Founders Interview | Gracie & Sophie Tyrell @ Squirrel Sisters
We are Gracie & Sophie Tyrrell- sisters and founders of Squirrel Sisters award-winning snacking brand.
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.
Why did you become interested in the world of snacks & drinks?
It’s thanks to our Mum that our passion for good food came alive. Food has such an impact on you physically and mentally.
We grew up eating delicious home cooked meals and always had healthy snacks instead of biscuits in the ‘snack draw’.
We loved how good, healthy food made us feel but healthy food was usually quite boring! We wanted to find a snack that was healthy and indulgent… taste was key! So we ended up making the snacks we wanted ourselves…
What inspired you to do what you do?
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 Gracie was able to look after her.
Gracie 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 was your Eureka Moment when you knew you had a product which you could take to market?
We started making the bars for friends and family when they came over to visit and the feedback was always so good that we felt we had to make them available nationwide.
What current & future trends does your product meet?
- 100% natural
- High Fibre
- Source of Protein
- No Added Sugar
- Award-winning taste
What did you do before starting your company & what made you take the leap into entrepreneurship?
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.
Sophie: I worked across Branding, Design & Marketing agencies across Europe & Asia. My role before Squirrel Sisters was as a Business Development Director in a Singapore-based agency.
What made us take the leap…
We started the business because it felt like the right time. Sophie was moving back to London from Singapore and Gracie was working in film & TV so both of us were flexible with our time and working alongside the business doing freelance whilst we built up to the launch.
It was good timing for both of us, and having no experience meant that we weren’t put off by anything and were able to approach things naively which worked in our favour in the end (mostly because we didn’t realise how hard it would be so weren’t put off by this!)
What has been the hardest part of starting your business?
Finding a factory that could replicate what we were making at home on a larger scale; It’s not as easy as handing over a recipe and asking them to make it on a bigger scale. Scaling up changes everything, the taste, texture etc.
It took about 6 months of trials with various factories before we found the one that could do it and we have been working with them ever since. They are amazing and we have such a great relationship with them.
What has been the BEST mistake you’ve made & why?
Running a business is hard and there will always be ups and downs and mistakes made but if it was easy then everyone would do it.
Early on there were times when we didn’t listen to our gut feeling and that ended up putting us in tricky situations so now when we have a bad gut feeling we always listen to and trust our instinct.
The mistakes we made taught us a lot so we don’t really see them as mistakes anymore, you need to make mistakes to grow.
What keeps you motivated?
Gracie: Passion for life and what we are trying to achieve with Squirrel Sisters! We truly believe we can make a difference to people’s lives through our snacks. And a good nights sleep always helps my motivation levels.
Sophie: Knowing that our bars are the most delicious out there, without having any sugars or artificial sweeteners. We know that they help a lot of people make healthier choices, so remembering this always keeps us going
What do you do in your spare time outside of business life?
Gracie: I love cooking and experimenting with new foods. I love exercising, travelling, seeing friends and family. One of my favourite things to do is have a night in with a delicious dinner, bottle of red wine and a film.
Sophie: My life is very busy with my 1-year-old daughter at the moment! I love spending time with the family & my friends, and when I have time I really enjoy cooking & experimenting in the kitchen (fermented foods is my latest hobby) and travelling is a big passion of mine, although a bit more tricky at the moment with Lola.
What do you think are the key skills required to make yourself & your business a success in the world of snacks & drinks?
Both: Passion, persistence and patience. Success doesn’t happen overnight. It 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.
What would you say is your biggest strength (personally)?
Gracie: I’m extremely observant and able to read people and situations very well.
Sophie: I really care about how others feel so always try and take this into account in my actions.
What would you say is your biggest weakness (personally) & how do you look to overcome this?
Gracie: Having had no experience in running a business before I think I can feel the dreaded ‘imposter syndrome’ from time to time. I have to remind myself that we wouldn’t have got this far if we weren’t capable.
Sophie: I get quite easily overwhelmed and stressed out, so I have to really try and manage this closely in order for it not to get out of hand. It’s been a lot more challenging with a baby, but I’m getting there.
If you could sit down with yourself for a pint/glass of wine/coffee this time last year.....what would be the 3 most important tips you would give yourself knowing what you know now?
- Always trust your gut
- Never let anyone make you feel unworthy
- Do what’s best for you
- You will always work out a way to manage
- What is meant to be will be
- Let people help you when you need it (in business & family life)
Any plans or predictions you can share with us for the rest of 2020?
We are very proud of our achievements so far. We are a team of just 2 and have been since we launched 4.5 years ago. We have turned our passion into a nationwide success with our products available in over 2000 stores across the UK.
However, we want Squirrel Sisters to be known globally for it’s delicious and nutritious snacks so now it’s time to get help and that’s exactly what we have done.
We will be announcing something very very exciting soon, which will take Squirrel Sisters to the next level.