Students at The University of Texas at Austin will have the opportunity to learn about entrepreneurship from the founder of one of the most recognized brands in Texas. Entrepreneur and designer Kendra Scott, founder and CEO of Kendra Scott, LLC., will co-teach Women in Entrepreneurship in a new faculty appointment as a professor of practice in the College of Fine Arts. Scott will lead the course alongside Jan Ryan, professor of practice and executive director of the Center for Creative Entrepreneurship.
Scott joins the faculty after partnering with UT Austin to create the Kendra Scott Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership (WEL) Institute in 2019. In addition to a curriculum and speaker series that launched in spring 2020, the WEL Institute is slated to open a new student center space on the first floor of the Doty Fine Arts Building this fall.
The new three-credit course class is designed to provide hands-on, tangible tools to equip and empower female entrepreneurs. With a blend of lectures, experiential exercises and guest speakers, the class will immerse students in the core tenets of creating a new business, will expose the obstacles and challenges women face in contemporary society and will offer strategies to overcome them. Like all of the WEL Institute’s courses, this class is available to all schools and majors within UT Austin.
“I’m honored to join the university as a professor of practice, and am so excited for the opportunity to work directly with this next generation of courageous leaders,” Scott said. “We’ve seen a real hunger for programming and classes that lift up and support aspiring female entrepreneurs, and I am eager to further our work with the WEL Institute by bringing my own experience and expertise to the classroom.”
Scott started her company with only $500 out of her spare bedroom in 2002, just three months after her first son was born. Her commitment to innovation, quality and detail has brought her from a small startup to a billion-dollar brand that has won over loyal fans, media and celebrities alike. With more than 2,000 employees, the company boasts a thriving web business and more than 100 stand-alone stores, and it has expanded beyond fashion jewelry into fine jewelry, home décor and beauty products.
The Women in Entrepreneurship class will have a specific focus on the female founder’s unique perspective and is targeted at students who are interested in starting their own company or simply pursuing an understanding of the entrepreneurial mindset. The class aims to confront common gender biases and conditioning, provide actionable advice in the face of the roadblocks women face and empower students to see larger possibilities for their career.
In the class, students will hear from Scott and her executive team members who lead the company’s marketing, eCommerce, innovation and philanthropy departments, and students will have the opportunity to move beyond theoretical concepts and practical real-world examples of decision-making and problem solving.
“Uniquely, this class will allow us to offer a ‘live’ case study of one of the most innovative brands in retail today,” Ryan said. “We want students in this class to walk away with the tools they need to feel empowered to take control of their careers.”
The course will be open to 30 students, who were admitted to the class through an application process in the spring. Though the course was originally planned to be taught onsite at the Kendra Scott headquarters, it is moving to an online model in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The course is sponsored by the Kendra Scott Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute, which was created last year to address the barriers that women may face in business — whether cultural, financial or personal. The WEL Institute works to break down those barriers and clear the path for students by building community and creating connections; equipping students with hands-on tools, skills and experience; and empowering students to become leaders through speakers, role models, visibility, representation and celebration of success.
“On this 100-year anniversary of the 19th Amendment, The University of Texas at Austin is pushing against boundaries to women as entrepreneurs in the world of startups, venture capital and corporate leadership,” said College of Fine Arts Dean Doug Dempster. “And Kendra Scott is leading the way!”