This Jewelry Designer Turned $500 Into a Multimillion-Dollar Business
About a month ago, I took a trip down to Austin, Texas, with a handful of other journalists to visit jewelry designer Kendra Scott. Her business is based in the Lone Star State, which, as one can expect, makes for a not-so-run-of-the-mill experience. During my brief time spent there (mostly indoors; it’s hellishly hot in Austin right now), I explored the inner workings of a company that quite literally began with $500 in an attic.
Fast-forward 14 years, and Kendra Scott runs a multimillion-dollar business that boasts not only $160 million in revenue for the year prior but also a widespread philanthropic program that in that same year gave back $1.4 million and donated 60,000 pieces of jewelry. Suffice it to say, there’s no stopping Kendra Scott. Scroll down to read more about how and why the designer got to where she is from our exclusive interview with her!
Right when we arrived at Kendra Scott headquarters, I knew it would be unlike any other experience I’ve had visiting a designer’s digs. When the elevator doors peeled open, there she was, standing with a huge grin on her face. I’m sure that’s just how Texans greet one other, but I had certainly never had any designer waiting to fetch me at an elevator—a warm way to begin the day.
The new corporate headquarters opened in May, and it’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen. It spans 63,000 square feet (not including the 1500 square feet for the retail store on the ground floor) and has just about every amenity you’d want your office to possess. There’s a juice bar, a gym with showers, a nail salon, wellness rooms for new moms, a children’s area and game room, and even scooters to get around the office. And yes, the juice and manicures are free (gasp!). Their mantra is “What matters to you matters to us,” which might sound dubiously cheesy, but after seeing how much consideration goes into making her employees comfortable and content—I’m a believer.
In addition to ensuring employees are taken care of, being the jewelry designer that she is, Scott also created a state-of-the-art design lab for her creations. There were soldering stations, jewelry benches, a casting room, and perhaps most appealing to me was the 3D printer, something many brands are implementing into their design process to help reduce waste and speed up efficiency.
So how, after starting her business in an attic with no funding and a measly $500, did she do it? “You do good,” three words her stepfather shared with her in his final days (he passed away from cancer) that she took to heart. “Looking back, I realize that was this foundation of why we’re successful today, and we’ve kept that for 14 years. We still never say no, we always have something to give, and I think the reason for our success today is because of that. I really do believe that good things happen to good people, and that when you give, you receive so much more. [Our customers] have incredible brand loyalty because we care about the things that matter to our customers; we truly care about them.”
Another component of her business that Scott attributes success to is the brick-and-mortar experience she provides. “You walk in and it’s like you’re in a celebration because there is so much activity going on. The cases are open, jewelry is freely displayed, and you can touch and feel it and play with it, and it’s not intimidating. It’s not scary to walk into our store.”
If you’re not familiar with Kendra Scott’s jewelry, she uses natural stones cut in custom shapes that are placed on everything from drop earrings to pendant necklaces. Her playful use of color and attractively affordable price point has made her an easy choice for women across the gamut of style.
“My grandmother, [who] just turned 104, has all of this jewelry from different decades. She loves color, so going through her jewelry box, she would have these beautiful turquoise pieces that she would get on trips to Arizona, amazing red coral branch pieces when she went to Florida on vacation … and I just remember going through her jewelry box and loving these natural stones and asking her What is this? What is that? And when I would go out, anything that I wanted, I couldn’t afford.”
So she did what any smart entrepreneur does: She identified a hole in the market and filled it! Our takeaway from the trip was that if you’re passionate about something, find a way to make your business approach unique, and remember that giving back always pays off.
Keep scrolling down to shop our Kendra Scott picks!