Episode 105
May 10, 2022

Dreams, Dares, and Dates

with Sydney Karmes-Wainer, Founder and CEO of French Squirrel

About this episode

Sydney Karmes-Wainer joins the show today to talk about her journey to being the Founder and CEO of French Squirrel. A French inspired good for you snacking company, best known for their nutrient dense vegan protein bites and nut butter stuffed dates, both coated in 100% pure unsweetened chocolate. In this episode, Sydney shares with us her journey from growing up with a passion for food, to working at Pressed Juicery in college, to working as a brand manager at Erewhon and starting her company, French Squirrel. She talks with us about how she balances both her full-time job at Erewhon and building her company, the importance of working with the distributor, and why she wants to continue bootstrapping the business and grow organically.

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In This Episode You’ll Hear About:

  • Her journey growing up in Los Angeles, with a passion for food, and her experience having an entrepreneurial parent
  • How her French grandma is the inspiration behind French Squirrel, and the story behind how her mom bought the domain name for frenchsquirrel.com when she was 11 years old
  • Her time working at Pressed Juicery in college, how she had to take her food handlers license and hated it, but it ended up being worth it for French Squirrel
  • How she graduated from college early, unsure of what she wanted to do, so she landed a position as Brand Manager at Erewhon 
  • How her boss at Erewhon encouraged her to start French Squirrel, and continued to push her to launch the brand
  • How she balances both her full-time job at Erewhon and building her company
  • The challenges of expanding French Squirrel and not having direct access to the company with distribution, but the good parts that come with it 
  • Why she wants to continue bootstrapping the business and grow organically
  • What’s next for the company and continuing expansion into retail and online 

To Find Out More:



“I look at every single grocery store product on the shelf and I think about what the stairway was to get there.”

“I would go as far to say that I could not have built French Squirrel to what it is today without being at Erewhon.” 

“I always knew I wanted to start my own business when I started my French Squirrel Instagram, but I didn't know what the product was.”

“I would make these protein bites, that I would bring to work as my work snack, and I would always eat them behind my computer at my desk around like three or four with my cappuccino.”

“When looking at the data, looking at the sales, people like when something looks homemade.”

“People like to see what they're eating and they want to know that it was made with love and made in a small batch, not on a machine.’

“Sometimes dates on their own can be a little freaky for some people. They don't like the texture or it's too sweet, but when you balance it out with the unsweetened chocolate and the nut butter and the salt, I think it makes it more appealing.”

“I was trying to satisfy my chocolate craving in the afternoon, but without the sugar."

“There's not a day that goes by where there isn't something I have to fix or resolve.”

“I want the company to be successful and I know it will be successful, but I'm not planning on blowing up, I just want to take it slow.”

“Just start an actionable start, instead of talk, which is the talk is great, but who's actually doing?

Try it. And if it fails, but I don't even like the word fail, because if you learned from it, it's not a failure.”

“If you learned from it, it's not a failure.”

Read the transcript

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