Please share this story.
Do you want it badly enough?
I’ve recently come across a very inspiring story, and Oz and me
decided we just HAD to share it with you…
It’s the story of Julie Deane from Cambridge, UK.
Julie was a happy stay-at-home mum, with two kids.
That is she was happy until they discovered that her daughter was
being bullied and harassed at school. The kid was 8 at that point.
Apparently the situation got worse, down to the point where her
daughter was being thrown to the ground and kicked by those bullies.
That was the moment when Julie promised her daughter she would
not go back to that school after the summer holidays.
Julie and her husband looked around to find a good school that would
be a better fit for the kid, and the only suitable school in the area
was a private school.
Being in the UK, that meant a yearly school fee of 12,000 GBP
(Actually, I saw this story first in a print magazine, and then did
some more research on it on the internet. The sources there vary,
some say the fee was 15,000 GBP. But in any case, it was a HUGE
amount of money for the family!)
There was no way they could pay for that without Julie going back to
But Julie also wanted to be there for her kids as much as she could,
especially in those stressful times.
It was then that Julie decided to start a business to come up with
the school fees for her kids.
She knew she had 600 GBP to invest, and she had all the summer
holidays to come up with a plan and make it work.
Julie made a list of “10 things Julie can do to raise money”.
She then narrowed that list down to the most promising thing (in
terms of time and investment issues).
That thing was to build and sell satchels. Good, old-fashioned leather
satchels for school kids, Harry Potter style — exactly the type that
she wanted to buy for her own kids, but they weren’t available
Julie’s mother (who was around 70 back then) saw how the kid was
suffering, and absolutely supported Julie’s decision to put her into
the private school. So much that she told her daughter “I don’t have
any money, but I’m available, I can work, and I will help you with
whatever plan you come up.”
So they went to work, starting a satchel company during the summer
holidays, on a 600 GBP budget…
The two of them bought some old satchels through ebay, cut them
into pieces, re-assembled and improved them, and finally came up
with a design they liked.
They found a leather manufacturer which fit their requirements.
They found a manufacturer who could produce the satchels for them.
They ordered the first few satchels.
They printed leafets, left them in doctors’ offices and other places,
and also visited schools to try and sell their satchels.
Since she wanted to sell through the internet, Julie also took a
two-day course in website building — and built their first website the
day after that course.
Since she didn’t have any more money to invest on web design, she
JUST DID IT all on her own.
They sold the first few satchels (although it wasn’t easy), and
invested the money into the next batch.
In the first school year, they were just about making the money to
cover the school fees.
This was 5 years ago.
Throughout the years, Julie ran into about any trouble you can
imagine when building up a business like that: from the usual growth
pains down to manufacturers stealing her designs and selling them
off to competitors.
She never gave up.
In fact, she turned a great idea into something even better…
… when she realized that (contrary to her initial idea), it was NOT
parents buying those satchels for their kids…
… it was fashionists buying those satchels for themselves to be in
vogue and to show them off as accessories!
So Julie did something very smart: She learned from that knowledge,
She started to produce satchels in more unusual, fashionable colours.
She started to ACTIVELY get in touch with fashion bloggers.
At first, she only could send them photos, and tell them about her
story and the satchels.
Then later, once she could afford it, she started to give them
samples, and invite them to parties.
She ACTIVELY approached the right kind of people to multiply her
message in the right circles…
… and the fashion bloggers LOVED the satchels, and were promoting
them for her.
In return, down to this day, Julie is trying to give something back to
those bloggers who helped her with their reviews.
And today, there are photos on the internet of many an important
celebrity, carrying one of Julie’s Satchels.
The company itself has grown beyond belief…
From Julie and her mom taking orders from Julie’s kitchen table, with
an initial budget of 600 GBP…
… to a 12 Million GBP annual turnover, her own factory, 84
employees, a shop in Covent Garden, and being listed in the Drapers
list of the 100 most influential people in fashion…
… in only 5 years.
But the most amazing thing about this story is what it did to people
— to real, live human beings…
Julie’s daughter is now happy at her new school, and both her kids
know and appreciate how mom’s business has helped them to go to
the school of their dreams, and live a happy life…
Julie’s company is doing every step of the process in the UK. Julie
says she lived in South Wales when the mines where closed, and you
can’t complain about unemployment rates if you aren’t willing to
produce in the country where you live…
And Julie’s mom is to this day (being 73 now, I think) still happily
working in the company. I read interviews with her where she says
she is so blessed to have this opportunity, and the challenges, and
how much she enjoys the work. And I read interviews with Julie
praising her mom’s fine eye for colours, and for the details of each
And of course, the school fees for both kids are covered, too…
There are a ton of lessons to be learned from this story. The ones
that stood out most to me are…
1. Ultimately, it’s always about the people.
2. Make a plan — then with that plan in hand, be prepared to be
3. It’s not a problem, it’s a challenge.
4. Be very clear about your target group, and about the people who
can help you reach them.
5. Just do it!
6. If you had 600 GBP and a few weeks, what plans could YOU come
up with? What could YOU make work?
7. Do you want it badly enough?
PS: If you want to read it up for yourself, just search for “Cambridge
Satchel Company” in your favourite search engine, and you’ll get a
ton of reports about Julie’s story. Some of the details vary a bit from
report to report, but the gist of the story is the same, and it’s just
amazing and very inspiring to read.