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Austin’s own Kendra Scott offers advice to UT grads

Austin’s own Kendra Scott was this year’s commencement speaker for the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas – and she had plenty of advice for graduates.

Scott started her jewelry business in a spare bedroom at her Austin home in 2002. Today, it has grown into a billion-dollar entity with more than 70 stores and 2,000-plus employees.

Scott has made philanthropy a priority at Kendra Scott LLC, with the company giving back an estimated $5 million last year alone.

Here’s some of what the entrepreneur had to say in her speech:

Women in business today: “Today, we are shining a light that’s badly needed on things that hold women back and though change won’t happen overnight, in your lifetimes, it will get better. All of you will make it better because everyone here today recognizes that all of us, regardless of race or gender or anything else, deserve a shot. Everyone should have the same chances and no one believes that more fiercely than men do for their daughters, their friends, their sisters and their wives.”

Listening: “Listen to those around you. It is the foundation of kindness, of generosity, and it will make you a better leader, a better colleague, a better spouse, a better friend and better at your chosen profession…If you don’t stop and listen to the people around you, you’ll miss the advice about where to find your parachute. You’ll miss out on support, information and inspiration. You’ll miss the chance to be generous to someone who in turn will be generous to you, when you need it most. And most importantly, you’ll miss opportunities to be kind.”

Core values and success: “I built the Kendra Scott brand on three core pillars: family, fashion and philanthropy. These pillars have been my North Star through every phase of my business, and together, they add up to something far greater than the sum of their parts because we create more than beautiful jewelry. We create joy: by being family-friendly for our wonderful team, by focusing on products that make people happy – both in the building and in the owning – and by being committed to good causes.

“Kendra Scott runs by the sister/brother rule and I challenge each of you to do the same. Support each other, lean on each other, and learn from each other – together, you will be stronger. You will have more joy in your own days and you will create more joy for the people around you. That is success.”

Brand and authenticity: “Today, culture IS brand and that synthesis will only grow stronger in years to come. Brands must be authentic because there are very few veils left between a business and the public. In decades past, a company had a public face and then there was what happened behind closed doors. That’s the old way of doing business and those days are gone…Everything is on the record, all the time.”

Adapting to change: “No other generation in human history is likely to see a level of transformation as profound as the changes you will experience – and even lead – in technology, science, business, government and life…You must learn to pivot quickly and adjust to what’s happening around you, and to sometimes let go of your ideas of how things should be or what you want. Because there may be something even better in store, something that will light you up and keep you passionately committed for years to come. And occasionally, you must learn to fall flat on your face.”

Overcoming failure: “No matter how hard I worked on my first business, it just wouldn’t take off. I lost all my savings and I felt as though I’d let my family down. Eventually, I started over, with $500, building Kendra Scott out of my spare bedroom. Along the way, people joined me who are still with me years later, like family, because that’s how I believe business is done best. Today, together, we are a billion dollar business.”

Using failure to fuel success: “Failure is a gift and it becomes a bridge to the next thing, a better thing, the thing that works. Don’t expect a life without challenge and heartbreak and struggles. You have to go through setbacks to be successful and to become the person you want to be.”

Persistence: “In those early days of Kendra Scott, I heard a lot of ‘no’s’ before getting my foot and my jewelry in the door of leading retailers. But failure wasn’t an option. I had to keep pushing and I didn’t let the ‘no’s’ knock me off course.”

Life’s curveballs: “Adapt. Be agile. Change is constant, whether you like it or not. Catch the curveballs. Have fun doing it. And don’t worry too much about the ones you drop. It happens to the best of us. And it gives someone else a chance to lift you up.”

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