Designer Kendra Scott on Why Giving Back is More Than Writing a Check

"We all have the power to leave this world better than we found it."

Photo courtesy of Kendra Scott
Photo courtesy of Kendra Scott

There’s a memory that comes to mind when I think of the early years of my jewelry business. There were only about 10 of us working in a tiny, cramped office space, and we were frantically working to get a huge jewelry order out on time. We were running around, tumbling over each other, smashing into boxes at every turn. I could feel the panic in the air, and that’s when I yelled out — as I often did during these stressful moments — “Everybody calm down, we’re not curing cancer here! We’re just selling jewelry. It’s all gonna be okay.”

Recently, as I walked through the research lab at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, this memory came to mind. I listened in awe as Dr. Suzanne Fuqua, one of the world’s leading breast cancer researchers, discussed the advancements she and her team make every day in the fight against cancer. She said that in our lifetime, breast cancer could become a manageable disease that women no longer die from. And how our research grant, which my brand donated in loving memory of my best friend Holley, has given them the critical support they need to get one step closer to that goal.

That’s when it hit me. Yes, we sell jewelry. But our purpose at Kendra Scott is found in doing good. And while I once said that we weren’t curing cancer, I can now say that we might be making a very real impact in the fight against it.

Growing up in the Midwest, I was raised to believe that giving back is more than a kindness: it’s a responsibility. I was taught to find a way to help anyone who needed it — whether it was a friend, a neighbor, or a stranger. When I started my jewelry business in 2002, I made a commitment to keep that same philosophy at heart: Whoever comes to me asking for help, I will always have something to give.

Since we began tracking our giveback numbers in 2010, the Kendra Scott brand has given back over $30 million to thousands of impactful causes across the country. And this October alone, we are giving $400,000 to support breast cancer research and awareness, including our BCRF research grant that, for the second year, will support Dr. Fuqua’s research.

Philanthropy is at the core of who I am and is the core of my business; I have worked hard to integrate it into our brand and culture. To me, that means so much more than writing checks. I believe in the importance of showing up for your community, and I empower our employees to do the same. Every Kendra Scott employee is granted two philanthropic PTO days to go out into their communities and give back. The company and individuals contribute to our Family Fund, which supports our employees in the case of emergency or tragedy. And our grassroots giving program, Kendra Gives Back, has hosted more than 12,000 events in our stores to support local causes that matter to our communities. 

Today, I can see the measurable impact we’re able to make because of our company’s success — but for years after I started, I struggled with the same negative thought: Is what I’m doing making a difference at all? No matter how much I gave, it all felt too small. A few dollars here, a donated piece of jewelry there, a few hours of volunteer work on a weekend. 

Too often people believe that they have to reach success before they can give back. But it’s important to recognize that every step in a positive direction makes a difference. I believe when you commit to doing good, roll up your sleeves, and get involved with your community, you will get so much more out of it than you could ever give. 

We all have the power to leave this world better than we found it. All it takes is a small step in the right direction.

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