Kendra Scott on retail: ‘The minute that you become complacent you’re going to fail’

PHOTO: Jewelry Designer Kendra Scott attends 21st Annual Ace Awards at Cipriani, Aug. 7, 2017, in New York.Sean Zanni/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images
Jewelry Designer Kendra Scott attends 21st Annual Ace Awards at Cipriani, Aug. 7, 2017, in New York.

When Kendra Scott’s first hat shop business closed its doors five years after it launched, she vowed that she’d never venture into retail again. A few years later, she’s founded what has now turned into a billion dollar jewelry brand set to have 90 stores by the end of the year.

“Never say never,” Scott said.

On an episode of ABC Radio’s “No Limits with Rebecca Jarvis”, Scott told Rebecca Jarvis, the chief business, technology, and economics correspondent for ABC News, that she knew she had three options when her first business failed. The first was to feel sorry for herself, the second was to get a “regular” job despite her dreams of being an entrepreneur, and the third option was to build another business from scratch.

“You want this," Scott said of what she recalled thinking at the time. "So are you going to go back and have the guts to try to do it, again, or are you going to just stay safe? And I decided to try again. And Kendra Scott was born.”

It began with $500 as Scott worked out of her extra bedroom designing unique pieces of jewelry with her newborn son by her side. For Scott, her family came first even as her jewelry business grew large enough to open its very first storefront just eight years after it began.

“In the very beginning, it was three priorities," she said. "I wanted to be a mom so family was incredibly important to me. I wanted to be in fashion which I dreamt of doing and I wanted to give back to my community.”

Scott’s store opened only two years after the 2008 recession and she distinctly remembers how stores around her were closing their doors one by one. As her surroundings gradually turned into a “ghost town,” Scott decided to do it differently and instead get radical with retail.

“For us in a time when everybody was shuttering, I thought let’s do something," she said. "Let’s try to open a store so that I can learn from my customer because I hadn’t been able to talk to her directly.”

From then on, Scott sought to engage with her customers on an interpersonal level by making sure her product was freely displayed for customers to touch, try on, and customize right there in the store.

“You have to engage with your customer, excite them, have reasons for them to come in," Scott told Jarvis. "And you also have to be able to connect with her or him in a meaningful way.” Adding, “The minute that you become complacent you’re going to fail.”

Scott has come a long way from her first store as she told Jarvis that while she heard a lot of encouraging voices, she also heard from a lot of naysayers along the way. But hearing the word “no” instead gave Scott the fuel to build the Kendra Scott brand into what it’s become today.

“I think that’s so important for anybody to remember that you can hear a lot of voices of nos. I always say that 'no' in a mirror is 'on.' So, to me, we’re just talking,” she said.

Hear more from Kendra Scott on the newest episode of the "No Limits with Rebecca Jarvis" podcast.