Friday, September 14, 2012

Julie Deane of The Cambridge Satchel Company

Since the release of the gorgeous Google Chrome advert which details the life cycle of The Cambridge Satchel Company, everybody wants to own a piece of their success. On my journey into work it is often possible to count into the double figures the number of people who are sporting satchels. It appears that the world has gone crazy for a slice of fashionable nostalgia and fun.

Life has not always been like this for Julie Deane, founder and owner of The Cambridge Satchel Company. Growing up in South Wales, far from the fashion capitals of the world, allowed Julie to realise her potential and gave her the push she needed to go and start her own life. Whilst growing up, the thought of progressing to higher education never crossed her mind. That was until one day when a friend's sister got accepted into Oxford and became the talk of the town and it was at this moment that a light bulb got switched on and life changed forever. Julie got accepted into Cambridge University to study Natural Sciences and eventually became a chartered accountant at Deloittes. After time spent working both in the UK and abroad, Julie eventually settled in Cambridge and became a stay at home mummy to her two children.

Julie has an infectious personality which draws people into her world and allows them to feel part of her family. Her warm, friendly nature along with a fierce determination is the real secret to her success. From the first few seconds of our conversation earlier this week, I too felt as if I was part of the Cambridge Satchel Company family, all that was needed was her homely kitchen and Rupert the dog.

The journey has not always been fun and games however. Earlier this year Julie discovered through the blogger Liberty London Girl that a rival company has been making satchels in identical colour ways and sizes. Only a few centimetres stopped the bags from being twins. After more investigation and a trip to Companies House, Julie was able to trace the source back to the manufacturers she used for the Cambridge Satchels and by then she new she had uncovered a can of worms that needed to be trampled on. After a long drawn out court case and many late nights spent worrying, Zatchels lost their case and Julie was able to carry on with her own designs. This experience, despite it being a time full of anxiety and sleepless nights, gave Julie the kick she needed to source her own manufacturers and take everything in house.

Now Cambridge Satchel Company are once again going strong and a recent collaboration with the designer Chris Benz has once again put them in the fashion limelight and has our hearts all a flutter. It is safe to say, I am not the only one in love with these cute designs and now that they are out in the big wide world waiting to be worn, it seems like the perfect time to catch up with Julie herself.

1) What made you decide to call it the Cambridge Satchel Company and how did you come up with the logo?
The company was started as a way to better my children's lives after I discovered the news that my eldest, Emily was being bullied at school. We were all based in Cambridge and the city already held such important memories for me so it was an obvious choice The logo was originally a man punting as it is such an iconic image associated with Cambridge time and time again. The problem with this logo however was that when we got the bags back from the factory, the punter looked like a snooker cue and that was when the bicycle was born. Because we started with a budget of £600 and I had the summer holidays to make the business work, everything was done very simply with the logo first being created on Microsoft Word. I have never borrowed a penny, never had investors, the business is completely mine, even the website was made by me in two evenings.

2) Have you been surprised by the response you got or has the experience been what you expected?
Because there was such a gap in the market for these satchels, I hoped that they would create quite a hype but I never guessed that they would become such an international style symbol. When we first went to New York Fashion week, we recreated my kitchen at the shows and invited all the bloggers and editors who have supported us along the way to come for tea and coffee. The likes of Eva Chen from Teen Vogue turned up for the gathering, which was a special moment.

3)What made you decide to collaborate with Google for the Chrome advert?
Google approached us with the idea of starring in their advert. The loved the way that the internet made such a difference to my business and allowed me to really promote my products in a positive, organic way. I loved the way the video can inspire people to 'have a go' at setting up their own business. After all, if you don't try, you won't succeed.

4) What advice would you give to aspiring business women?
It takes courage to start your own business and I was lucky enough to have my mummy there supporting me but it has never been easier for people to start their own businesses, thanks to the internet. Everything is so readily available, it is like you have someone holding your hand every step of the way. My only advice really is to just give it a go, if it doesn't work you know for future not to try that idea again and if it is a success, there is no looking back.

5) Describe yourself in one word!

Take a look at Julie's work at The Cambridge Satchel Company website, here

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