Designing Dreams

Kendra Scott's $13M gift funds future of UT Austin institute for female entrepreneurs

Kendra Scott's $13M gift funds future of UT leadership institute

Kendra Scott WELI
Kendra Scott's gift will expand and support offerings at her namesake Kendra Scott Women's Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute (KS WELI), housed at the University of Texas at Austin. Photo Courtesy of Kendra Scott WELI

Local entrepreneur and jewelry maven Kendra Scott has a proven track record of giving back, especially in her hometown.

Now, the founder and executive chairwoman of the global accessories brand that bears her name has announced a $13.25 million endowment to expand and support offerings at the Kendra Scott Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute (KS WELI).

Housed at the University of Texas at Austin, the institute’s mission is to strengthen the next generation of female leaders by fostering an environment of community, diversity, inclusivity, and empowerment. The program, which aims to redefine leadership and entrepreneurship by growing the number of women-owned and women-led businesses, is a cross-disciplinary partnership between UT’s College of Fine Arts, the McCombs School of Business, the College of Natural Sciences, and The LaunchPad in Undergraduate Studies.

“Since 2019, the KS WELI has supported more than three dozen women-led startups and engaged with and equipped thousands of students through rigorous coursework, mentorships, and enriching workshops,” says founding director Lesley Robinson in a release. “This investment will help us continue to make an impact.”

At the institute’s inaugural Dream to Venture event earlier this week, Scott revealed plans for the endowment, part of her ongoing commitment to support KS WELI in perpetuity. A combination of personal and company investments, the gift will help more than 24,000 women pursue their business aspirations in the coming decade.

“This gift is about supporting the next generation of women entrepreneurs,” says Scott. “Since the inception of the KS WELI in 2019, I’ve loved seeing UT create a space where women are inspired, and motivated to be leaders in business and to use their knowledge, skills, and energy to keep changing the world and outdated business stereotypes. Through this new gift, women will continue to dismantle barriers and forge ahead to redefine entrepreneurship for many years to come.”

As part of UT’s ongoing What Starts Here fundraising campaign started in March 2022, the investment will seed and launch the Women in Entrepreneurship (WiE) Specialization in the fall 2022 semester. The partnership with the McCombs School of Business provides students with an opportunity to earn a minor in entrepreneurship.