By Claire Zillman
May 16, 2017

If you’re looking for inspiration this Tuesday morning, let me direct you to this story CNBC published yesterday about Julie Deane, founder of the Cambridge Satchel Company, who started her bag brand with one goal in mind: to send her bullied daughter to private school.

Ten years ago, Deane took what little discretionary money she had, $775, and put it toward her own business, a satchel company inspired by her frustration with the dearth of high-quality backpacks on the market. Her prototype consisted of old cereal boxes wrapped in brown paper.

Rather than hiring business consultants and strategists—she had no budget for a staff—she enlisted her mom for help. Her rationale is refreshingly matter-of-fact: “[Y]ou have got to get somebody who will work really hard, put up with your slightly easily irritated temperament, not expect to be paid. It narrows until you are left with your mother.”

Deane’s big break came in 2010 when she sent samples of her neon-colored satchels to fashion bloggers who ended up wearing them to New York Fashion Week. She was promptly inundated with 16,000 orders, which eventually led her to launch her own manufacturing operation. The company now has five retail locations in the U.K. and Deane says it was worth $65 million in 2014.

Reflecting on her success at the Vanity Fair Founders Fair recently, Deane said she’s glad she didn’t realize how much of a long shot her business was at its inception. “Luckily I didn’t know that, because it just seemed like my daughter needs moving—that’s the school, that’s how much it costs,” she said, “and so that’s what needs to happen.”



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