Squirrel’s Nut Butter is often mistaken for the kind of nut butter you can eat. While, technically, you CAN eat our product (it’s all natural and won’t harm you!), we don’t recommend it - it doesn’t taste very good. We are more in the business of making body butters. So, while we’re here clearing things up, we decided we might as well take a deeper look into what (and who) is behind this company!
I started helping out at Squirrel’s several months ago, and I’ve been lucky to share the office with some great people, all of whom wear many, many hats and keep the company moving forward. For the purpose of this blog, and sharing the story of SNB with you all, I started by chatting with the owner of the company, Chris Thornley. Naturally, we first chat about the origin of the company…
“My wonderful, beautiful wife Stacy created the original blend for our daughter’s eczema. There was nothing on the market that was giving her relief, so she was goofing around in the kitchen using natural ingredients, and came up with something similar to our original blend now.” Now, assuming Thornley’s daughter’s nickname isn’t Squirrel, I wonder where the name came from. Chris explains, “I used to own a tree service, and my climber’s nickname is Squirrel. We gave him some product to give to his partner to use on her dry skin, and ol’ Squirrel decided to use it as a chamois butter, went mountain biking, and said, this stuff is the bomb diggity. So we thought, huh, that’s kind of cool.” Next thing they knew, Chris and Stacy had an incredible, all-natural anti-chafe product on their hands.
The product was first put to the test in 2015. Matt Keys used it during his 9th year running Western States, and was thrilled that he endured the least amount of chafing he had had, ever. Chris and Stacy knew they were really on to something. They were making the product out of their kitchen at the time, and began sponsoring ultra races in order to get more people to try it and make sure it was really something that ultra runners wanted to use. “We also wanted to make sure that people appreciated the fact that we were using all-natural ingredients,” Chris says, “…it turns out they really do care, and that they are aware of all the crazy ingredients that are common in so many skin products.”
The original blend consisted of cocoa butter, beeswax, coconut oil, and vitamin E. At the time, it also had almond oil and sweet orange oil. Unfortunately for our noses, the essential oils had to be nixed, as Chris and Stacy wanted to avoid flaring up anybody’s common allergies in the middle of a race.
“In the beginning there was no brand awareness, so we were knocking on a lot of doors that weren’t opening for us.” Chris decided instead to focus on the community, and gained several ambassadors who supported the brand - Mike Wardian, Jim Walmsley, and Pete Kostelnick. “We wanted to just show the community that there is a face behind our brand, and then doors began opening without us knocking on them, including REI, our first big account, which was absolutely crazy!”
Chris attributes much of the company’s success to the SNB community on social media. As it’s become the main driving factor for global awareness of the brand, and Squirrel’s has been able to target major international races like Western States, the brand awareness around the globe is growing quite quickly. “Those two components,” Chris explains, “…specific international races and then doing the right thing on social media, people talk about you. And then if you do the wrong thing, people talk about you too, so we’re doing the right thing, and we feel very fortunate.”
On top of this, the community of ambassadors (shoutout to all of you!) helps share the brand’s excitement and purpose on a more intimate level. We are fortunate to have people support the brand across the entire board - from dedicated runners and racers in their respective communities, to elite ultra runners standing on podium after podium.
“Everybody has skin,” Chris says, “and your skin is your largest organ, so you must take care of it, whether you’re young, or you’re old, runner, or not.” Chris and the team look forward to entering some new markets soon, with two new lines having just come out — Sariah Rose, named after Chris' daughter, and The Naked Greek Body Butter, specially designed for Greek-American ultramarathoner Dean Karnazes.
That's all for now, but keep an eye out for our next couple blog posts, featuring our other amazing employees!