Kendra Scott, the eponymous jewelry brand, may have 2000-some employees, 90-plus retail stores and a valuation topping $1 billion, but when the Austin-based designer launched the company in 2002 she was merely looking to do the work she loved and pay the bills.
For a time, even that was a struggle, said Scott, speaking at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Next Gen conference in Laguna Niguel, Calif., Wednesday morning.
“It was totally fake it till you make it,” she explained. For years, Scott worked out of her attic and lived, with her two young sons, on a food budget of $200 a week. Her mom Janet was one of her employees, a reliable and versatile team member who pitched in however she could. One day, as Scott was tagging jewelry on her dining room table, she got a call from Nordstrom asking for her shipping and receiving department. Scott didn’t have such a thing (beyond the dining room table). She called for her mom, who picked up the phone and acted the part.
Since then, Scott has grown her team (though her mom and her six other original employees remain) and taken on investors, including Berkshire Partners, a move she noted that she may have been better off for doing sooner. Having investors, said Scott, helped reduce the pressure she felt as an entrepreneur in that she finally had people to share the burden of decision-making with.
While her business is much larger and thriving, Scott said her values—“culture is your brand” and “hire with your heart”—have remained the same and are key to her company’s success.