Kendra Scott Announces Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute at UT Austin
The superstar CEO wants to share her knowledge and experience with female students
by Vanessa Blankenship
Photographs by Rick Kern/Getty Images
Kendra Scott, who was named one of America’s Richest Self-Made Women by Forbes, knows the struggles of being a female entrepreneur in the male-dominated business world. In 2002 with only $500, the CEO of her namesake company launched what would become a billion-dollar jewelry empire in a spare bedroom while raising a newborn baby in Austin.
“Did you know in 2018, only 17 percent of venture-backed businesses were female founded?” Scott asked a crowd of hundreds on Austin’s University of Texas campus on Tuesday. “That’s not right, and were going to change that, and were going to change it right here.”
During a campus kick-off event at Bass Concert Hall, Scott revealed plans to share her entrepreneurial knowledge and experience with students who want to become influential leaders. Starting in spring 2020, students can enroll in a new program on campus: The Kendra Scott Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute (WEL).
Scott said the mission of the institute is to strengthen the next generation of courageous, creative female leaders not only in business, but across all areas of study.
The program will give students the opportunity to attend a series of speaker events, participate in an internship program, a women’s summit, a leadership workshop as well as training and mentoring, college courses and more.
“And watch out folks, because the people we are bringing right here to Austin, Texas, is going to blow the world’s mind,” Scott says of expected speakers and guests. “All of this will be a resource for these incredible students here at UT and beyond.”
Scott was joined on stage by UT’s Executive Vice President Maurie McInnis, actress Freida Pinto and former Bachelorette star Rachel Lindsey. The panel of influential women talked about learning from failure, leadership and having an entrepreneurial mindset.
“Nothing like this existed when I was here that allowed you to be creative when you didn’t necessarily get that support at home,” UT alumna Lindsey said after the panel. “You know I was told exactly what to do and how to do it and that’s the path that I followed. But if I had someone – maybe a home away from home – that was encouraging me to tap into my creativity, to be who I want to be and to define my own path, maybe I wouldn’t have had to go on reality TV to figure it out.”
The attendees – a huge crowd of mostly energetic college women – were given a surprise mini-concert by country music star Cam who performed songs from her upcoming album.
Scott described Austin as “part of the DNA of Kendra Scott,” in part because 49 UT graduates currently work at Kendra Scott corporate headquarters in Austin. Also, several former interns, who helped grow Scott’s company in its early days while attending classes at UT, now hold vice president positions in the company.
She added that owning a business is not what makes you an entrepreneur, it’s the will to take control of your future and define your own success. “I saw how amazing these women were and how hungry they were to be successful,” Scott says. “I knew that the dynamic energy [of] the University of Texas … is part of the magic of Austin, Texas.”