Often the most authentic businesses come from solving problems that you have to face already. Such is the caring foundation from which the siblings behind Squirrel Sisters, Gracie and Sophie Tyrrell, grew their award-winning, no added sugar snack brand.
Gracie’s love of baking sugar-free alternatives to Sophie’s favourite snacks birthed a business 6 years strong, with products you’ll find in Waitrose and Holland & Barrett.
The road’s not been easy though – listen to this week’s episode of It Runs In The Family to hear the blood-boiling hurdles they’ve overcome, from running a lean operation and punching with the big brands, to boldly walking away from insolent investors.
This episode covers:
● Converting a hobby into an exciting, growing business
● Transitioning from seeing each other as siblings to Co-Founders too
● The shocking gender issues they’ve overcome just to break into the market
● Drawing & blurring the line between work and home life
“What we discovered after a lot of trial and error is that sugar was making me ill; I would have the tiniest bit of sugar in Ketchup or something, and it set me back so much, I would get really exhausted with a lot of inflammation and felt horrendous. So Gracie made it her mission to get me better.” – 2:40 – Sophie Tyrrell
“We’ve always really enjoyed baking, but it hasn’t been on the healthy side until Sophie discovered this heart condition. We didn’t really realise the detrimental effect that sugar can actually have on your body with things like inflammation, until Sophie started to get these reactions. So it was at that point that I started researching sugar and the different ingredients in products, particularly health products.” – 4:35 – Gracie Tyrrell
“We really set up the blog for ourselves to post what we find interesting and create recipes, then we gained an engaged following quite quickly. I think people connected to the fact that we were honest, we weren’t preaching unrealistic lifestyles. Also we have a genuine authentic story as well, so people really connected to that – it was at that point we started to see an opportunity to make the Squirrel Sisters blog into something bigger.” – 8:30 – Gracie Tyrrell
“When someone in your family has a scare, you realise that very little in life is actually that important. At the end of the day, we love what we’re doing and we’re very passionate about the business, but it’s not going to end the world if we don’tsell a snack bar today.” – 15:45 – Gracie Tyrrell
“One of the investors ‘joked’ and basically said ‘Can we put into the contract that if Sophie goes off the rails as a mother, I’ll get my money back?’. Essentially what he meant by that is mocking postnatal depression and the chance that could happen, that she would just basically get obsessed with her children and she wouldn’t want to continue with the business. So we pulled out of that the next day.” – 21:50 – Gracie Tyrrell
“For a small business, it really is about persistence. We’ve had a challenge with budgets, and we haven’t had the investment that a lot of bigger retailers do expect. We’re really proud of how many retailers we have got into as a team of just two without having investment, because it is really difficult. ” – 29:10 – Gracie Tyrrell
“If one of us really strongly believes in something then we’ll look into it. It might be that we can’t make something without sugar, or it’s too expensive if we want to sell it at a certain price point. There haven’t been any conflicts, and I think we wouldn’t ever want there to be.” – 34:55 – Sophie Tyrrell
“When we do launch into retailers, when we see our products on the shelf, that’s really exciting. It doesn’t actually get old, going into a shop and seeing your own product.” – 45:55 – Gracie Tyrrell
“Nothing is really more important than your relationship, and actually the situation that happened most recently really made that so clear. Obviously, there’s gonna be really difficult times, real highs and lows, and you will definitely
have moments where you feel stressed with each other as well. But at the end of the day for me, nothing is more important than that.” – 51:25 – Gracie Tyrrel