I am delighted to share an inspirational interview with Gracie & Sophie Tyrrell, Founders, Squirrel Sisters. Squirrel Sisters is a multi award-winning health and wellness company with a range of delicious and health snacks.
This business came about after the sisters underwent some very challenging times. It’s a really heart-warming tale of how challenges can make us stronger. The Squirrel Sisters have done everything themselves from product development, sales, finance and all the things that go towards launching a successful business.
Tell us a little about your childhood and teenager years
We were both born in Richmond, Surrey and enjoyed growing up there until we were 9 and 11 years old (there’s a 2 year age gap between us). We remember weekends cycling around Richmond Park, hunting for conkers and we got our first dog, a Golden Retriever called Merry, so we have such fond memories.
When we were 9/11 years old we ended up moving to Belgium because our Dad’s work meant he needed to be there quite a lot and our parents thought it would be a great experience for us to live elsewhere for a while. We attended The British School of Brussels and we lived there for 2 years before moving back to the UK.
Our Mum wanted to move out of London so she travelled around the UK looking at places that might work for us as a family. Bath was the winner! We moved back to Bath for senior school (we attended The Royal High School) and our parents still live there now.
Memories of our childhood and teenage years are great. We are so lucky to have such supportive, loving and kind parents. Our passion for good food came from our Mum who always made us the most delicious homemade dinners and would get us baking at the weekend to keep us occupied.
What was your first job/career? What did you learn from this?
Gracie: After graduating from Leeds University I moved to New York to study at Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute. After I completed my 1 year here I started working in the film and TV industry as an actress. I worked in the UK and USA and got experience across adverts, independent films and theatre. I also worked on the production side of TV both in Europe and the US.
I was 21 when I moved to New York on my own, which looking back was a massively independent and scary thing to do. I met so many amazing people from all different walks of life and it was completely character building and a life changing experience.
When I started working in the industry I was working with such a mix of people in very unusual and new circumstances. I was put in some scary and difficult situations, which I had to deal with at a young age in a mature and careful way so for me this career/experience was invaluable to my personal growth. It made me confident, secure, and able to deal with all different types of personalities and made me a more conscious, kind and aware.
Sophie: After graduating from Manchester University I started my career as a strategy intern at a Brand & Design Consultancy which I loved.
I loved understanding brands’ stories and how to communicate this to the consumers and learnt why it was important for brands to stay true to their values.
What led to you setting up your business?
We launched our business in 2015 after Sophie underwent major heart surgery after she was diagnosed with a life-threatening condition called Wolfe-Parkinson-Whyte. After the surgery Sophie became quite unwell and sensitive to gluten and sugar. We were living together in Balham at the time, so I was able to look after her. I started making the bars for Sophie while she was recovering so she could have something delicious and indulgent to eat that was also 100% natural and contained no added sugar.
What are your products and/or services?
We have a range of multi award-winning snacks that are vegan, gluten-free, 100% natural and contain no added sugar. We are one of the only snacking brands in the UK that does not add any syrups or sugar alternatives to our products, which is why we have been certified by Sugarwise. Our snacks can be found in over 2000 stores across the UK in retailers like Waitrose, Holland and Barrett, Ocado, Whole Foods, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols and hundreds of independent cafes and shops.
What makes your business special?
We are 2 sisters that are on a mission to revolutionise the snacking and confectionary category with our multi award-winning snacks. For far too long snack bars and confectionary have been filled with sugars, syrups and artificial sweeteners but we believe it’s possible to have great tasting snacks, which do not contain any of these things. We believe you can have great tasting, healthy snacks that use only natural ingredients. This is our commitment to our consumer.
What tip would you give to someone who wants to set up a business but lacks self-belief?
There’s no better time than now. Running a business takes a lot of hard work and you need to stay motivated. Passion is crucial; you have to be passionate about whatever it is that you are doing because if you don’t have the passion and the belief then it won’t work. It’s all about passion, persistence and patience. We believe that if you’ve got the passion then go for it. We had no experience in running a business before we started Squirrel Sisters but we knew if we didn’t give it a go we would regret it forever. Trust your gut and believe in yourself.
How do you ensure you look after yourself properly? What do you do for self-care?
Gracie: I really listen to my body and make sure I’m never too hard on myself. Balancing personal, social and work life is tough, so I just make sure I’m kind to myself and don’t do anything that will make me feel bad. I love having baths in the evening and also morning if I wake up early enough. I also love taking time to cook delicious meals, I find cooking so therapeutic.
Sophie: I make time (and if necessary social sacrifices) to actually relax and give myself time to rest and unwind. This is especially important to me now I’m a Mum. I have regular baths, early nights and try to meditate daily (sometimes easier said than done).
Who supported you as you set up your business?
We both had saved quite a bit before starting Squirrel Sisters so we used our savings to start the business. We couldn’t’ pay ourselves a salary for the first year so we also used our savings to live and pay bills.
What things would you like to see change about the position of women in society?
We would love to see both men & women navigating parenthood equally as the norm. We would like businesses to promote flexibility so that both parents can excel in what they are doing in their careers, rather than the women having to take the hit and men therefore getting ahead. It’s not enough just to promote women, you have to look at society as a whole and encourage the men in businesses to take an equal role within their family unit.
If you could recommend ONE book to women what would it be and why?
Gracie: Sophie bought me The Universe Has Your Back by Gabrielle Bernstein when I was going through some very tough and traumatic things in my personal life a few years ago. I remember reading it in the bath one night and truly connecting with what she was saying. I became open to trusting that the universe had my back and believed that the universe would give me the signs I needed. The next day the universe gave me the sign I needed, which enabled me to make a life changing decision very easily.
Sophie: The Chimp Paradox is brilliant – it’s not just aimed at women, but it can really help you to understand yourself, others and therefore the different relationships around you. It is really easy to take in the information and I found it really helpful.
If you could recommend ONE website (to women, what would it be and why?
Sheerluxe – we just love it! It’s like a magazine with loads of variety in what they write about, from current affairs to interiors to health & wellness. You get a daily email with loads of fun things to look through which is always the highlight!
Is there anything else you would like to add?
We love to chat so do find us on social media if you want to find out more or ask us any questions.