With just £600 and the desire to send her children to a better school, Julie Deane was heading up the multi-million global hit brand The Cambridge Satchel Company in under five years.

With no previous experience in design and relying on the help of her mother, she came up with a traditional leather-style satchel originally meant for schoolchildren. Julie then spent three months being rejected by manufacturers until she turned at the doorstep of a Scottish factory, who, despite saying that no-one would want them, agreed to produce a batch for her.

After being featured in the 2009 Guardian Christmas Gift Guide (as a men’s accessory), coverage by international fashion magazines and a collaboration with the fashion brand Comme des Garçons, production of the satchels increased from three homemade items a week to 1,500 in 2011, and turnover increased from £15,000 to an estimated £8m in 2011. 

Key achievements

  • Taking her small business from making three satchels a week to 500 a day, and selling them in 86 countries, making £13m in sales in five years.
  • During the past 12 months, Deane has won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise for the firm’s success in exporting.
  • Named Entrepreneur of the Year at the European Business Awards in June.

Lessons for your store 

  1. Start with good intentions – Julie began with the desire to take her daughter out of the school where she was being bullied.
  2. Don’t let lack of qualifications hold you back  Julie had no previous experience in design before creating her best-selling satchel.
  3. Be flexible – Julie’s initial designs were made for children, and are now highly valued by fashion lovers across the globe.

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