Posted: Wed 19th Oct 2016
Julie Deane started The Cambridge Satchel Company with a Â£600 budget and the aim of paying her children's school fees. It now has five stores and sells products all over the world. Ahead of her speaking at Festival of Female Entrepreneurs in Bristol on 21 October, we caught up with Julie for a quick chat.
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How did you come up with the idea for The Cambridge Satchel Company and turn that idea into a business?
I'm always on the look out for things that either I can't find, aren't available, aren't good enough or services provided poorly. I know I'm not the only one looking but I might well be the only one who will do something about it. That's how I came up with my list of 10 business ideas, then chose one and never looked back. It's a mistake to keep revisiting decisions. Once you have an idea then obstacles are just challenges to be overcome.
What were your early start-up stumbling blocks and how did you deal with them?
Avoid the negative people; those that say "if it was a good idea then someone would already have done it" or other such non-supportive sentiments. It's so important to surround yourself with positive, supportive people. People with energy. I feel that's a key to success. Recruit for attitude and people that raise your spirits and energy levels. A bad apple can cause real problems, even if they are skilled in their role.
What challenges did you face opening your first physical retail store?
Leases. Back then the concept of pop-up shops wasn't as common so taking a chance on a five year lease seemed daunting. I always look for a break clause, just in case a location doesn't work out. Then it really is location, location, location.
What's your advice for engaging bloggers?
My only advice here is be real and work with people you connect with. Pretending to admire someone's blog or work is not a good idea. Only work with bloggers where you genuinely love the blog, if you don't read it then you clearly don't. Bloggers are passionate, genuine people. They write about things they love, there needs to be authenticity around your product and a story to tell.
How do you stay innovative?
I get bored. Easily. I'm constantly seeking to improve and our products reflect that. I also love hearing from our customers. They have requests and ideas that are fantastic to hear. We can't always comply with wishes but we love to listen and if we hear a good idea then we will absolutely take it on board. The Cambridge Satchel Company is constantly evolving, that makes it an exciting and engaging place to work and worthy of following.
Which other entrepreneurs inspire you and why?
I'm fortunate in having met Richard Branson several times. His energy is incredible and his excitement for what he does. He has such an ethical viewpoint and devotes time to causes he genuinely believes in. He makes a difference. That's inspiring.
Why do you think your products sell so well in China and what can other entrepreneurs learn?
Our product is simple in its design and timeless. The simplicity resonates in China and the craftsmanship is appreciated. Our bags are made in Great Britain and that carries weight and value. The brand story is also a major factor in its popularity. Family is very important to the Chinese and the fact that I started the company with just Â£600 is engaging.
Why do you think people should come to Festival of Female Entrepreneurs?
What else are you going to do that would be as inspiring?
Julie Deane is part of an amazing line-up of influential entrepreneurs and experts taking to the stage at Festival of Female Entrepreneurs in Bristol on 21 October. Find out more here and book a ticket below.
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