Sometimes the most important thing to do when starting a company is not to listen to what people are saying. Julie Deane wanted to find a way to earn money to send her daughter to private school and away from the bullies who were bothering her. She and her mother, Freda, set up a company in 2008 from the kitchen table in Cambridge with only £600 creating satchels. When she was first starting out and trying to find a manufacturer, she was told that there was “no demand for satchels”
Fortunately, she didn’t listen. Today, Deane, 47, has a multi-million pound company called The Cambridge Satchel Company selling her satchels worldwide. She is one of England’s most successful exporters, and she was recently in China with David Cameron to drum up trade for England.
In the last twelve months alone she has won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise for the company’s exporting success and she was also named Entrepreneur of the Year at the European Business Awards in Istanbul in June.
The Cambridge Satchel Company first opened an internet operation and has since started three shops in London as well. They also sell throughout the country in other stores and they’ve recently launched a men’s collection. The top cities for the sales of their bright satchels include London and New York.
They are also popular in Eastern Europe. As Deane explained, “We were very big in Azerbaijan for a few weeks. It’s always strange because conventional wisdom would take you to look at the markets you want to target for the next year and what resources you are going to put in. It feels a lot more satisfying when you can see an enthusiasm for the brand from somewhere that you haven’t paid to be noticed.”
Customers include singer and Strictly Come Dancing finalist Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Fearne Cotton and singer Pixie Lott.
As she explained to people who want to become entrepreneurs, “People can give their dream a try.”