry and fashion since I was a little girl, and I can thank my Aunt Jo Ann for giving me the fashion bug. As a gorgeous, energetic fashion director with impeccable style, I always dreamed of following in her footsteps. I feel so lucky to see my childhood dreams come true through my passion for jewelry and accessories.
For you, what is it about accessories that can change a look?
I have always been a firm believer that accessories make the outfit. To me, no woman’s collection is complete without a couple great statement pieces. They can bring personality to your favorite jeans and a t-shirt, or pair perfectly with a classic LBD for an evening out.
Can you tell us the story behind your very first order?
I created my first mini-collection of jewelry in the spare bedroom of my house, and crafted each piece by hand. I packed my samples into a small tea box and walked door to door to local Austin boutiques. I had my newborn son with me, so I don’t know if they really loved my jewelry or if they just felt sorry for me! Regardless, I was amazed to come home after that first day with a stack of orders, already going into production on my first collection.
What was the inspiration for your exclusive ‘Danielle’ shape?
In 2008, I was driven to create something that would set my brand apart from the mass market, while providing something special for our customer. Through the use of unique stone cuts and treatments, I could provide our customer with something she hadn’t seen anywhere else. When I created the Danielle, the stones took center stage. I used hand-cut stone shapes with custom facets, and a framing technique that was quite rare in fashion jewelry. That silhouette is now one of many iconic shapes for the brand, but will always be the one that put Kendra Scott jewelry on the national stage.
How was the Color Bar™ concept born?
The Color Bar™ by Kendra Scott was created because I wanted to provide women with the very personal experience of enhancing their own unique style. With our Color Bar™, a woman can bring in her dress or a favorite pair of shoes, and pick out a piece of jewelry that complements it perfectly. Brides can stop by and match her bridesmaids’ jewels to an exact palette, or customize a beautiful bridal piece of her own. Plus, it has that sense of instant gratification that every girl loves! You can walk out of our store with your custom piece in hand, or find it on your doorstep the next day when you design online.
Where do you draw your inspiration from for each collection?
I find inspiration all around me, from my travels and my favorite artwork to the Kendra Scott girl herself. I think about her signature style and the unique pieces and custom stone cuts she will love. I design for her, and work with my fantastic design team to bring something new and exciting to her season after season.
How did you choose your retail locations? Do you plan to open more in the next 12 months?
Our first retail location opened in my hometown of Austin, TX in 2010. I realized then how important it was to personally engage with each of our customers and have that direct connection to them. We have radiated from Austin throughout Texas, to our sister states and beyond, looking to our online customers and social media fans’ feedback and demand to lead us to our next store location. But I also look for a sense of community in each new location. We believe in engaging deeply with each local market, and in five short years have made 39 new homes for our brand across the nation, with plans for many more!
Do the majority of sales still come from online?
Today, the majority of our sales come from our retail stores across the nation, followed closely by our online business. It is my top priority to match the welcoming, engaging experience in a Kendra Scott store with our experience online. Whether a customer stops by her local store to shop or whether she’s browsing our site from her favorite mobile device, I want her to feel welcomed and cared for, always. We are also fortunate to have amazing retail partners like Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, and Bloomingdales along with 500+ boutiques across the country.
Regionally, where are most of your customers?
At this time, our customers are primarily southern. Austin in particular is a community that loves to support local businesses, and I would not be where I am today without the loyal community we have here. But our fan base is rapidly growing! We recently opened a store on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, have three locations in the DC area, and strong growth plans in California in early 2016. I’m so excited to see the national enthusiasm for our brand online which is fostering our store planning.
How do you keep the price points so reasonable?
From the very beginning, I have realized the importance of providing women with great style and design at an attainable price. I want Kendra Scott jewelry to be the go-to for every occasion, from attainable gifts to statement pieces that are sure to wow. In every collection I make, I work hard to ensure we are delivering top quality materials at a price any woman can afford, and that is so important to me.
In what ways are you running a business that supports women?
To start, my company-wide team is over 90% women. But we are more than just a company that employs women; we also care deeply about supporting women through our involvement in women and children’s charities. In October alone, we partnered with Susan G. Komen to donate over $10,000 to cancer research and over 3,000 pairs of earrings to women undergoing cancer treatment. At Kendra Scott, we live by the belief that we always have something to give.
Were these ideas deliberate in order to make women’s lives better based on your personal experience?
When Kendra Scott Design first started, we were an all-women company. Through the years I have recognized the importance of hiring a team that shares my same values. And among those, a “family first” culture and a focus on giving back have always been so important. Every decision I make for my business ties back to a focus of improving the lives of not only my coworkers, but of the people in our communities as well.
How nervous were you to approach the CEO of Wal Mart or the former head of Gap North America for business advice?
Of course it was nerve wracking to share my passions and to ask for help. But growing up, my family taught me never to be too scared, or too proud, to ask for advice. I found people who excelled in areas I needed help in and reached out to learn how they do what they do. I continue to do this today as there is always room for learning and so many wonderful experts that I admire out there to collaborate with.
Why do you think more people don’t use the experience of others for their own mentoring?
Many people might be nervous to open themselves to scrutiny, but experience has taught me the best way to grow in anything is to seek advice from others. As long as you are sincere in your request, most people will give you at least a few minutes of their time.
How do you see the business continuing to grow?
It has always been my dream for the Kendra Scott brand to grow beyond jewelry. I look at brands like Ralph Lauren who started in men’s ties, and Coco Chanel who started in hats, and they are now legacy brands. My aim is to develop Kendra Scott into a brand that will last generations. Jewelry is just the beginning.