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How "Homemade Millionaire" Kendra Scott turned failure into a jewel of a success

How "Homemade Millionaire" Kendra Scott turned failure into success

Kendra Scott on cover of Success magazine
Kendra Scott is on the cover of the April issue of Success magazine. Courtesy photo

Kendra Scott is a real success story. The Austin jewelry designer who has three stores in Houston is on the April cover of Success magazine and the subject of an article in which writer Amy Anderson details her visit to Scott's headquarters to learn how she built a multi-million dollar empire.

In "Meet Kendra Scott: Homemade Millionaire," Scott explains how she shut her business in 1998 and sat on the front steps crying in the rain, when the sign in the window magically flipped from "Closed" to "Yes, We Are Open."

“It was a literal sign,” says the 42-year-old designer. “It was a sign! I looked and I just started laughing because I’m like, Is this some kind of joke? But all of a sudden, it was almost like God talking to me: ‘You have to be open.’ ”

“If you look at the struggles in your life, they have all happened because there’s something amazing waiting for you. There is an open window. This moment is going to make you stronger in the future.”

Four years later, she founded Kendra Scott Designs in her spare bedroom. Now it's a multimillion-dollar company with 39 retail locations, nearly 1,000 employees, a new 63,000-square-foot distribution center in Austin, and $150 million in annual revenue, with plans for international expansion, new accessory lines and additional retail locations.

Later this year, the company will move to a state-of-the-art, 43,500-square-foot headquarters, which the magazine describes as "mommy heaven." It is equipped with study rooms for kids who join their parents at work in the afternoons and a room for nursing moms. Other perks include a dog-friendly office policy and free yoga classes.

Scott believes the failure of her first business —  a hat company — prepared her for success because it gave her knowledge and experience about what didn't work and the determination to succeed.

When she opened her first jewelry boutique in Austin, she made sure the shopping experience was fun. She kept cases unlocked and came up with the Color Bar, where customers pick the design and stones they like and watch as their distinctive piece of jewelry is made.

Her first failure also made her determined to add a philanthropic component if she became successful. The stores now host "Kendra Gives Back" events, donating 20 percent of all sales on that day to a charity. Last year, the company gave over $1 million and nearly 50,000 pieces of jewelry to more than 1,500 non-profit organizations.

And she instituted a "sister rule," which dictates everything from the hiring process to customer service policy.

“Yes, we have the policies and procedures in place, but let’s use some common sense and treat folks like family," chief operating officer Lon Weingart tells the magazine. 

"If your sister came in (to the store unhappy about a purchase), what would you do for her? Well, you’d exchange it, or you’d return it, or you’d get her something different. You know what I mean? That’s how you should treat the customer.”