Moneybags: humble British satchel conquers the world

Julie Deane set up her business at home with £600. Now she has raised $21m to help sell her bags worldwide

The Cambridge Satchel Company has raised $21m (£12.7m)  to break into China and “train up the next generation” of British craftsmen – only five years after it was founded by a mother of two in her kitchen.

Julie Deane and her mother Freda Thomas founded the company in their Cambridgeshire home in 2008 with a budget of only £600. Deane, a former chartered accountant, was reading her children the Harry Potter books at the time and couldn’t find good quality satchels like the one owned by Harry.

Cambridge Satchel Company has grown rapidly since its modest start thanks to its popularity among celebrities and fashion designers. Model Alexa Chung and singer Rita Ora are fans of the company’s colourful signature leather bags, which sell for £108.

The satchels have also appeared in hit TV shows, including Girls and Gossip Girl. The brand has collaborated with fashion label Comme des Garçons and last October brought out a line designed by Vivienne Westwood.

The explosive growth means the company is on track to turn over more than £15m this year and London-based venture capital firm Index Ventures is investing $21m (£12.7m) to help fuel the expansion.

Deane, 47, said the investment would allow the firm to double the staff at its Leicester factory from 50 to 100 within the next 12 months, as well as expand the company’s apprenticeship programme.

“The most skilled people are approaching retirement so before those skills are lost we need to train up the next generation,” Deane said.

All the company’s bags are handmade in the UK and Deane was involved in finishing products during the Christmas rush.

Deane, who has been in talks with potential investors for two years, said Index Ventures’ digital expertise was a key to the deal. Index traditionally backs technology businesses and is an investor in online fashion retailers ASOS and Net-a-Porter.

“Online growth is the backbone of the business. I started this with just a website,” Deane said. The minority stake Index has taken is the first outside investment in the bag maker.

As well as growing its manufacturing base, the business plans to expand its presence overseas, targeting the US and China. “Customers from China come when they visit London. They know the brand and they seek the stores out – I know the demand is there,” Deane said.

David Cameron invited Deane to accompany him on a trade mission to China last month alongside representatives from firms such as Rolls-Royce and BP. She credits the trip with giving her the confidence to tackle the market. “Before that visit, the Chinese market seemed so complicated. I feel now we understand how to do it properly.”

The company’s bags are already stocked in the New York department stores Bloomingdale’s and Saks Fifth Avenue.

Giuseppe Zocco, co-founder and partner at Index Ventures, called Cambridge Satchel Company “one of Europe’s most exciting entrepreneurial stories”.

He said: “With vision and determination, Julie turned a boot-strapped company, born without resources or support, into one that is so fearlessly taking on the world.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Tax Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Tax Assistant is required to join a leading ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - OTE £25,000

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Developer - Watford - £45,000 - £47,000

£45000 - £47000 per annum + bonus + benefits: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / ...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Product Manager - (Financial Services) - SW London

£35000 - £38000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Marke...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us