“Can you put into the contract that if Sophie goes off the rails as a mother, I’ll get my money back?”

Female founders of Squirrel Sisters snack bars reveal stark conversations with potential investors on family business podcast

As the company heads towards its sixth anniversary in November, the sisters behind Squirrel Sisters, the UK’s only snacking brand with an entire range of no added sugar products, take to the airwaves on family business podcast It Runs In The Family to frankly share their turbulent business journey as female founders and reveal how the investment world is far from supportive of motherhood.

Squirrel Sisters was launched by Sophie and Gracie Tyrrell after Sophie was diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening heart condition, which led to her giving up sugar. Gracie started making snack bars for her so she could enjoy an alternative snack without the added sugars.  With shelf space currently successfully secured in Waitrose, Selfridges and Holland & Barrett, the road’s not been easy. On a recent episode of the It Runs In The Family podcast, the sisters share with podcast hosts, Liz and Leila Willingham, the hurdles they’ve overcome, from running a lean operation and punching with the big brands, to boldly walking away from insolent investors.

On seeking investment Gracie explains: “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.”

Gracie and Sophie hope that by sharing their experiences with difficult and unfair investors they can raise awareness of what still happens behind closed doors. Listeners will find out how being women in business has been an issue for the sisters, with them facing the motherhood penalty.  Sophie, who is joined by her youngest child Ted on the podcast, explains: “This little person who has joined us, he’s made a few enemies along the way.  We had a few issues with when I was pregnant with my first and this other person we worked with. He made it very difficult for me being pregnant, and then having Ted it effected my health with being stressed.”

Podcast host and founder of family business specialist PR agency Liz Lean PR, Liz Willingham, said: “I feel blessed that I personally didn’t experience the extreme responses Sophie and Gracie have encountered while setting up and establishing my own business which has now been thriving for almost 25 years.

“I know the results that can be achieved from the drive that a mum running her own business brings. I felt sad to hear that incredible drive was put into question here and fully champion their decision to walk away from such inappropriate accusations. This episode of It Runs In The Family covers a really punchy business subject and one that more than deserves the air time. We hope that this story, that made our jaws drop to the floor, helps change the tide of this outdated and frankly totally inappropriate behaviour.”

Gracie added: “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.”

Launched in February 2021, It Runs In The Family podcast was set up by Liz Willingham, founder and managing director of Dorset-based PR and communications agency Liz Lean PR, and her daughter Leila, who is business and PR account manager at the agency, and is making its mark in the podcasting arena and hitting the charts – reaching number 17 in top family business podcasts and making number 95 in the top entrepreneurship podcasts for Great Britain. To date, the mother and daughter duo have reached listeners in 42 countries, across six continents, with their podcast.

Please visit https://lizleanpr.co.uk/podcast-runs-in-the-family/.

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