Wednesday, 13 March 2013

The Cambridge Satchel Company

After a wonderful weekend in London for the MeetTheBlogger conference, I settled onto the sofa with my husband and Alfie pug to catch up on Grey's Anatomy (my favourite show). I normally fast forward the ads but I was distracted by twitter and then this plinky plonk music (my favourite kind of music*) caught my attention. Re-wind. It was the google ad for The Cambridge Satchel Company. Have you seen it? It's part of their "the web is what you make of it" series. As if I could take any more inspiration, this advert made me want to get up and GO!

It's such an amazing and inspiring story. If you already know it, please bear with me. I have obviously been living under a rock because it was the first I had heard it and the ad came out last October. In 2008 Julie Deane wrote out her best top 10 ideas for making money when she had to subsidise her daughter's school fees. Her daughter was being bullied and Julie felt there was no option but for her daughter to move to a private school. She started the business with just £600 and taught herself to do everything from designing the bags, building a website to marketing the business. Starting with just one order a week, word spread of the business and she realised it was fashionistas who were buying the bags not mothers... so she started adding new colours to the range. Very savvy. Within 4 years, the Cambridge Satchel Company was selling over £1 million worth of bags each month. I mean, that is amazing! What a story, and she did it all herself from her kitchen table.

Image credit: Cambridge Satchel Company

I had a lovely browse through their stunning website earlier, oh my goodness it is beautifully designed. I also completely fell in love with the new Chelsea Collection - all pastels inspired by the Chelsea Flower Show. That is pretty awesome. I love how clear and easy to navigate their website is and the photography is absolutely spot on. If I were Julie Deane, I'd be feeling pretty happy with myself right now. When I look at a company like The Cambridge Satchel Company, I would never think oh that started at the kitchen table. But so many businesses do, The White Company was started from a back bedroom. I set up West Egg 2 years ago from home (hopefully this means I have a huge success in the offing haha! :). At the time (I realise now) I had no idea what I was doing. I thought I did, but actually, I didn't at all. But I keep working on it, I think about West Egg all the time (sometimes I wish I didn't) and I love that it is growing into a healthy little business with lovely customers who come back again and again. 

I love that we have achieved different milestones, such as opening a workshop and studio with a showroom for customers to visit. This blog for west egg, which I only started writing because my web designer told me it would be a good idea, has opened up the world of blogging to me with everything excellent, inspiring and fun that goes with that. Teaching workshops to students was never in my business plan but it is a part of the business that I absolutely love. 

But today, tomorrow and the next day, I'm still learning. I read a quote recently that when you start up a business, it doesn't matter how long you've been up and running, every day feels like day 1. I guess this is because there is always so much to do, it's easy to become overwhelmed. I definitely feel that pressure a lot - when I look at my to do list and it's so long, and some of the stuff is so boring (keyword research, please), I just think gaaahh how am I ever going to do all this. I'm sure that is what Julie must have thought when all those orders started piling up but look at what she has achieved.

As you may know, I teach a workshop called Start Up Your Creative Business at our studio in Blunham, Bedfordshire and also in London at The Decor Cafe where I co-host with Debbie Blott. It's all about sharing information and giving people the confidence to get started. I sometimes get talking to people about West Egg and they say they had an idea for something or other, but never did it because they were scared it would fail. I find that a bit depressing really which is why I want to help people overcome that. We include topics such as setting up a limited company vs sole trader, how to write a press release, to blogging, how to use twitter, setting up an e-commerce platform - it's pretty much everything I've learnt over the last two years. I always talk about different stories I found inspiring,or people I look up to and respect so I thought I'd create this new column on the blog called "Start Up Inspiration" so I can share them here too. Julie Deane is first on that list. 

* The plinky plonk music is Velvet Elvis by Alex Winston.


  1. Two inspiring stories, this is exactly the kind of stuff that keeps me going, thank you for sharing :)

    1. Hi Dani - isn't it a great story, oh my goodness! I just unwrapped and photographed the snailmail from you yesterday - so pretty. I just had some of the strawberry jam on my toast - you are one talented lady, thank you so much! xx

  2. Louisa, I love Cambridge satchel company's bags as you know - the brown one I carry everywhere. I saw the ads previously, I agree it is so inspiring. I think her success is down to her dedication and motivation but probably also due to the fact that she had come up with one of those rare light bulb moments that can turn to overnight success.

    I can see your business growing and I think it is admirable that you are willing to share with others the tricks of the trade. I'm up for coming, let me know when your next start up your creative business workshop is. xx

    1. Hi Geraldine,

      Of course, I love your brown satchel - it is so chic! I didn't realise though it was from this company and then we saw the pink ones in Pedlars on Sunday, I still didn't make the connection and then I saw the ad. And everything made sense!

      Would love you to come to one of our workshops - the dates are online - go to workshops, I think 20th April or 27th June.

      Louisa xx

  3. what a lovely post, and wonderful, inspiring story! i'm new to your blog, but enjoying it very much. oh, and i adore plinky-plonk music :) Jane

    1. Hi Jane - thanks so much, I am glad to have found a fellow plinky plonk music lover!

  4. A great new feature on your blog to go with a great workshop "Start Up Your Creative Business". There are so many people that are scared to make their dreams come true....

    Secret: I was a Business Consultant for Creatives for 10 years...:-) so you will excuse if I don't attend the workshop:-)

    Love the Satchel Company story more for the story than the Satchel (although love them too for their colours etc)

    Be proud of WestEgg... running a business is a journey, enjoy it.. it goes without saying that since you started from home you will be super successfull:-)))) xx

    What a great post!

    1. Hi Tina - thanks so much for your lovely comment, you are very inspiring! x

    2. Hi Louisa
      I coincidentally saw this blog and i found lovely and interesting story of yours. I appreciate your dream is going to be successful,May God bless you ever and this brand is also a pretty one.
      Logo Designing Firm UK