Sophie Tyrrell, 33 and her sister Gracie, 31 launched their vegan, gluten and sugar-free raw bars in November 2015, just a year after launching their blog with the same brand name, Squirrel Sisters.

Their mission was always to make healthy eating fun and tasty first through their blogging and recipe creation and then through their healthy snack range. Here they share their journey and reveal how their passion for spreading the healthy eating message and their love of working together has transformed Squirrel Sisters into a thriving business with raw bars now sold in supermarkets from Waitrose to Morrisons.

What was the lightbulb moment for your business?

Gracie

We started Squirrel Sisters as a hobby. It was a place to document our health discoveries in October 2014 and and we never had a business plan. At the time there were lots of bloggers preaching unrealistic lifestyles. We wanted to let people know healthy didn’t have to be restrictive. Healthy could be fun.

I began to make raw bars for Sophie after she had a heart operation.

She was gluten intolerant and wanted something natural and refined sugar free so I used just whole dates to sweeten them. As our Squirrel Sisters blog grew bigger we saw an opportunity to launch the bars under our blog name. We were lucky enough to have a designer in the family, Sophie’s now husband, who designed the brand for us so we created the Squirrel Sister brand without any costs.

At the start we both worked from home and did a bit of everything but it got a bit messy not knowing who was going to reply to which email so we made the decision to split the roles into what we were better at.

Sophie

Our blog gained a large following quickly so we saw an opportunity to turn it into a business. We decided to launch the raw bars, that Gracie used to make for me as our first product.

We Googled everything we didn’t know or understand and because neither of us have experience in this field we approached it naively. We just had to be innovative and persistent.

We did have a quite a few challenges like finding a manufacturer that could scale up and maintain quality. But we were both passionate about our brand and product so we kept going. We got Planet Organic and Wholefoods first and they were the dream first customers.

 

Gracie

We launched our bars in November 2015, a year after our blog. The MD of our factory is a nutritionist so he has been able to advise us on new product development also known as NPD.

How did you work out who does what in the business?

Sophie

I had more specific business related experience as I’d worked for a startup. So I look after finance, sales operation, supply chains and logistics. We both look after the brand.

Gracie

I look after marketing, PR, partnerships, NPD and social media.

What have been the highs and lows of being Glowgetters?

Sophie

The highest point was getting into our first and second supermarket.

We got into Morrisons then Waitrose within a couple of months of each other. That was such an exciting milestone for us.

Gracie

My high point was being approached by a publisher to write our own recipe book. It was amazing.

It was a wonderful and very proud moment when our book of recipes finally got published.

Sophie

Our lowest points have been when we’ve got so close to getting into a retailer but then it hasn’t worked out at the last minute mainly due to not having the investment to support the launch.

Gracie

The hardest thing for me has been hiring people and we’ve had some real let downs. Hiring someone is huge for us as a small business with no investment. It’s very rare to find someone as passionate as you are and we have now found that with Holly our first employee.

What’s it like building a brand with your sister and how does your upbringing affect your working relationship?

Gracie

We had arguments when we were little but had one big argument when I was 15 and Sophie was 17 and we’ve never argued since. It’s very easy for us to work together. We genuinely don’t argue because we have similar ideas and vision. Making decisions has never been a problem because we both always wanted the same thing. Our parents always encouraged us to sit down and talk about any issues and be honest with each other so we resolved things.

Sophie

Our parents taught us the importance of healthy food. They showed us that food can really affect your mood, general mental state and energy levels. We love feeling good and energised and productive. Our blog is all about creating recipes that make you feel like that. it’s all about taste.

Our mission is to prove that healthy doesn’t have to be boring.

We’ve such shared experiences- we both went to University in the North. Gracie to Leeds to study Theatre and Performance and I went to Manchester to study Maths and Management. Then we both spent time abroad. Gracie went to New York for a year to study at the Lee Strasbourg Method acting school and I went to Singapore for two years. We came back together remotely first with the blog then both moved back to London to launch the raw bars.

Sophie

If you have an idea you believe in and you are passionate about then you can make it happen. We were naive but that was our biggest strength. We didn’t know how hard it would be. You just need a good group of supporters. We had each other but also friends and family plus my husband Ian was really helpful bringing the idea to life through branding.

Gracie

We started out thinking “How hard this can be?” and it’s really hard building a health food business! The passion behind it needs to be there to keep you going when there are setbacks and major decisions. It can be really stressful so you have to really love it. When there are big decisions we are lucky to make them together.  We have been self-funded so far saving costs on our branding and we worked from home for the first 1.5 years. We want to grow a lot more so we are getting currently getting investment.

What does the future hold?

Sophie
We want to innovate and do some new and exciting flavours. We will always be a snacking brand but once we have our investment and partners on board we want to be a brand with more products that people see as delicious and fun and nutritious.

To try their amazing bars click here 

 

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