Speakers on a SXSW Interactive panel called “Building a Philanthropic Fashion Empire: Do Good,” discussed the challenges and rewards of giving back in business.
Callie O’Neill, fashion writer for Marie Claire magazine, sat down with Austin-based jewelry designer Kendra Scott to talk about how philanthropy plays a role in the day-to-day operations of her company.
Scott began her presentation by telling the story of her first business, called The Hat Box, a small hat store in Westlake. She got the idea to start the business after spending time with patients at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston when her stepfather Rob Ricks was diagnosed with brain cancer. Scott wanted to make hats for women undergoing chemotherapy.
“I thought if I could create comfortable headwear for women that were going through this hard time that was fashionable and fun, it could make them feel better about themselves,” Scott said.
As Ricks’ cancer progressed, he had a harder time communicating, Scott said. But during one visit to The Hat Box, he told her “you do good.”
“Those three words have stuck with me through every day of my life,” Scott said.
“You do good” would become the foundation upon which her later, and more successful, business was built, she said.
The Hat Box was “a complete failure” after about five years, Scott said. She closed the store and became a mother. Shortly after, she became interested in jewelry.
In 2002, she founded Kendra Scott Jewelry. The lessons she learned from the failure of The Hat Box were instrumental in teaching her how to manage a successful company.
“It was the greatest gift I could have ever asked for,” Scott said of her first business. “You have to be open for what is coming next.”
Now, Kendra Scott Jewelry operates about 40 stores in 15 states, with plans to expand, Scott said.
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