I first met Julie Deane - and her wonderful mother Freda Thomas — at a reception Samantha Cameron hosted at 10 Downing Street for the 2011 winners of the Red Women of the Year Awards. I was so happy to finally meet her, as we had already corresponded a little by email, and I think we were both completely blown away by the day. (I know we were two of the criers on the podium when we went up to accept our awards later in the day.)
So I am thrilled that Julie, a charming and kind woman whose entrepreneurial tenacity, extraordinary chutzpah and instinctive ability to navigate the often choppy unknown waters of the fashion industry I admire so much, has agreed to take some of her precious time to write her A Day in the Life for LLG…
Over to you Julie…(also check out her AMAZING dog, Rupert!)
Since founding The Cambridge Satchel Company almost five years ago I can honestly say there is no such thing as a typical day – I try to keep the ‘helicopter view’: always reviewing what’s happening now at work, what’s on the horizon, and dipping in where necessary. I am a micromanager, there’s no doubt about it, but when you start something from scratch and have the benefit of having done every job in the organisation at some stage, it’s impossible not to get involved.
It’s a good thing – I’ve read many people say it’s all about the art of delegation, yes, you need good people but to keep the heart in a brand then I believe it’s about detail, not becoming corporate even though the company has grown at an astounding pace… so here we go, a day…
My day starts at 6.30am, I listen to the news on the radio and promise myself I’ll get up as soon as the weather forecast has been read. I check email and respond to the urgent ones before 7am and then get dressed. The family has breakfast together each day, my husband leaves the house at around 8am and I take our children, Emily and Max (14 and 12) to school – Rupert, my boxer, comes too as he joins me at work every day. Having my dog at work is something that is very important to me – everyone loves Rupert, he’s an important part of the office, a great de-stresser.
I arrive at the office around 8.30am and catch up with Caroline, my PA who does an incredible job of keeping everything running smoothly. We go through the appointments for the day, and email that needs answering (since the Google advert I get a lot of email from people asking for business advice or an opinion on their business ideas – a sort of virtual Dragon!).
I try to avoid being away too much as my husband travels quite a bit, and I love being at home with the children, even if we are all on homework or computers. Balancing home and work life is a difficult feat to achieve but running a business makes it a lot easier than if you’re working for someone else.
Cambridge Satchel has grown from being just me and my mum, to a company employing over ninety people, all in the space of less than five years. I try to keep my finger on the pulse of how our eCommerce is going by monitoring the analytics closely, speaking to our customer service team, and the team of packers that send out our orders, to see how up to date the SKUs are that are going out and what the best selling items are for that week.
All of our bags are made in the UK, most at our own factory in Leicester and so production is a key part of the business – monitoring schedules, capacity and leather quantities in each of the colours and finishes. Over the summer we moved into a new building – much bigger than the old one and so now we are growing the team there and improving the flow of materials. I visit the factory once every two weeks but email or phone every day to find out how things are going.
I take Rupert out for a walk late morning, often with someone from the office for a ‘walk and talk’ – it’s a good way of finding out what’s going on with the trade team, or accounts – being out in the fresh air is far less intense than being in a meeting room, and often far more productive.
Lunch is a quick sit down with my mum. She comes in every day and loves the buzz of the office. She helps in many different areas and gets involved when the new colours are being chosen, as she has a great eye for colour and style.
In the afternoon I spend time with Rose (product developer) and Max (branding and trade) working on the new collection – we have released a mini satchel, a day bag and a clutch. The hardware is gold and took ages to develop – we are now trying to ensure the new branded locks and buckles will reach the factory in plenty of time for the trade orders that have been taken over the Fashion Weeks for SS14.
Last week I was in New York meeting buyers and also press around the new collection, today I am passing on the reactions and comments which were brilliant (so we are all happy).
I leave the office at 4pm to collect the children from school and continue working from there on, flexibility is key – and keeping an eye on the priorities for the day, otherwise it’s easy to become distracted by an exciting new collaboration or an opportunity that comes in.
After dinner I check on the factory end of day email and those of the two shops we opened this year (Covent Garden and Cambridge) – the managers at the shops report in daily on sales and general feedback, which gives a clear picture of what our customers want and we try to react quickly.
Throughout the evening I’ll keep an eye on the social media and try to see what the rest of the week holds in store – usually I’m in London one or two days – I travel up after school drop off and am back for pick up, although I’m very lucky in having my mum at hand if there’s a late meeting or party.
I try to get to bed by midnight and read a chapter or two before lights out and yes, Rupert is snoring again…