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Connection Before Transaction: Kendra Scott on How Entrepreneurs Can Succeed

Written by: Ezzah Rafique

When her stepfather was diagnosed with brain cancer, Kendra Scott’s life took an unexpected turn. Strapping into her entrepreneurial spirit at a young age, Scott launched her first business venture, The Hat Box, with dreams of building a multi-unit or billion-dollar brand. Despite her determination and passion, the business ultimately failed after five years. In a captivating session at South by Southwest (SXSW), Kendra Scott, the visionary founder, executive chairwoman, and chief creative officer of the eponymous jewelry and accessories brand, shared her remarkable entrepreneurial journey. From humble beginnings to building a billion-dollar brand, Scott's story is a testament to resilience, authenticity, and the power of human connection in business.

Kendra Scott's entrepreneurial spirit ignited at a young age, sparked by her early experiences working in fashion retail. Inspired by her fashion-director aunt, Scott discovered the transformative power of fashion and its ability to empower individuals. However, after the failure of The Hat Box, Scott faced a period of difficulty and self-doubt. Reflecting on this experience as her "masters in the School of Hard Knocks," Scott learned invaluable lessons in resilience and perseverance. She emphasizes the importance of embracing failure as a catalyst for growth and remaining committed to one's dreams despite challenges. Inspired by her stepfather's words to push through fear, she found the courage to embark on a new venture—creating her jewelry line, Kendra Scott Jewelry. Despite initial hesitations and fears of failure, Scott's unique designs and commitment to exceptional customer service set her apart in the competitive retail landscape.

Scott began creating custom, handmade jewelry and selling to her friends and family before starting to sell to wholesale departments, like Nordstrom Rack. As her jewelry brand gained momentum, Scott recognized the importance of staying true to her unique identity as an entrepreneur. She differentiated herself in the market by providing affordable luxury jewelry that resonated with consumers. By focusing on semi-precious stones and having an interactive design element in all of her stores, Scott filled a gap in the market and cultivated a loyal customer base. Her business’ demographics were surrounding “customer types, not ages.”

“When we need something we can’t find, finding the solution might be what others also want” – Kendra Scott on how creating a new design element to jewelry made her business grow and stand out.

From listening to customers' needs by jumping on customer support calls to building a supportive network of believers, she highlights the transformative impact of genuine connections. Scott's commitment to giving back to the community further underscores her belief in the importance of fostering meaningful relationships in business and beyond.

Scott showed a remarkable ability to adjust to shifting conditions and customer preferences as her business grew. She switched from a wholesale to a direct sales business model, embracing e-commerce and creating retail locations with creative ideas like the Color Bar, which offers personalized jewelry experiences. Scott has maintained her brand growth and innovation by remaining aware of consumer preferences and market trends.

“Foster connection before transaction” – Kendra Scott on the element that helped her garner her clientele and create a loyal customer base.

As an entrepreneur, Scott emphasizes the importance of her core values in terms of leading a global brand. The way she measures success comes from measuring how you can impact others. Scott's emphasis on exceptional customer service and creating products that resonate with consumers highlights the importance of prioritizing customer satisfaction and building meaningful relationships. Her relationship with her customers sets her apart from her competitors, making her highly focused on providing her best for those who believe in her mission.

Scott's story encourages aspiring business owners to stick to their distinct vision, accept adversity as a necessary step on the path to success, and forge deep connections along the way—from overcoming failure to creating a billion-dollar brand.

“Do what you can, when you can” - Kendra Scott describing her big core business value


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