'The Words We Speak' with Sophie Tyrrell from Squirrel Sisters

Meet Sophie Tyrrell, Mama to gorgeous little Lola and one half of the amazing vegan, no-added-sugar and gluten-free snack brand, Squirrel Sisters. 

Since 2015, sisters, Gracie and Sophie Tyrrell have been on a mission to revolutionise the snacking and confectionary category with their multi award-winning snacks. 

We had the pleasure of meeting Sophie just before lockdown and connected straight away both as Mama's and as fellow sisters in business! We are thrilled to have Sophie on our 'Words We Speak' series discussing all things motherhood whilst running a thriving business AND managing to get some time in to #treatyourhealth! 

Firstly, we have to ask, how do you find being sisters in business?  How does it work?

We absolutely love it – we are so close and 100% trust the other one so always put each others’ interests first, which actually creates a really healthy working environment because we care about the others’ wellbeing before anything else (even snacks).

And now you have a little squirrel!  Congratulations.  How are you finding juggling motherhood with running a business?

Thank you so much – I absolutely love being a Mum! I had a feeling I would love it and her, but it is just the best thing. It is hard juggling motherhood with running a business and the first 6 months were particularly challenging with lack of routine, hormones and general tiredness but I feel like the time I put in then is starting to pay off and I’ve learned to try and focus on one thing at a time, e.g. I make sure I often consciously put down my phone and focus on Lola and play with her but at other times things need to get done and it’s good for her to learn to play on her own anyway.  Gracie has been a huge support, as I mentioned in the last question she has my best interests at heart so has come to me a lot more to work together, always offers to help with Lola, and tells me when I should have a break too.

sisters with baby

Any tips on how you manage it?

I would say identify your best times and also your priorities and make a plan (that allows for flexibility). So for me, I’m more productive in the morning than evenings so I get up really early and work until my husband goes to work so that he can take Lola at that time and I can make the most of that time to focus, then I work through her naps and try to do bits and bobs from my phone/laptop depending on how she is that day.  Then I do bits as and when I need to in the evenings and always put some time in at the weekend too.  Then I had to look at my life as a whole and worked out what’s got to give really…exercise is something I love and is important to me, but I have to be flexible with it and rather than go to a reformer pilates class, I go for a walk with Lola whilst she’s awake or try and do a quick session in the house whilst she watches and laughs at me.  I can’t socialise as much as I’d like (although I think that’s a mum issue, not necessarily just for people who have their own business!) and have to make sure I get early nights to keep on top of things.

How do you ensure you take time out to do more of what you love when you’re running a business and managing being a mum?

It is quite tricky to prioritise this as I suppose all my time not with Lola is working, but I try to combine things so I try to see friends and take Lola with me or like I mentioned exercise whilst I’m with Lola. It is important to have time to yourself though so at the weekend when my husband is around to help I will do a class, or have a long bath etc. It is so important though, I get really overwhelmed sometimes and also feel like crap when I feel like I’m constantly giving out so it’s important not to let yourself feel guilty for carving out that time every now and then. Meditation really helps me and has become an important tool, so sometimes even when I’m ‘meant to be working’ I will just take 5 mins to sit and use an app to do a guided meditation….it really does make a difference and makes me more productive overall.

mum and baby

What have you learned about yourself since becoming a parent?

I’ve actually become a lot more confident in general….I know that a lot of people feel that they lose their identity as a parent, but I actually feel like I’ve learned a lot more about myself and don’t have time to be apologetic for who I am and what I want to do. Lola is obviously a huge priority and it’s weird to be referred to as ‘Lola’s Mum’ but I suppose because of Squirrel Sisters I have a huge other part of my life that is so important to me so it’s just really helped clarify that and other things I want to do in my life too.

mum and baby outside

At LSWF, we’re on a mission to raise the next generation of healthy minds and healthy bodies.  How important do you think the early years, from pregnancy – toddler, are in playing a role in raising healthy adults?

I think they are so important! This is the time when our little humans’ brains are developing and neural pathways are formed and although they don’t necessarily remember it all, it is so vital to lay good strong foundations for them. For me, I want Lola to feel confident in who she is and to have a relationship with me & Ian where she respects our choices for the family but isn’t afraid to tell me how she feels or ask questions. And most of all, to spend as much time as possible laughing!

What fond memories do you have from your childhood with your sister that you would like Lola to remember of hers as she grows up?

I have so many memories of us playing, being in nature, going camping, swimming in the sea (even when it was freezing). I want her to look back and feel that excited feeling at the memories and although I’m already using a screen to calm her down in certain situations (e.g. in the car or on a plane – don’t see any harm in doing what is best for everyone!) I definitely want her to spend most of her time out and about playing.

And your favourite flavour in your range?  (Mine is Cocoa Orange!)

My faves change all the time, I love our new Peanut Caramel but I have really gone back to the brownie now…I’m finding that hit of cacao really just gives me such a lovely boost in the afternoons. I will have it in place of having a bit of chocolate after lunch and I absolutely love it!

What has been your biggest learning since launching your range of healthy snacks?  How has the landscape changed for your business and how do you stay on top of constant change?

I think that the biggest learning is that it is actually harder to stay on the shelves than get on them in bigger retailers… some buyers will take a chance on you, but you have to be prepared to have a full support plan, have built that awareness, and have a solid supply chain where you are making a profit in order to successfully sell in retail.  It is very challenging because quite a few companies have come into the category since we launched and try and claim that they are small when really they have huge budgets and can just buy your shelf space!  We have stayed true to our core values, and our core range whereas a lot of other brands have gone down more ‘innovative’ routes but then end up with a product that is substandard just to try and come across as different. We are very proud that we have a loyal following, can still stand by the quality we started the business with, and are still a tiny company who haven’t even taken on any investment!

Love your line: TREAT YOUR HEALTH – How do you treat your health? Other than enjoying Squirrel Sister treats of course!

I can speak for both Gracie and I on this one, we just love a bath!! We’re both quite active (in very different ways – G loves HIIT and I prefer a yoga session) but really take our relaxation and sleep seriously too (I say seriously, we just go to bed early a lot) and that really does help our physical and mental health!

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