Kendra Scott invests $13.25 million in UT to support women in business

Madeline Duncan, News Reporter

Kendra Scott will invest $13.25 million in her UT program to encourage women’s entrepreneurship, according to a March 28 announcement.

The money will expand the Kendra Scott Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute, which launched in 2019 and offered a limited number of sponsored courses. It will also launch a new Women in Entrepreneurship specialization, which is a partnership with the McCombs School of Business that will give women in business the opportunity to take classes toward an entrepreneurship minor. 

“Only 2.2% of (venture capital) funding goes towards women-founded companies,” said Rashu Jain, president of the KS WELI student advisory board. “We need more women on this side of the table to be able to give funding, so I think we’re encouraging and we’re creating that space for women to feel comfortable doing so.”

Ingrid Villarreal, president-elect of KS WELI, said she hopes the investment helps expand entrepreneurial opportunities to a variety of majors. 

“I think that all students, especially female students, need to be (reassured) that whatever major they’re in is amazing, and there are entrepreneurial ventures that are available to them,” biology junior Villarreal said. 

The new specialization will give students the opportunity to learn from women in business, KS WELI director Lesley Robinson said.

“The endowment for the program will … enable us to … (invest) more in the curricular aspect of KS WELI by creating the women and entrepreneurship specialization,” Robinson said. “Students can begin taking coursework focused on women and entrepreneurship.”

Jain, a finance and math senior, said the investment is a recognition of the program’s growth over the past two years. 

“This endowment is proof that the work that we’re doing is impactful,” Jain said. “It’ll help us do more impactful work now that we have a lot of funding to do so.”

Robinson said she hopes the program helps change the narrative about women in business. 

“Often it’s more about the challenges and barriers that women face when starting businesses,” Robinson said. “With this endowment and courses and building (a) strong community, we can really focus on the strengths that women bring to business.”

Jain said she hopes this endowment allows the KS WELI program to flourish after she graduates. 

“Looking back at UT in the next couple of years, I would love to see entrepreneurship just flooded across campus,” Jain said.