Gracie & Sophie Tyrrell
from Squirrel Sisters
We chatted with the lovely Squirrel Sisters to find out more about their award-winning, health and wellness business and the passion that has gone into their brand since they started in 2015 following their successful food blog. They are now stocked in over 1000 stores across the UK despite being a small team of three!
Can you tell our readers a little bit about what you do?
We are Gracie & Sophie Tyrrell. The founders of Squirrel Sisters which is a health and wellness company with a range of award-winning, healthy snack bars.
If you look at the ingredients of a lot of healthy products you will notice that they include syrups, pastes, concentrated fruit juices and sugar alternatives, which we never do! We only use whole ingredients and whole dates to bind and sweeten our products absolutely no nasties or sugar alternatives, which is why we’ve been certified by Sugarwise, an international authority for sugar claims.
Our bars fit in with a number of lifestyles such as vegan, paleo, gluten and refined sugar free, and they are 100% raw. They can be eaten any time of the day; pre/post workout, for breakfast, the snack between meals, after dinner as a healthy pudding- they are the perfect guilt-free treat!
They sound delicious! How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
Health, wellness, food and how it makes us feel has always been a passion of ours so we started Squirrel Sisters as a blog in 2014. Our blog gained a large following quickly; People connected with our mission and the fact we are two normal girls with a busy lifestyle that want to enjoy life while feeling great.
What made you decide to become entrepreneurs?
With a growing following on our blog we saw an opportunity to turn our blog into a business so after much planning and preparation we launched our snack bars in November 2015, which we already had the recipes for (as Gracie used to make them for Sophie due to her Gluten- intolerance). We wanted to prove that healthy could be delicious and exciting so set off on a mission to help people make better and healthier choices more often. We wanted to help others believe that in treating yourself you can treat your health.
How long did it take for you to put your idea into action? What prompted you to act?
It took about 6 months to find a factory that could replicate our bars that we were making at home on a larger scale. Once we found a factory that could do this and had samples we started approaching buyers and within a month we were stocked in Planet Organic and Whole Foods.
What is your secret to getting through the doors of so many amazing retailers?
The brand is extremely important- it’s the first thing buyers see. Our packaging is eye catching and exciting so it stands out, it doesn’t look like a typical boring health snack. This helped us get the attention of a lot of buyers and then once they requested samples the taste and our ingredients is what helped us stand out from the crowd. Our bars don’t taste healthy, they taste indulgent and our ingredients are genuinely good. Unlike so many health bars we only use whole ingredients, never any syrups, pastes or sugar alternatives and buyers love this about us.
Running your own business has so many challenges. Have you had any career defining moments, or hurdles that shaped who you are and where you are right now?
We are extremely proud of our distribution- after 2.5 years you can now find our products in over 1000 stores across the UK including Waitrose, Morrisons, Boots, Whole Foods, Planet Organic, Selfridges, Ocado and Amazon. We also published a cookbook this year, ‘Naturally Delicious Snacks & Treats’, which is available in all good bookshops and online retailers. These are huge achievements for us, especially as we are such a small team (it’s just the two of us and we employ one other, Holly). Hiring people has been a huge challenge for us; trying to find people that share the same passion and have the same drive as you is hard. When you’re a small company cash is tight so hiring is a big investment so they need to be good and finding good people is difficult. We have made some really bad hires, which have been slightly damaging to our company growth but we have learnt a lot from these challenging experiences. We eventually found someone amazing who is a real asset to our team. When you find someone good make sure you hold on to them because they are rare to come by.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned from founding your own company?
That business is not easy… and it never gets easier. It requires a lot of hard work, determination and discipline.
If you had one piece of advice for someone who is just starting out, what would it be?
Success doesn’t happen over night. 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. It’s all about passion, persistence and patience.
What are your goals for the future?
We want Squirrel Sisters to be accessible to everyone. We want to be a global brand that is known for it’s real, honest and exciting approach to health.
Do you have a particular life motto that you live by?
We have lots but one that we’ve been living by recently is to surround yourself with good, positive people. Get rid of any negativity in your life because that will just drain your energy.
Finally, which women inspire you?
Renée Elliott, founder of Planet Organic is a huge inspiration to us because she’s an all round superwoman!
We couldn't agree with you more! If you liked reading this interview as much as we loved writing it, you can read more from our Community of amazing women below, or check out the Squirrel Sisters' feature on The Merit Club