A kitchen tabletop success

Julie Deane did not go to business school, nor did she know an awful lot about the fashion industry; add in the fact that she was told time after time by friends, family and advisers that the satchel market was saturated and that her time would be better spent elsewhere, and surely all you’ve got is a recipe for instant failure?

That was in 2008, and six years later, The Cambridge Satchel Company has made profits in excess of £13 million. The company’s premium leather satchels, which are still handmade in Britain, are sold at the brand’s own stores in Cambridge and London, as well as in world-famous department stores such as Harvey Nichols, Harrods, and Saks Fifth Avenue in New York City.

From (almost) nothing, to something

Deane, who at the time was 41, began sketching the soon-to-be A-list satchels from her Cambridge kitchen table, in the hopes of giving her children each a Harry Potter-inspired birthday gift.

In a 2012 interview with the Huffington Post, Deane said, “Even the idea for the design came from my children. For their birthdays I wanted to get them a traditional satchel like Harry and Hermione would have worn in Harry Potter.”

Deane's designs were stolen and forged by her former factory partner.

Back in 2008, Deane and her mother were making the satchels - which retail at between £99 and £300 - themselves. Later, an appearance in the Guardian’s 2009 Christmas Gift Guide would see demand explode, and production move to a factory. The owner of said factory would go on to steal Deane’s designs in an attempt to set up a rival company, leading the fledgling Cambridge Satchel Company to cut and run, with just a week to find another manufacturer to make the 38,000 orders it had in waiting.

Deane's DIY business plan

The majority of Deane’s initial £600 startup funds - no loans were taken and no debt was incurred - went towards raw materials. Deane taught herself to code so that she could build her own website, and even took the photographs herself.

Now entering its eighth year, The Cambridge Satchel Company boasts dozens of designs for men and women, in every colour under the Sun (including fluorescents.)

Visit the Cambridge Satchel Company.

Explore further

Cambridge Satchel in the Evening Standard
Cambridge Satchel in the Huffington Post

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