Kendra Scott Pays it Forward at Jaclyn Johnson's WorkParty Event in Austin, Texas.
I looked her dead in the eye and said, “what you’re doing is really important.”
The two had just finished an interview and Q&A session, and the event was nearing close. Jaclyn, host and author of the book, was thoughtfully signing copies for a line of adoring fans, while Kendra Scott, the famous Austin jewelry designer, grabbed her stylish leather coat to head for the door. On the way out Kendra stopped to speak with an event goer.
Slowly a line started to form...and grow until it snaked its way to the back of the room. I’m not really sure it was in the plan for Kendra to stay and take photos and talk with fans after the event, but I noticed she slyly slipped off her jacket and handed it off to someone nearby. She was going to stay and talk to every single person in line.
I loved her even more in that moment.
“As women when we hold hands we are so much stronger,” Kendra said to the crowd as the meet-up kicked off. She was addressing the current women’s movement and her personal journey thus far. Her company is now valued at over one billion dollars and getting there wasn’t easy. If you’re a Kendra Scott fan, you probably know how she got her start, but one story she told of how her business found an unexpected break had me floored.
It was 2006 and Kendra Scott had made it into Nordstrom with her jewelry designs, but she’d recently been told they wouldn’t be moving forward with more orders…she was terrified to tell her small, hard working team of 7 the news. But luckily the phone rang, and on the other end a woman said, “this is Oscar de la Renta’s office calling for Kendra Scott.”
She thought it was a joke.
Only after seeing the New York area code did she really believe the call was real. He wanted to meet with Kendra. No time wasted, Kendra gathered up her samples and took the big apple. She had to make this happen. Her business (and her young family) depended on it.
Once she arrived at his office, she described a fashion show like runway lined with desks on either side, and at the end of it in the center was the designer himself...pinning a dress on the Naomi Campbell.
“Cement filled my shoes,” She said.
But she mustered the courage to walk down the runway as the designer politely shoved Namoi aside and greeted Kendra. The famous designer had seen one of Kendra’s pieces on one of his interns, and thought it was perfect for their upcoming fashion show. He wanted samples in 72 hours. As they neared the end of their meeting, de la Renta commented on Kendra’s southern charm, “we have a lady in our sights today.”
“I think I even bowed,” Kendra laughed, as she recounted the event. But before she exited the runaway she sincerely asked, “Mr. de la Renta, do you have any advice for a young designer like myself?” More than an hour later she was still there talking with him. He said that very few people had asked for his advice and he was happy to give it.
Kendra made her way back to the office where they completed the samples, and wouldn’t ya know it — 47 of her pieces made it on the runway, and after Nordstrom got wind of course they wanted to carry her line again.
Her story is one of true success, and she’s built her business in a way that serves it’s employees, customers and philanthropy selflessly. She now proudly employs over 2,000 people, 95% of them women, and spends a lot of her time at events like these, supporting amazing women with a vision like Jaclyn. She’s truly invested in telling her story and doing what she can to help women create their own success — and now she’s the one who’s passing on priceless advice to young women on the rise.
The line moved slowly as she took her time with each person. I felt a little guilty keeping her, but I couldn’t help but step into the last spot in line. When it was finally my turn I wasn’t sure what to say...but my heart did the talking for me; I looked her dead in the eye and said, “what you’re doing is really important. Every conversation you’re having is so very appreciated.” She looked back at me, smiled and said, “Thank you for saying that.”
I left the event with a signed copy of WorkParty and learned it's never a bad idea to ask for advice
Thank you, Jaclyn and Kendra, for being the role models and mentors women are looking for — you’re real gems.