We had the good fortune of connecting with Sydney Karmes-Wainer and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Sydney, what role has risk played in your life or career?
First, I want to acknowledge that I was/am privileged enough to be in the position where I could take risks with my business. I am still working full-time, so that definitely provides a cushion to take more risks. I operate by feeling, and when I know something feels right, I do it. I take risks all day with the business, and as we expand and grow, I dive head first into the deep end. If I make a mistake, I learn from it. That is the beauty of risk-taking, is that it has usually worked out for me, but if not, the lesson is the silver lining.

Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
It all started with a pause; ‘une pause’ in French. A pause to take a step back; to think about what really matters. Not to focus on numbers, but ingredients. Not to rush our meals, but to savor them. At French Squirrel, we encourage you to be fully present with your mind, body and food. Because real, whole food is about how it makes you feel – on every level.

The business is inspired by my late French grandmother, Sarah, and my time studying abroad in Bordeaux, France. There, I really absorbed the beauty of the French culture. We are most proud of the quality and integrity of our products – we only use the highest quality, organic ingredients without gums, stabilizers, preservatives, etc. Our organic chocolate is completely pure 100% cacao, with no added emulsifiers, milk or sugar. Chocolate has gotten a bad reputation in the industry, and we are here to change that. Cacao in our form is a full-on nutrient.

Definitely not easy. It is a 24/7 job, making sure all aspects of the operation are running smoothly (which someone taught me if it is, then you are not growing or challenging yourself). I overcame the challenges one at a time. My mentor, Vito, would always repeat to me, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Baby steps. I also remind myself that I am grateful to even have these “challenges.”

The community we have built has been entirely organic. I am still in awe to this day…I know that people buy from people, not brands. I am very active on social media (particularly my personal food Instagram @french.squirrel), where I connect with the French Squirrel community on a day-to-day basis. It is truly amazing!

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Best question ever! Restaurant and coffee shop-hopping is my favorite hobby.

We would start the day at Erewhon or Bravo Toast for a healthy breakfast and go to a fun workout class (I love Megaformer Pilates, SoulCycle, and Sweat Yoga).

Then we would explore the Farmer’s Market (Brentwood or Melrose Place) – love walking around and seeing the stunning produce and local vendors.

Next we would head over to Tartine in Santa Monica and enjoy a beautiful lunch in the sunshine, and maybe a coffee there or at a coffee shop, like Caffe Luxxe (which has the best cappuccino in Los Angeles in my opinion).

We would then walk around and explore the city. I love peaking into ceramic stores to shop for cute mugs, bowls, etc.

For dinner, we would go to a restaurant on Rose in Venice – my favorites are Wabi and Chulita. And then end up at Go Greek for dessert 🙂

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Yes, absolutely! A huge shoutout to my mentor, Vito Antoci. Without him, French Squirrel would definitely not be what it is today. He has held my hand through every step of the business journey, and I can turn to him for any questions/advice, knowing that he has my best interest. I am eternally grateful!

Website: frenchsquirrel.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/frenchsquirrel.co/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/french-squirrel

Other: Personal food Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/french.squirrel/

Image Credits
Maryvine Street Photography for product shots

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutLA is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.