Founder & CEO at The Cambridge Satchel Company, Julie Deane OBE is the unlikely fashion entrepreneur who invested just £600 to idea to get her idea—to make traditional leather satchels for the schoolchildren of Cambridge—off the ground. The company is now a handmade-in-Britain worldwide phenomenon. A brilliant keynote speaker, Julie inspires audiences with her story of entrepreneurial success and her commitment to preserve British manufacturing.
Keynote speaker Julie Deane, the Founder & CEO at The Cambridge Satchel Company, inspires audiences with her story of brilliant entrepreneurship.
An unlikely fashion entrepreneur, Julie Deane OBE graduated from Cambridge University in 1987 and began working as a chartered accountant. Eventually, she returned to her former college to become its Fellow for Development, as the first female to be appointed to this role in its 650-year history!
At the end of 2007, Julie wanted to raise the money to move her eight-year-old daughter from a school where she was being bullied into one where she would thrive and be happy, and came up with an idea to make traditional leather satchels for the schoolchildren of Cambridge.
Investing just £600 to get the idea off the ground, Julie’s company is now a handmade-in-Britain worldwide phenomenon, employing more than 140 people selling to over 120 countries. In January 2014, the company raised $21m from Index Ventures and 12 months later Julie was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for Services to Entrepreneurship.
In 2015, the then Prime Minister, David Cameron, asked Julie to carry out an independent review of self-employment in the UK. The report was delivered in February 2016.
Later that year, Julie 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. She was also appointed Entrepreneur in Residence at the British Library’s Business & IP Centre.
Julie 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, she 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 factor by taking on apprentices, engaging disillusioned youth and encouraging people to embrace craftsmanship.
In addition, she is an ambassador for QEST, the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust, reflecting her ongoing commitment to British manufacturing and craftsmanship. Her commitment to top quality has also been echoed with her collaborations with prestigious designers and retailers including Vivienne Westwood, Comme des Garcons, Christopher Shannon, Alexa Chung and Chris Benz. The Cambridge Satchel Company has graced 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 recognized through a number of awards. It was named Manufacturer of the Year at the Insider Made in the UK Awards (2014); the Accessories Brand of the Year at the Drapers Footwear & Accessories Awards (2013); and the Fashion & Retail Personnel Smaller Retailer of the Year at the Drapers Awards (2012).
The company also received the Sunday Times Fast Track Outstanding Achievement Award (2014) and the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade (2013), and has been recognised for a number of fashion, brand, retail and design awards.
Julie was announced Honorary Fellows of Gonville & Caius College at the University of Cambridge in 2017 and previously was named as the first female to have ever been awarded RSM International Entrepreneur of The Year at the European Business Awards in 2013; she continues to inspire on the speaking circuit.