Texas’ favorite jewelry designer spins failure into multimillion-dollar empire
Kendra Scott is a real success story. The Austin jewelry designer is the subject of the April cover story forSuccess magazine, in which writer Amy Anderson details her visit to Scott’s Austin headquarters to learn how she built an empire.
In “Meet Kendra Scott: Homemade Millionaire,” Scott explains how she closed her business in 1998 and sat on the front steps crying in the rain, when the sign in the window magically flipped from “Closed” to “Yes, We Are Open.”
“It was a literal sign,” says the 42-year-old designer. “It was a sign! I looked and I just started laughing because I’m like, ‘Is this some kind of joke?’ But all of a sudden, it was almost like God talking to me: ‘You have to be open.’”
Four years later, she founded Kendra Scott Designs in her spare bedroom. Now it’s a multimillion-dollar company with 39 retail locations, nearly 1,000 employees, a new 63,000-square-foot distribution center in Austin, and $150 million in annual revenue. Plus, plans for international expansion, new accessory lines, and additional retail locations are in the works.
Later this year, the company will move to a new state-of-the-art headquarters, which the magazine describes as “mommy heaven.” It’s equipped with study rooms for kids who join their parents at work in the afternoons and a room for nursing moms. Other perks include a dog-friendly office policy and free yoga classes.
Scott believes the failure of her first business — a hat company — prepared her for a successful future, because it gave her the experience to know what didn’t work and the determination to succeed.
When she opened her first jewelry boutique in Austin, she made sure the shopping experience was fun. She kept cases unlocked and came up with the Color Bar, where customers pick the design and stones they like and watch as their piece of jewelry is made.
Her failure also made her determined to add a philanthropic component if she became successful. Her stores now host Kendra Gives Back events, donating 20 percent of all sales on that day to a charity. Last year, the company gave over $1 million and nearly 50,000 pieces of jewelry to more than 1,500 nonprofit organizations.
She instituted a “sister rule” too, which dictates everything from the hiring process to customer service policy.
“Yes, we have the policies and procedures in place, but let’s use some common sense and treat folks like family,” chief operating officer Lon Weingart tells the magazine.
“If your sister came in [to the store unhappy about a purchase], what would you do for her? Well, you’d exchange it, or you’d return it, or you’d get her something different. You know what I mean? That’s how you should treat the customer.”