Julie Deane - Cambridge Satchel Company - Catalyst EU - 16 May 2017

Julie Deane

An unlikely fashion entrepreneur, Julie Deane OBE graduated from Cambridge University in 1987, and worked as a chartered accountant before returning to the University, where she was the Fellow for Development for her college – the first female to be appointed to this role in the 650-year history of the college. At the end of 2007 Deane wanted to raise the money to move her eight-year-old daughter from a school where she was being bullied into a school where she would thrive and be happy, and came up with an idea to make traditional leather satchels for the schoolchildren of Cambridge.

Deane invested just £600 to get the idea off the ground. The company is now a handmade-in-Britain worldwide phenomenon employing more than 130 people and selling to over 100 countries.  In December 2014, Deane was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire receiving an OBE for Services to Entrepreneurship.  In July 2015, the Prime Minister, David Cameron, asked Deane to carry out an independent review of self-employment in the UK. The report was delivered in February 2016. In June 2016, Deane became a Guinness World Record holder with Virgin Media Business, having watched 160 business pitches over the course of 29 straight hours giving entrepreneurs the chance to receive funding to grow their businesses. In August 2016, Deane was appointed Entrepreneur in Residence at the British Library’s Business & IP Centre. Additionally, in September 2016, Deane became a member of the board at Cambridge Judge Business School (the business school of the University of Cambridge).

In January 2014, the company raised $21m from Index Ventures.  This support has enabled the company to invest in establishing the brand to secure long term growth, appointing a senior team in late 2014, opening a flagship store in London’s Covent Garden, replatforming its global website and designing a wider product range.

Deane is committed to preserving British manufacturing – a luxury rarely afforded by start-up businesses. Despite enormous pressure to satisfy demand with an overseas production model, Deane has ensured that each stage in producing every bag sold has taken place on British soil.  Furthermore, she has used the company’s success to drive a re-skilling of the British population from its Leicestershire-based factory; taking on apprentices, engaging disillusioned youth and encouraging people to embrace craftsmanship.   In addition, Deane is an ambassador for QEST, the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust, reflecting her ongoing commitment to British manufacturing and craftsmanship.

Collaborations with prestigious designers and retailers including Vivienne Westwood, Comme des Garcons, Christopher Shannon and Chris Benz have seen The Cambridge Satchel Company grace catwalks from London to New York, further securing its international acclaim. The bags have appeared in shows including Girls, The Good Wife and Gossip Girl.

The Cambridge Satchel Company’s success has been recognised through a number of awards including:

Manufacturer of the Year – Insider Made in the UK Awards 2014

Ranked #7 in the Sunday Times Fast Track 100 in 2013 (and awarded Fast Track Outstanding Achievement Award in May 2014)

Queen’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade – 2013

RSM International Entrepreneur Of The Year – European Business Awards 2013 (Julie Deane was the first female to have ever been awarded this honour)

Accessories Brand of the Year – Drapers Footwear & Accessories Awards 2013

Footwear & Accessories Design Team – WGSN Global Fashion Awards 2012

Fashion & Retail Personnel Smaller Etailer of the Year – Drapers Awards 2012