After almost 20 years at the helm as CEO of her namesake brand, Kendra Scott is steering her role at the company in a slightly different direction. In addition to continuing as executive chairwoman, majority owner and lead on Kendra Scott’s design and customer experience, she will be giving more to her role in philanthropy continuing the vision and sense of purpose on which the company was founded.
“When I started my business in 2002, I made a commitment that I would use my success to improve the lives of those around me,” said Scott. “Philanthropy has been a pillar of the Kendra Scott company from day one and that will continue. But this new role will let me step out of the day-to-day business and devote even more time and attention to the beautiful designs we craft, the experience we create for our customers, and the tangible difference we can make in our communities.”
Specifically, Scott said, her heart has always been steadfast in supporting women’s and children’s causes and has devoted much of her personal time and finances to support initiatives like breast cancer research and awareness, female entrepreneurship and leadership and, most recently, mental health.
A philanthropic foundation
Over the past few years, Scott has made notable moves to highlight new philanthropic initiatives, including opening a female leadership institute at the University of Texas and during the pandemic gave proceeds from the sales of the company’s Everlyne bracelet to provide 4.2 million meals to those in need.
Now, in addition to a few upcoming personal projects that Scott says she is excited to have up her sleeve, she will be giving more energy to her role as a professor of practice at the University of Texas at Austin leading the Kendra Scott Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute and will continue to build on her experience on Shark Tank by investing time and energy into helping other female entrepreneurs.
According to Scott, the year 2020, with its many disruptions, was an opportunity to see with clear vision the good and the bad. In fact, recent reports in WWD have revealed that women accounted for 100 percent of job losses in December 2020.
“Coming out of almost a year in this global pandemic, I’ve recognized that the best next step for me is to focus on bigger projects that propel our company forward and will make a significant impact in our communities,” said Scott. “I am choosing to devote more of my time to what truly brings me joy: philanthropy, design, and customer experience. As Executive Chairwoman, majority owner, founder and designer, this new role will allow me to lean into where I can make the biggest impact creatively for our brand and focus even more of my efforts on putting good into the world as a philanthropist and entrepreneur.”
In a 2018 PitchBook study, Scott is listed among only 16 fellow women in the United States to hold the title of founder of a company valued at one billion dollars – a number she hopes to see rise through her work. Admittingly, Scott said, despite how far the country has come she still sees work to be done and as a woman, she knows that unfortunately people often don’t take female entrepreneurs or their businesses as seriously as male peers.
“Only 17 percent of venture capital goes to female-founded companies, but women actually have a higher rate of success with their businesses than their male counterparts,” said Scott. “My mission through all the work I do is to empower other female leaders to have confidence in their vision and give them the tools they need to bring that vision to life.”
Across all industries, Scott’s biggest piece of advice to other women working to start a business or take on a leadership role is to know that it is okay to fail or to not get it right the first time.
“As women, sometimes we put such pressure on ourselves to be perfect, worrying about making that just-right step rather than simply taking action,” said Scott. “Every entrepreneur will encounter challenges on their path to success. The key is not avoiding them, it is pursuing beyond them and succeeding anyway.”
Moreover, Scott told WWD she believes we will all be stronger because of the challenges we have overcome this year, saying “those lessons in adapting quickly and persevering amidst challenge will help any aspiring entrepreneur in their pursuits, whatever comes next.”
As a philanthropist, Scott’s primary goal will be to invest in causes that help women and children live their brightest, healthiest, and most empowered lives and to inspire companies and leaders to prioritize giving back at the core of the business strategy.
“In the current world we are living in, it’s even more important today to build a business with heart,” said Scott. “I’ve been running my business with philanthropy at the core for 20 years and I have seen firsthand how giving back has the power to strengthen your overall business, build a fierce loyalty with your customer base, and make a genuine impact on the world around you.”
The path forward
Further, through her philanthropic work with the company, Scott will be advocating for mental health causes, recognizing that the pandemic has spotlighted one of the greatest needs for women and children are resources to battle a growing mental health crisis.
“We’ve seen how mental health challenges have grown in number and severity for many of us in recent months and years,” said Scott. “Isolation worsens already-existing mental health conditions and causes new ones to emerge. Stigma coupled with lack of awareness and resources adds even more barriers.”
To take action, Scott has personally committed herself to advocate for policies and funding that can improve the lives impacted by mental health obstacles in addition to leading the Kendra Scott company’s investment in a grant with Active Minds to support mental wellness at the college level.
Looking ahead, Scott told WWD she is “feeling just as energetic, creative and engaged in our company’s success today” as she did when she first started it.
“In all of my years at the helm of this brand, not a day has gone by that I don’t pinch myself when I look around at the business my team and I have built, the culture we’ve created, and the impact we’ve made on our communities,” said Scott. “Reflecting on 20 years of running this business, it is clear to me that empowering my community, giving back and putting good into the world is where I want to focus. Specifically, pouring my energy into places in the business where I can continue to drive the largest impact.”