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Billion-dollar business: Forbes names Kendra Scott on list of 'Richest Self-Made Women'

Posted at 7:37 AM, Oct 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-09 08:37:39-04

Kendra Scott is the founder and CEO of the Austin, Texas-based jewelry company that bears her name, but she's actually a native of Kenosha.

Scott ranked ahead of Vera Wang, Kim Kardashian West and Beyonce on Forbes' recently released list of "Richest Self-Made Women."

Scott, who recently was in town for TEMPO Milwaukee's leadership event, credits her Wisconsin roots for helping her succeed.

The Elisa necklace is the No. 1 seller in the country for Kendra Scott. If you haven't heard of her, you've probably seen people wearing her jewelry.

The designer, known for her pieces in bright colors and unique shapes, has taken the world of jewelry by storm.

TODAY'S TMJ4 Anchor Susan Kim asked her, "When you think your company is valued at a billion dollars, what does that do to you?"

"When you start like I did, never in a million years would I think I would be where I am today," Scott said. "But now I think we've just scratched the surface."

Scott started in 2002 with $500, working out of her home in Austin. She had taken some jewelry-making classes and was also a new mom.

With her baby in a carrier and her jewelry in a wooden tea box, Scott went to stores and door-to-door, started selling her jewelry.

Scott said she often jokes that she doesn't know if people bought her jewelry because they like it, or because they just felt sorry for her.

She said one store turned into 10 and 10 into 20 until Nordstrom signed on.

There were a lot of ups and downs along the way. Now her jewelry is in major department stores.

She also has 101 standalone stores, including one at The Corners of Brookfield, her first in Wisconsin. There is also a Kendra Scott store in Madison.

"When you start like I did, never in a million years would I think I would be where I am today. But now I think we've just scratched the surface." — Kendra Scott

What people may not know is that Scott has deep roots in Wisconsin. She was born in Kenosha at St. Catherine's Hospital. She went to Tremper High School and has good memories from her time here.

A favorite memory spawned her love of fashion: time spent with her Aunt JoAnn, who was a fashion director at the old Gimbels Department store in Milwaukee.

"She had an amazing apartment on Wahl, and I would go into her closet and it was magic. She had all these clothes from amazing places like Milan and Paris," Scott said.

She moved to Austin when she was 16, but still has a lot of family in the Kenosha area and visits often with her three children.

"I enjoy it so much, and I love bringing my children back here to visit."

She said "The Spot" is her must go-to place when she visits.

Scott added that her, "hardworking values come from the Midwest. There's a level of kindness and compassion that people here have, and I'm just thankful that I had that, growing up here."

Scott lost her stepfather to brain cancer when she was starting her company, and he reminded her to do good with her gifts.

So "family, fashion and philanthropy" are the company's core values. The Kendra Scott Company donates more than $5 million a year to local and national causes through its "Kendra Gives Back" program.

Scott said she stays in touch with her customers daily through store visits and talking to them about what they want, what they like and what they would like to see more of. She also said she reads every single Instagram comment so she can continue to learn more about her customers' wants and needs.

Scott also has advice for other women who would like to open a business of their own: