December 2017Amid rapid expansion, Austin jewelry chain founder named Austin Business Journal’s CEO of the Year
Kendra Scott has designs on a legacy brand
December 21, 2017 - For Kendra Scott, the Austinite whose jewelry products are finding a footing on the world stage, any thoughts of the difficulties and layoffs her company faced nearly a decade ago during the Great Recession are long gone.
Indeed, the past two years alone have pushed Kendra Scott LLC into legacy brand territory.
Since the end of 2015, the company has nearly doubled its retail stores to 73 — having recently opened its first outlet in England — while nearly quadrupling its total number of employees to 2,000. What’s more, a major cash infusion was finalized a year ago from Berkshire Partners LLC.
Meanwhile, Scott has plans to nearly double the headcount amid a major expansion at her company headquarters building on North Lamar to 300 by the end of 2018 — having only opened that space in early 2016. The company also operates a 64,800-square-foot distribution hub on E. Stassney Lane.
This year also brought a prestigious personal achievement for Scott, when she was named a national Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year winner in November.
Scott has an additional honor to add to her legacy, as Austin Business Journal’s pick as CEO of the Year for 2017.
In an interview with ABJ, Scott said she is still humbled by the immense success her company has achieved since starting the business out of her home in 2002. The growth her company has sustained, she said, has been due to the buy-in from all of her employees on its core values and mission: family, fashion and philanthropy.
“The biggest challenge as you grow, from two to seven to 50 people, is to make sure you hire people who share our culture and the value of [being a] family,” she said. “I’ve never seen anything like it, to feel how passionate our employees are every day. The challenge is to really figure out how to retain that, so we have an extreme interviewing process. We never just hire on experience.”
Filling out C-suite team
A major focus for Scott in the past six years has been to flesh out her management team and better position the company to scale up operations.
Chief Operating Officer Lon Weingart came on board in 2011, while Chief Financial Officer Brian Kelly was added in 2013. Tom Nolan, who joined the company’s board in 2014, has transitioned in the past year into a pair of roles as chief marketing and revenue officer. Nolan had founded Prospect Brands in 2012, which acquired men’s apparel maker Duck Head in 2013.
Scott said she is now looking for a chief information officer to round out the C-suite. The company currently has some 136 job openings nationwide posted on its website, including a vice president of information technology based in Austin.
“When your business is bigger every day than the night before, you need great mentors around you; people I respect. I don’t act like I know everything. They’re great at things I’m not great at,” she said.
Two more stores are expected to open early in 2018: one in Jacksonville, Florida, in January, and one in Corpus Christi in South Texas in February.
Though the company didn’t disclose current revenue numbers, Weingart told ABJ in a previous interview that sales reached $75 million in 2014.
One of the biggest parts of the company’s corporate puzzle was filled in at the end of 2016, Scott said, when Berkshire Partners LLC came on board with a minority equity investment that pushed the valuation of the business into unicorn territory at over $1 billion.
“We were at the point where we wanted to bring in a partner with a wealth of knowledge [in retail] to bring us to the next level. They have great experience in fashion and consumer products and understood the DNA of our brand,” Scott said.
But another reason Scott brought in other C-level executives was to ensure that she could keep her sleeves rolled up contributing to the part of the business that still bears her stamp: the jewelry designs. Even today as the day-to-day pace of the company has ratcheted up several notches, Scott says she has the final say on anything her customers will touch.
“Design for me is my escape. I have a talented design team and some of them have been with me for 13 years, so we share the same brain. We really understand the flow [of ideas] within each other,” she said.
Source: Austin Business Journal
Title: Amid rapid expansion, Austin jewelry chain founder named Austin Business Journal's CEO of the YearDate Published: December 21. 2017
Date Accessed: January 3, 2018