Q and A with Gracie Tyrrell, Co-Founder of Squirrel Sisters

by Mar 22, 2023
Gracie Tyrrell, Co Founder

What do you love most about the brand you’ve created? 

I love that Squirrel Sisters was born out of a genuine purpose; we started the brand after my sister Sophie was diagnosed with a heart condition, which ended up with her having to give up processed foods and sugar. I made it my mission to research and find foods that would be suitable for her, but there was nothing that ticked all the boxes, so I started making my own snacks for her to enjoy while she was recovering.

Have you always wanted to work in this industry? 

I’ve always loved food and have always been passionate about ‘well-being’ (‘the state of feeling healthy and happy’), so being able to create a product that blends my two passions is a dream come true. 

What are you most proud of? 

I’m so proud of our listings. Being a small business, trying to compete against brand giants is tough but we’ve done a good job of it so far; our snacks can be found in several major offices like Facebook and Bloomberg, hotels, gyms and cafes as well as bigger retailers including Holland & Barrett and Boots. We are also exporting to Germany and have a listing at Spinneys (Waitrose) in the UAE.

What advice would you give to someone keen to start a business but unsure where to begin?

Passion is crucial when running a business; you have to be passionate about whatever it is that you are doing because if you don’t have the passion and belief then it’s going to be incredibly challenging to get through all the tough moments that will arise on the journey. Oh and also – don’t be scared of failure! The fear of failing will hold you back, embrace the fear, trust your gut and believe in yourself.

Who is one of your biggest inspirations – either professionally or personally? 

Without a doubt my biggest inspiration is my mum who I sadly lost to cancer very recently. She was and will always be my biggest inspiration. She gave me the confidence to go for it and made me feel like I could be and achieve anything. The kindest soul who always put others first, even in her last days. I will forever be in awe of her positivity and how she handled challenging times. She was one of a kind who I miss so much. 

If you could attribute your success to anyone who gave you your big break? 

There have been lots of people along the way. Our factory owners are one of them, they gave us a chance when we were just an idea and had no confirmed retail listings. They believed in our mission so supported us with lower minimum order quantities and payment terms, which enabled us to launch the business with low risk. It also meant we didn’t need to get investment early on.

More recently I would say my new business partner, who believed in me and the business so has come onboard to invest and support.

What’s the hardest thing about your job? 

Running a business isn’t easy, there are constant challenges and extreme highs and lows, it can be an emotional rollercoaster – you have to dig deep. For me one of the hardest things is juggling the business with personal life, especially when you’re a small team.

When you’re dealing with difficult things in your personal life you have to keep going as a small business because you are the driving force, no one is going to run the business for you. When it comes to the industry one of the hardest things when you’re a smaller business is that the retailer is always in control, you’re in their hands.

Which part of your job do you most enjoy?

I love the people I meet; the small business community is an amazing one. Running a business isn’t easy but for me one of the best things about it is that I’m investing my time and energy into something that is my passion (not someone else’s). Being your own boss can be incredibly rewarding.

Do you find it easy to balance work and play? 

I make a huge effort to balance work and play because I believe that without balance it’s easy to burn out and be less productive at work. I find it hard to keep the work momentum up at 100% all the time; working without balance can make me feel flat, lack energy and creative headspace. So, for me it’s really important to have balance because it actually benefits my work – I come up with some of my best ideas when I’m away from my desk in nature, at the gym or relaxing in the bath.

About Emily Eaves

Co Founder and Editor at To Work or Play, Emily has been Freelance Copywriting for over 10 years. She is passionate about food, drink, travel, design and finding ways to keep her two children out of trouble.

With a background in Luxury Restaurant and Hotel PR, Emily moved from London to Dorset in 2019. She now spends weekends at the beach and daydreams about her vegetable garden.