Kendra Scott Supports Future Women Entrepreneurs

UT’s Kendra Scott Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute

Published on: August 3, 2020
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Before she became CEO of a nationwide fashion brand, Kendra Scott was just another woman struggling to navigate the male-dominated world of business. She took meetings in boardrooms without a single other woman, lacked capital to back her ideas, and sensed that many were not taking her — or her business — seriously.

Scott, whose brand is now valued at over a billion dollars, is committed to helping other women overcome the same barriers she faced. That’s why she and her company gave $1.5 million to found the Kendra Scott Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute at The University of Texas at Austin.

The Institute, which launched last September, supports future female leaders with classes, workshops, networking and other opportunities to connect with the resources and role models they need to become the next generation of Longhorn entrepreneurs.

Kendra Scott Institute Students


This past spring, the WEL Institute offered two classes connecting students with experienced entrepreneurs and faculty. This fall they’ll add a third — Women in Entrepreneurship, co-taught by Kendra Scott and Jan Ryan, a serial entrepreneur and executive director of UT’s Center for Creative Entrepreneurship.

Consumer Products Entrepreneurship Practicum
with Professor Melissa Murphy

Student teams worked together to create and launch products, ending the course with final demos and go-to-market strategies for products including an oil-removing hairbrush, healthy packaged lunches for kids, a protein bar for workouts, and an alcohol-free wine.

“This semester changed my life. I never thought I could be an entrepreneur — and then I joined this class, met my team, and built a startup.”
– Ashley Grossman, B.B.A. ‘23

Accessory Design, Development and Merchandising
with Professor Jessica Ciarla

In this course, 20 students worked in four teams to explore and experience the end-to-end product development cycle for a jewelry collection. They worked with over a dozen Kendra Scott staffers to learn about research, product design, prototyping and marketing, finishing the semester with four final prototyped designs for earrings and ear cuff sets. All four were presented to the Kendra Scott team, which selected the winning product to be produced in a limited edition run and sold in stores this fall.

“The partnership with Kendra Scott really enhanced our learning by connecting us with mentors to learn and get advice from while working toward a tangible goal. The team let us see behind the curtain and step into their space, see their process and learn from their expertise.”
– Lindsey Ehlers, B.A. ‘20

WEL Institute student

Students in the program learn design, merchandising and entrepreneurial skills.

Female Founders

The WEL Institute empowers UT students to become leaders by connecting them with successful female entrepreneurs — often other young Longhorns.

Female founders and recent graduates Ariel Lee, B.A. ’20, and D’azhane Cook, BBA ’20, founded the natural hair care brand remane, which was recently selected as one of eight early-stage startups to participate in Target Incubator, an accelerator hosted by the global retail brand.

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D’azhane Cook and Ariel Lee, founders of remane

The 2020-21 academic year will see more courses, more workshops, a virtual women’s entrepreneurship summit in the fall, a spring pitch competition, and a new on-campus space in the Doty Fine Arts Building — all part of the foundation for a cross-disciplinary leadership and entrepreneurship curriculum available to every woman at UT Austin.
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You can help launch the next generation of Longhorn entrepreneurs.

Learn more about establishing a scholarship or supporting the program by emailing

Follow @ksinstituteUT for updates on how they are #empoweringwomentolead | #KSxUTAustin

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