Cambridge Satchel Company has been chosen as one of 16 "national champions" that will represent the UK in the 2012-13 European Business Awards.
The business was established in 2008 by Julie Deane to fund private school fees for her children. With just a few hundred pounds and no previous business experience, Deane, supported by her mother Freda Thomas, started manufacturing the satchels in a variety of colours to create a modern twist on a design classic.
Fashion bloggers picked up on the accessories and they were soon a must-have for celebrities like Alexa Chung, Fearne Cotton and Zooey Deschanel.
Now in just its fourth year of trading, the Cambridge Satchel Company expects to turn over £9 million and Deane's story has even been used in an advert for Google Chrome to highlight the power of the internet.
This year, for the first time, entrants to the European Business Awards were asked to submit a video case study. After more than 35,000 votes were cast, the public picked one national champion, while a panel of judges choose 15 other companies from the UK that have demonstrated innovation, sustainability and business excellence.
Between now and January, the national champions will be reassessed by another panel of judges made up of business leaders, academics and entrepreneurs from across Europe. The top organisations will be awarded Ruban d'Honneur status.
After a final series of face-to-face presentations by the Ruban d'Honneur recipients, the overall winners of the European Business Awards will be announced next April.
Deane said, "We're proud to be selected to the UK as a national champion. The European Business Awards are widely recognised as the showcase for Europe's most dynamic companies and we are now looking forward to the next round of the judging process, where we can explain in more depth how we are achieving business success in these tough trading conditions."
The other UK national champions are AECOM, Ardent, Barrhead Travel, Business Centric Services Group, Contamac, dotDigital, EH Booth & Company, Elgrove Foods, Essence, GeoTraceability, Sun Mark, TelecityGroup, the Berkeley Group, the Chemistry Group and Translink.
By Andy Jowett
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