The 10 Austinites of the Year: Kendra Scott

The 10 Austinites of the Year: Kendra Scott

The bold and the beautiful — she’s at the head of the most successful fashion line to come out of Austin, and this dynamo is only heading up.

Kendra Scott has never really understood the word no. “For me, it’s merely a suggestion… the conversation is just getting started,” Scott says from her corporate headquarters above her flagship store on South Congress. First, it was the time she ran for student council vice president as an eighth grader when everyone told her she could never win since it was only ninth graders who held the position before (she won). “People would vandalize my posters or tear them down. I would just immediately put up another one even better than the last…it started this drive in me to never give up.” Or, when everyone told her she was crazy for trying to start a business right after 9/11. But almost 10 years ago, Scott went boutique to boutique in Austin accompanied by a tea box full of her samples in one arm and her newborn baby in the other. Every store she visited wrote an order. A decade later, Kendra Scott Jewelry has become a nationally recognized brand. This year, she opened two more stores in Beverly Hills and Dallas with three to five more in the works for next year. Her jewelry is also available in every Nordstrom in the country. “If someone would have told me all that this year would bring a decade ago, I probably would have laughed,” she says. “When I started this, I knew it could be successful, but I never thought we could grow like this. It is so exciting!”

Scott moved to Texas at age 16 from a small town in Wisconsin and landed in Austin at 19 when she opened her first company Hat Box, a hat store in the mall. “I got my masters in the school of hard knocks. I used to be a little sad to tell people that I didn’t finish college, but at the same time, everyone has their own path and through that experience I learned the retail business, and because of that, I really appreciate all that goes in to it and can better understand what all the retailers we work with are going through and how I can help them be successful with the line.”

Scott attributes some of this year’s success to opening the storefront, calling the opening of the Austin store — when everything changed. “It was an ‘aha’ moment…I love having a direct connection to our customers because it gives us a chance to really learn what our customers love,” she says. “The store is like our lab to test product and get invaluable feedback. We all have to walk through the store to get to our offices every morning which gives our corporate team an intimate view of how our product reads and what we need to do to make it better.”

At the center of the company’s core values are “family, fashion and philanthropy.” Giving back to the community is a central part of Scott’s life personally and professionally. Locally, the brand is involved with Dress for Success, Go Red for Women, LifeWorks, Child Protective Services, Hopice Austin and Dell Children’s Hospital. They will also be partnering with nonprofits in the other cities where Kendra Scott Jewelry stores open. She says: “We aren’t just selling jewelry. We want to make a difference and have a positive impact on people’s lives. That’s what makes me get up every morning.” Scott loves to mentor women and one of the avenues through which she does so is the BIG Austin program that helps people from low socio economic backgrounds who want to start a business. Despite such a monumental year, Scott’s biggest priority remains the same — her two sons who are seven and 10. “When I am at the office, I am here and when I am home, I am fully present with my family,” she says.

There is a lot brewing from the airy KS headquarters on South Congress — with close to 30 full-time employees working on store openings for 2012, a launch of hair accessories that will debut this spring and other accessory lines to launch in the near future. She says: “I’ve been working really hard for 10 years and I literally jump out of bed every day feeling so enthusiastic about the future. The more that is happening, the more excited that I get. I know where we are headed, and I feel like we have only scratched the surface. We have a lot more to do and that’s an amazing place to be!”