Founding Jewelry Designer Steps Down as CEO – WWD

Kendra Scott has made changes to its top leadership. Namesake founder Kendra Scott has stepped down as chief executive officer and handed the baton to current brand president Tom Nolan, who first joined the company as a board member in 2014 and rose to president in 2019. Scott remains the company’s majority shareholder and will still serve as executive chairwoman, while focusing on the company’s product offering, customer experience and philanthropic efforts. Kendra Scott employees were notified of the changes, which are effective immediately, in a staff call this afternoon.

Scott and Nolan are aware that the shake-up may appear profound, but say that little will change in the way day-to-day business is conducted.

“I have been CEO for 20 years but over last six or seven years, Tom and I have been able to work together and forge not just a great partnership in business, but also an incredible friendship. I always thought this day would come… it’s an exciting time for the company and I know he is the right man for the job — there is no one else I would feel comfortable stepping into that role,” Scott told WWD.

“After 20 years of being CEO, I can focus on other projects. I’ll be focusing on the philanthropy that continues to propel our company forward. I am the majority shareholder of this company and executive chairwoman, I will continue to lead our customer experience and design which has always been my happy place,” Scott added.

Nolan said that throughout his experience at companies including Ralph Lauren and Condé Nast, “I have been part of CEO successions. I think a lot of time it leads to a seismic shift and people run around, not knowing a lot about the company’s new direction. I can say that will not be the case [at Kendra Scott], we will continue on with what we have done. On a day-to-day basis not much will change. We are a really flat organization and focus on empowering our leaders to make the best decisions.”

Scott famously started her company in 2002 out of a spare bedroom with $500 of seed money. By 2016, the company reached a valuation in excess of $1 billion with a sizeable investment from Berkshire Partners. Kendra Scott currently operates a stable of 112 stores. The brand says it has attracted 50 percent new customers to its web store during the pandemic and surpassed company-wide sales records set in 2019.

Scott said that Nolan was a big part of the company’s success during this challenging period. “We talk a billion times a day, the way he has led our team during pandemic gave us a clear vision — we were able to see a lot of the good and bad things with clarity. Tom kept everyone motivated and brought the team together — it was a herculean task. It became clear to me he was ready for this step in the right direction,” Scott said of her decision to hand over the CEO reins.

Nolan still has a board to answer to, but said that it is the Kendra Scott customer that will be his chief boss as he steps into the role of CEO. “One of the things we have found this year is how important it is to put the customer first. The companies that did well this year moved fast and adapted to consumer need. We are going to keep focusing on the things that made us famous — we think about shape, material, value and color. Our brand is identifiable and has a high value proposition,” Nolan said.

A new men’s line will be among the biggest initiatives that Nolan will oversee in his first year on the job.

Scott has spent the last few years focusing on new philanthropic and media initiatives. She has become a recurring guest shark on the hit TV franchise “Shark Tank” and opened a female leadership institute at the University of Texas — a program she hopes to bring to other schools. During the pandemic, proceeds from sales of the company’s Everlyne bracelet design provided 4.2 million meals to those in need.

During the pandemic, Scott said she spent time at home scrolling through customers’ comments to the Kendra Scott Instagram page and reading transcripts from customer support calls. This research gave her new appreciation for categories that she feels have infinite growth potential, including semi-fine and fine jewelry designs.

Leaving the role of CEO will give her more time to tap into consumer insights, design and the edge that she thinks makes the whole business tick — its strong current of charitable initiatives. That said, Scott was steadfast that, “Mama K is not going anywhere. My name is on this brand — it means so much to me. I’m taking on a different role but I’ll be like Coco Chanel, cutting the ribbon of a store opening when I’m 90.”

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