Jewelry Mogul Kendra Scott Joins America’s Richest Self-Made Women List
This story appeared in the June 13, 2017 issue of Forbes.
When Kendra Scott decided to launch a jewelry collection in 2002, she was coming off a stinging failure. She had just shut down her unprofitable hat shop in Austin, Texas, which she had started eight years earlier at the age of 19. But while the hats didn’t sell, she’d noticed her bold handmade earrings and necklaces did.
“I loved color gemstone jewelry, and I couldn’t really find jewelry I could afford,” says Scott, now 43. “Everyone was using the same-shaped stones. I really felt like there was white space in the industry.”
Thankfully, many hundreds of thousands of women agreed. In 15 years, Kendra Scott has grown her eponymous firm from a wholesale business run out of her spare bedroom to a chain of 60 stores, mostly in Texas, California and Florida, and over 2,000 employees. Its estimated 2016 revenues were $160 million.
Much of the firm’s explosive growth has been thanks to its in-store Color Bars, where women can customize their own pieces. Shoppers select the style, the metal and any of the bright, pristinely-cut gemstones that have become synonymous with the brand.
The pieces are ready within minutes and are affordably priced. A pair of the company’s most popular oval-shaped drop earrings in a rich purple jade surrounded by rose-gold-plated brass retails for $65.
In December 2016, Boston private equity firm Berkshire Partners acquired a minority stake in a deal that valued the company at $1 billion, according to sources with knowledge of the transaction.
That makes Scott’s stake worth at least $500 million, enough for her to rank number 36 among America’s Richest Self-Made Women. She joins fellow fashion jeweler Carolyn Rafaelian of bangle brand Alex and Anion this year’s list.
With its recent infusion of capital, the company plans to open new stores in regions where it hasn’t had much traction to date, like the Northeast.
Scott has also started selling homewares and other accessories — think picture frames and jewelry boxes — as well as $16 bottles of nail polish with names like Dusty Rose Quartz and White Pearl.
Back when Scott was agonizing over opening her first store, she could never have foreseen this sort of success. “I had loans. I put everything up for collateral,” she says. “It wasn’t easy. But it makes it that much more unbelievable.”
Clare O’Connor , FORBES STAFF
Be sure to check out Susan Gibson-Grafe’s bold and beautiful jewelry at https://gibsongrafe.com