Kendra Scott launches UT program designed to empower future women entrepreneurs


AUSTIN (KXAN) — Kendra Scott and The University of Texas at Austin announced Tuesday the launch of the new Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute (WEL) at UT Austin.

Kendra Scott announces Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute (Photo: Yoojn Cho/KXAN

WEL “aims to create a pipeline of courageous, creative female leaders who will change the world,” according to the news release. Scott started her jewelry company in 2002, and Austin remains home to her flagship store and design studio headquarters.

“We really want to teach the entrepreneur mindset,” Scott told KXAN. “It’s not just about owning a business. It’s about taking control of your own success and having the perseverance to jump over the obstacles that come your way.”

The institute will be at UT’s College of Fine Arts. Jan Ryan, Executive Director of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at CFA said. “It was very important that we listen to the students and what they wanted, and what they told us is that they need concrete, real equipping. They need to find ways to increase their confidence.”

She said WEL will be able to empower young women before they graduate and join the workforce. “In general, women entrepreneurs are, right now, in a true area of growth, so they need a lot more mentoring,” Ryan said. “They need funding, obviously, but even before funding, they need to be equipped to know what they actually need. They need inspiration.”

Students will be able to take classes at the institute, but Ryan explained, it’ll also serve as a resource center for everyone interested in business. They’ll host workshops and speaker events.

Scott said when she first started her business, “It took 10 years to get funding. I did it on lines of credit, credit card debt,” she explained. “It was very difficult to get taken seriously. I’ve walked into board rooms where nobody looked like me.”

She’s hoping the new institute will change that for the next generation. According to Seek Business Capital, about one third of startups in Austin-Round Rock are women-owned.

UT Austin senior Cami Gee said, “[Scott] is such a powerhouse. She built her own empire, and she always is encouraging other people to do what they want, so I think it’s really important for women to be able to have this sort of lifelong connections they can make in this program.”

Photo: Yoojin Cho/KXAN

The institute will be open to all students in Spring 2020 and serve as a central hub for programming such as:

  • A women’s leadership workshop series with industry leaders hosted by the Blackstone LaunchPad at UT Austin
  • A women’s leadership summit
  • UT’s McCombs School of Business will offer a Kendra Scott Fashion & Lifestyle Entrepreneurship practicum
  • UT’s College of Natural Sciences will offer an experiential accessories design and marketing course
  • Internship program
  • Campus wide funding opportunities

Other entrepreneurship and leadership programs at UT

UT Austin is already home to several programs and classes that teach entrepreneurship and leadership.

One example of an existing program is the Longhorn Startup, which launched in 2011.

About 2,000 students have participated, and according to UT, about 40% of the students that enroll are women. About two dozens startups have gone on to raise more than $50 million in funding.

Ryan explained, the new WEL is open to both men and women, but the programming will have a laser focus on educating future female entrepreneurs.

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