Thursday’s Southwest Airlines Flight 510 headed from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport to Chicago’s Midway International Airport got a big surprise when Austin-based jewelry designer Kendra Scott took the PA microphone from a Southwest employee bedecked in a sweater in Scott’s signature yellow and made an announcement. “The holidays can be stressful, so today you are in for some big surprises,” proclaimed Scott in a rare public appearance for the woman behind a billion-dollar company. The crowd, unable to clap because they were all filming the scene with their cell phones, responded with resounding hoots.
If anyone deserves to orchestrate a good-spirited publicity stunt this year, and one with another big Texas brand at that, it’s Scott. A year ago this month, an investment deal with private equity firm Berkshire Partners valued Scott’s eponymous jewelry and home accessories line, which she started from her home as a young mom in 2002, at more than $1 billion. “It’s been a whirlwind of a year, but the most exciting one of my life,” Scott says. “I still own the majority of the company, because I have always wanted it to be a legacy brand. I am not an entrepreneur who wants to start and sell a bunch of different businesses. I want to be working on this one when I am 90, even if that means cutting ribbon in one of the stores.
By the end of the year, Scott will have 75 stores across the United States as well as her first shop overseas, which opened in London in November within the famed Selfridges department store on Oxford Street. She will visit the store next week to be a part of its grand opening events.
At the airport gate, Scott was encircled by fans who wanted selfies, air traffic controllers who wanted a photo in the onsite Kendra Scott photo booth, and passengers who wanted to thank her for donating to nonprofits they cared about—part of her business model from the start, Scott rarely turns down a charity, donating more than 75,000 pieces of jewelry to 3,500 nonprofits last year alone. As passengers got on the plane, Scott handed them each a gift bag full of jewelry, complete with a yellow eye mask that read “and to all a good night” with her logo.
During the flight, Scott (who didn’t travel with them) treated the plane to a round of drinks, and when they landed in Chicago, travelers received a golden ticket and found a Santa Claus dressed in yellow at the luggage carousel who passed out even more bling from five gigantic boxes that came down the shoot.
“I really just love making people happy,” Scott says. “I always say starting my business in any place but Texas would have never worked out the way it has. If I would have walked around to stores in New York with my tea box full of jewelry of those first pieces I made, they would have laughed in my face. I have always believed in treating people with respect and kindness, and that’s how it’s done in Texas.”