StyleNest had the pleasure of chatting to Cambridge Satchel Company Founder, Julie Deane to find out just how she made a kitchen table idea into a global brand.
Julie Deane is a remarkable woman. Just five years ago she set herself a goal; to make enough money to send her children to a different school to escape bullying – she just had to come up with the money.
Five years down the line, and a business that started around her kitchen table has now become a global brand, been endorsed by countless celebs and backed by the online behemoth that is Google.
We caught up with Julie to find out just how the humble satchel turned her world upside down.
Tell us about The Cambridge Satchel Company. Where did the idea come from?
The Cambridge Satchel Company was founded in 2008 with a budget of just £600 at my kitchen table just outside Cambridge. At the time, my daughter was being bullied and I needed to raise enough money to send her and her brother to a school where they would both be happy and thrive. I made a list of all the ways I could raise enough money and The Cambridge Satchel Company was on that list.
How did you take this idea from your kitchen table into a global brand?
I needed my original budget for purchasing the first samples and so I wasn’t able to pay for a web designer or PR agency, so I taught myself everything that I needed to know. I used a free ‘Build a Website’ course to build my first website and using a £50 Google Adwords voucher, I started to promote the satchels..
Did you ever dream the concept would become as big as it has?
I never thought it would become this big. We set out with the target of raising enough money to afford school fees, I never thought that the satchels would be seen on runways or in all the windows of Bloomingdale’s.
A number of celebs have been spotted wearing your designs from Fearne Cotton to Alexa Chung. Who would you most like to see sporting one?
Every time we see a celebrity carrying one of our satchels or being photographed with one, it makes us feel so proud. I would love to see HRH The Duchess of Cambridge carrying one; I think a Cambridge Satchel would be a perfect fit for her.
What do you think it is about your satchels that appeal to everyone from schoolchildren, to fashion bloggers and beyond?
The great thing about our satchels is that there is a satchel for everyone, we have so many colours and styles that they are just at home in the classroom as they are on the catwalk. We have been lucky enough to work with some fantastic designers including Christopher Shannon and Chris Benz, which has meant that our satchels have graced catwalks in both the UK and the US.
You’ve previously collaborated with Comme des Garçons and Basso & Brooke, can we expect to see any exciting partnerships this year?
We’re always looking to develop our product range and we love working with designers who bring something new to the classic shape and design of our satchels. We have lots of exciting new projects in the pipeline, so watch this space.
Which CSC satchel is your favourite?
In the early days I only ever used to carry the satchels that weren’t good enough to sell. But my son decided I should only carry the very best. He saved up and bought me a 15” Dark Brown Satchel, embossed with a gold “J”.
What advice would you give to potential entrepreneurs looking to start their own business?
There has never been a better time to start a business; the Internet has meant that everything is more accessible than it ever was – even from a kitchen table. In August of last year we were chosen as the face of the new Google Chrome ad – ‘The web is what you make of it’ – which I hope shows others that with hard work and determination, a business started at the kitchen table can have a global impact.
How important is it that your products are British and ethically made?
We wouldn’t think of manufacturing our satchels anywhere but the UK. The design of a satchel is quintessentially British and so it is only right that they are made in the UK. Knowing and meeting the people who make our bags adds tremendously to the connection that we have with the product.
You’ve just opened your second store, what can customers expect?
We officially opened our first store in London’s Covent Garden in February of this year and then on the 8th June we opened our second store, this time based in Cambridge. Both stores showcase our iconic satchels including our Classic and Fluoro collections alongside exciting collaborations and seasonal specials.
What has been your own personal highlight since the company was first established?
There have been so many great highlights that I wouldn’t be able to choose just one. My mum and I had the opportunity to meet Samantha Cameron at 10 Downing Street. We were also recently awarded a Queen’s Award for Enterprise and as part of the celebrations we were invited to Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen, which was an incredible honour.