Leading fashion accessories brand, Kendra Scott stands on three core pillars; family; fashion; and philanthropy.
The company was built on founder Kendra Scott’s passion for fashion and drive to support her family. In an interview with NPR, Kendra describes the day she started the company, her newborn son in tow, walking the streets of Austin selling jewelry from store to store. The ethos of supporting working mothers was ingrained in the company early on as Kendra would bring her two children to work with her in her small attic office. As Kendra Scott grew, childcare services and support for employees as parents grew with it. “Yes, we make beautiful jewelry,” says Beth Ley, Sr. Director of Total Rewards at Kendra Scott, “but we do it so we can support our employees, their families, and our community.”
This importance of family is a core value of the company, evident in everything they do and modeled from the top down. “Kendra comes to work every day as a mom. It’s not a switch you can flip on and off and she doesn’t expect any of us to do that,” says Beth. “Kendra has told us, ‘If my kid calls in the middle of this meeting, I’m going to answer it. I’d expect the same of any of you.’ She leads by example.”
Kendra Scott offers extensive benefits to help all employees balance family and work—it’s difficult to list them all. The company headquarters, located in Austin, Texas, includes three lactation rooms and a room for children to play while their parents are in meetings. Kendra Scott offers 12 weeks paid parental leave, fertility and adoption assistance, and recently rolled out flexible work schedules in the last year. This schedule also includes the extension of the Summer Fridays program, where employees have the option of working half days in the office on Fridays and remotely for the remainder of the day. According to Beth, “Having the ability to know you won’t be scheduled for meetings or having someone stop by your desk looking for you on Friday afternoons makes a huge difference for my work-life balance. I could not do what I’m doing right now at any other company. Here I’m allowed to put my daughter first and still excel in my work.”
Employees take note of these benefits and supports. Kendra Scott sees a 99% return rate for employees after they have a baby. The company offers a “ramp-up” schedule and workload for returning parents, knowing that the transition from full-time caretaking to traditional work is not instantaneous. Not only does Kendra Scott support returning mothers, but it hires soon-to-be mothers. “We have hired a lot of women that are currently pregnant,” says Beth. “They’re not scared to leave their current company during that pivotal time in their life. They’re willing to come to Kendra Scott because they know we will take care of them as a new employee and as a new mother.” The company’s commitment to mothers not only helps them return to work after they have had children but gives them a reason to stay at Kendra Scott longer. According to Kelsey Sullivan, Benefits Specialist, “Since we don’t have to choose career over family, we have higher levels of motivation, engagement, and retention.”
What about taking care of the employees’ individual needs that are impacted by parenthood? Kendra Scott has that covered too. The company has an onsite gym and provides car washes, access to onsite massages, lunch drop-offs, and a manicure and pedicure bar for all headquarter employees. All employees are eligible to apply to Kendra Scott Family Fund, a non-profit where individuals and the company donate to support employees undergoing financial hardship. Through the program, employees have received over $160,000 through tax-free grants of up to $5,000. The company’s newest benefit program is a scholarship fund that assists tuition for employees, their children, or their grandchildren.
In partnership with United Way Greater Austin, Kendra Scott completed the Health Links Family-Friendly Survey in October of this last year. The online survey identifies family-friendly policies and best practices, providing a score and recommendations to identify an organization’s strengths and opportunities for supporting all employees as caregivers. Kelsey noted that “the number of boxes we were able to check in the Family-Friendly Survey made us feel really good, and what we weren’t able to check are things we are actively thinking about.” Looking forward, Kendra Scott would love to establish on-site childcare services for employees, aptly named “Kendragarten.” The company is also pursuing more ways to support employees acting as long-term caregivers for aging parents.
Kendra Scott does not stop at supporting their employees; they want to support all women, children, and families in their community. The third pillar of the company is, after all, philanthropy. According to Beth, “On any given day we could be hosting 30-40 community events. We’re tasked with going out and seeing the need in our community and partnering with local non-profits. We find families with medical crises, host events and give-backs for individuals and their families. We also have larger partnerships with nation-wide non-profits focused on women, health, and children.” Kendra Scott has also recently established the Women in Entrepreneurial Leadership (WEL) Center at the University of Texas, an entire building, including a community center, where women can participate in entrepreneurial pitch sessions and conferences.
Kendra Scott is aware of the misconceptions about how the company’s benefits and flexibility can impact productivity. There is always the fear of giving employees an inch of flexibility and having them take a mile. “Kendra wants us to feel successful both at home and at work,” says Beth. Similarly, “People think employees are going to deprioritize their jobs if you tell them family is first,” says Kelsey. “Telling people to prioritize their family over their job is hard, it requires you to be more efficient at work. There are only so many hours in the day but putting family first doesn’t mean work stops happening.”
To be sure, work has not stopped happening at Kendra Scott. According to Forbes, in December 2016, private equity firm Berkshire Partners invested in Kendra Scott at a valuation of more than $1 billion. With over 100 retail stores and sales in Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdales, Nordstrom, Dillards, and other boutique stores; fashion, family, and philanthropy are paying off in more ways than one.
Written by Laura Veith, Marketing & Communications Coordinator for Health Links and the Center for Health, Work & Environment based at the Colorado School of Public Health.