The powerhouse started her namesake in her Texas bedroom in 2002 with no capital behind her, aside from a $500 investment in herself (her mom was her first official employee!). And the aforementioned principles are not just branding fodder—they have guided every decision Kendra has made in her business. Armed with a tenacious attitude and and her own designs, building her empire from scratch means Kendra’s touched every element of her business. From material sourcing to handling door-to-door sales with her young son in tow, there is nothing she hasn’t done in business that doesn’t reflect her principles.
Now Kendra Scott's jewelry, home decor, and products are sold at retailers including Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom, hundreds of boutiques, and at more than 75 Kendra Scott brick-and-mortar stores where she’s been able to reinvigorate the brand and build relationships IRL with customers. She’s a mother, a champion for women at work, and a venture-capital-raising CEO you should take several notes from.
You started your business with $500. What was more important in those early days, the people in your corner or the determination in your heart?
It’s always a combination of the two, isn’t it? In 2002, I saw an opportunity to bring something unique to the jewelry industry, and failure was not an option for me. I knew I had to succeed to provide for my family, and that more than anything is what fueled my passion. But if it hadn’t been for the people in my life who believed in my dream and gave me the support I needed to succeed, I would not be where I am today.
Why do you think the fear of failure holds us back?
I think so much of it stems from the belief society has ingrained in us that we have to be perfect. We are terrified of making a single misstep, but what I have learned over the years is that failure can actually be a gift. The failures we go through become a bridge to the next place in our lives, a better place, where we use what we’ve learned to help us grow. Don’t expect a life without challenge, heartbreak, and struggle. We must go through a few setbacks in order for us to reach that place of success in our lives.
Who was the first person you hired for your business and how much of a difference did it make?
My mom! She was my first employee, and she still works with my company today. Back then, our office was my spare bedroom and our distribution center was my dining table. Those early days were hard, and there were so many times that I felt discouraged and was tempted to give up, but my mom was my rock who always told me to keep going. She is a huge reason why “Family” is one of our company’s core pillars today.
What about your job makes you feel the most fulfilled?
There is so much about my job that I love. I get excited every morning to come to work, which is such a privilege to say. But I am most fulfilled by our ability to use this success to do something much more impactful – to make a positive impact on my community and to leave a lasting legacy of giving back. Having a billion-dollar business means that we have the resources to give back millions of dollars every year. Since we started keeping track of our giving in 2010, we’ve given $25 million back to impactful causes around the world. We have the means to change lives for the better, and that's a gift I don't take for granted.
When you hit a bump or hurdle in your career, how do you find a new road + switch gears to find success?
You must learn to pivot quickly and adjust to what’s happening around you, and to sometimes let go of your idea for how things should be or what you want—because there may be something even better in store, something that will light you up and keep you passionately committed for years to come. And occasionally, you must learn to fall flat on your face.
What’s the best piece of #realtalk advice you’ve ever received?
The best “real talk” moment I’ve had lately is on the question that female entrepreneurs get all the time: How do you find a work-life balance? There is no such thing! My roles as a mother and a CEO are constantly competing for my attention, and there’s no cookie-cutter solution to doing it right. I believe as women we should let go of the pressure to have the perfect “balance,” commit to being the best mom and businesswoman we can be, and embrace each day as it comes.
Who are the first three people you think an entrepreneur should hire?
If an entrepreneur can identify the three areas where they are weakest, I’d say their first hires should be three people that bring strength to those same areas. I find that’s almost never the case, though, because as entrepreneurs we like to believe we can do it all! It typically takes a while—and a few lessons learned—to realize that we are so much stronger when we learn to accept and trust the strength of others on our team.
Who inspired you the most in your life growing up?
I caught the “fashion bug” from my Aunt Jo, who was a buyer for a local department store in my hometown. I can still remember the afternoons we spent together in her basement, analyzing slideshows of the latest New York runways. My mother was the first one to teach me about being an entrepreneur. She sold Mary Kay makeup, and I have always been inspired by her commitment and determination. Those two women have made a huge impact on the woman I am today.
Whose career is inspiring you today?
I’ve admired her for years, but I still look to Oprah as my biggest inspiration. She is a constant source of hope and encouragement to millions of women around the world, and I love her message that anything in life is possible when you believe, work hard, and lead with kindness. I got the chance to meet her for the first time this year, and was absolutely blown away! That’s a moment I will never forget.
If you could live a day in the life of anyone else, who would it be?
I always joke that if I weren’t a designer, I’d want to be a Broadway actress. My dream would be to spend a day playing Maria from The Sound of Music (although of course, no one can top Julie Andrews…)!
What are the common challenges you've seen among female business owners and entrepreneurs?
There’s one challenge that hundreds of entrepreneurs eventually face, and that I myself still face today: When you wake up one morning and are running a company that is bigger than it was the night before. The pressure is always there…How do you continue that rapid growth pace? How do you keep up the momentum? It’s so easy to focus in on the numbers and the benchmarks, but my top priority is always ensuring that we hold true to the foundation of who we are: Family, Fashion, and Philanthropy. No matter how fast we grow, I am determined never to lose sight of that.
What are you most excited for in 2019?
I am excited to make an even greater impact in the way we give back in 2019. In the coming year I will be fulfilling a lifelong ambition of mine with the launch of the Kendra Scott Foundation, which will be committed to areas of need for women and children. More to come soon!