The woman behind the brand, Kendra Scott, at the front desk of her Austin Headquarters. (Photo: Courtesy of Kendra Scott)
A nail salon, a juice bar, and a fully equipped workout room. Sounds like the amenities for a resort in a tropical locale, but at the headquarters for jewelry brand Kendra Scott, it’s just another day at work.
The label, which started back in 2002, is projected to do more than $220 million in sales this year. And it’s easy to see why. The pieces have a kind of aesthetic that makes it easily translatable to a lot of different women. “If you walked into our stores, you would see, we’ve got little cute preteens now wearing Kendra Scott to 75-year-old women wearing Kendra Scott,” Scott herself told us when we sat down to chat with her in Austin, Texas, where the label’s headquarters are located. Though the brand’s roots appeal to a more ladylike customer, Scott says that her namesake is moving toward a more trend-conscious consumer. “We have a very fashionista group that is loving a lot of some of the edgier things that we do, and we’re bringing her in to this brand,” Scott explained. “I love to surprise her. And then we have our tried-and-true Southern belle who likes to stick to her signature styles and silhouettes, but we’re starting to kind of push her into, say, not being afraid to wear a choker. Throw on a body chain with your Danielles, girl! It’s fun to kind of see that customer starting to feel more confident to try something more trend-forward.”
But to see what is truly unique about the Kendra Scott brand, you’ve got to delve deeper, beyond the jewelry, beyond Scott’s perfectly manicured fingernails and beauty-pageant looks. The Kendra Scott brand is one that not only appeals to women but is actually for women in its very DNA. Scott estimates that 97 to 98 percent of her staff are women (though she mentions they are looking to add more men) and has created a corporate culture to match. “The products we design are geared toward women, what we do is geared toward women, the philanthropic activities that we do, a lot of times, are geared toward women and children,” Scott said. “So I think it just automatically draws women to our organization.”
A sampling of Kendra Scott jewelry. (Photo: Instagram)
Kendra Scott’s headquarters are, simply put, beautiful. It looks more like it could be someone’s very nice, large, sunny apartment than a place of business. Behind the reception desk is a wall made entirely of agate stones. The custom light fixtures in the office are dripping with stones and metals they use to create their products. There is a room full of snacks, options from floor to ceiling. If an employee has a chipped manicure (or a bad day), she can mosey on over to the on-site nail salon offering complimentary manis and pedis — with the brand’s nail polish options (coming at the end of August) on full display as you walk in. When we visited the offices, we saw two women sitting in the salon, getting their nails done while having a meeting. There is a mother’s room, where moms can freely pump breast milk and store it in the fridge. There is a game room for children to enjoy while their parents are working. You’ll find a wall announcing and celebrating all the new moms in the office. Walking through the headquarters and listening to how Scott runs her label, you get the feeling that this is what it looks like when companies actually invest in women, when they see women’s work and personal lives as an asset and not a hindrance to growth.
“I was a single mom when I started. In the early years of this business, I had to figure out how to not only run a company but keep a company going while keeping my family safe. I put everything I owned up for collateral; I signed my name on every loan. I put it all out there. And a lot of women take a lot of risks, and I’m a mama bear and I’ll do anything to protect my little cubs,” Scott said. “Building this business was, for me, so important because I wanted to be able to create a work environment that supported moms, that supported families, that supported women and to show the world that, yeah, you can do it all and you can do it well, and you can be a thoughtful, giving human being who cares for other people.” Scott’s philosophy directly flies in the face of what we think of as traditional corporate culture, which tends to see women, especially women of childbearing age, as liabilities. Back in 2004, current presidential hopeful Donald Trump told NBC’s Dateline that women getting pregnant is “an inconvenience for a person that is running a business.”
The design lab at Kendra Scott HQ (Photo: Courtesy Kendra Scott)
But Scott’s company and office culture show that this is really not true. “There’s no reason that you can’t have your kids, if they’re not feeling well, you can’t work from home that day. There’s no reason that you should ever miss a recital and not be able to do what you need to do. Women, more than anything I’ve ever seen, know how to multitask, and they can get stuff done. And I just love being around that; I love the energy of seeing that.” The Kendra Scott brand has seen tremendous growth over the past five years, a 10,000 percent increase. It did $160 million in sales in the 2015 fiscal year, which is up from $74.8 million in 2014 — which is quite a jump from the $1.7 million it did just four years before that. Guess all the pregnancies at the Kendra Scott office hasn’t been such an inconvenience after all.
The Nail Bar at Kendra Scott HQ (Photo: Courtesy Kendra Scott)
With such a distinct corporate culture at her company, Scott says that when she’s hiring people, it’s important that their personalities and values are in line with what the brand stands for. Scott does not accept bullying or mean-spiritedness of any kind among her employees and strives to make her workplace one that is the opposite of dog-eat-dog. “If you’re catty and bratty, bitchy, go work somewhere else,” Scott said frankly. “We’ve created that really amazing environment, where everybody does truly have everyone’s best interest at heart. I always hire culture over qualifications. So, I want somebody who has experience, for sure, but if I’m interviewing somebody, and someone may not have as much experience, but they’ve got the cultural fit and they fit with our heart, and our brand and who we are, what we represent, they’ll get the job over somebody who may have a little bit more experience. And I’ll promise you, they’re gonna end up doing a better job.”
The workout room at Kendra Scott HQ (Photo: Courtesy Kendra Scott)
Scott also promotes a culture that encourages her employees to sustain a healthy work-life balance, which makes sense for the label’s culture. “Our work should be part of the fabric of your life. It shouldn’t be the dominating force in your life. It should be part of what makes your life a wonderful life. You should have a great place to work, a place that you’re passionate and excited about getting up to go to every morning, that’s supportive. You should have that time with your family … you should have time with your friends. You should have time to take care of your health and your well-being. And if all of those things in your wheel of life are not equal, your wheel when it turns is gonna go flat. So you need all those things to be equal, and I think if employers understood that more, that you give the other parts of the person’s life fulfillment, that they’re gonna be full in their work life too, because they’re gonna give it their all.”