Q&A Brighton & Hove Living Wage with Gary Conroy of 5 Squirrels

Gary Conroy founded 5 Squirrels back in 2014 with a mission to enable business owners to take control of their product recommendations so they can support their clients to achieve great outcomes from their dermatology issues. Gary meets with the Brighton & Hove Living Wage to talk about industry issues, the four-day work week, and more.

LWC: Tell us a bit more about 5 Squirrels

GC: Skincare professionals should be rewarded for their skill and expertise – and having their own brand skincare allows them to achieve this reward, provide effective, ethical, environmentally friendly products to their clients at affordable prices, improving outcomes, increasing and client loyalty.


What are the best and worst parts of your industry?

The best part of our industry are our customers, who really care about their clients’ outcomes and are genuinely motivated to improve their wellbeing, seeing people grow in confidence as their dermatology issues resolve, and removing the anxiety these issues have caused, is very rewarding.

The worst part of our industry is the lack of regulation, especially online, around claims, pricing and expectations. There are too many high-priced products sold as ‘luxury brands’ promising the earth without any clinical evidence to support their benefits and in many cases could make their issues worse. This level of profiteering can be frustrating when people turn to online marketplaces and social media for answers.


What’s your most memorable moment at 5 Squirrels so far?

Winning the global award for Most Innovative Medical Aesthetic Manufacture, this year was spectacular, and a bolt form the blue. Normally awards are elective and expensive requiring a lot of sponsorship or attendance at pricey awards ceremonies to win, but to win without even entering and a panel of peers making this decision was a real honour! There are a lot of major international corporate organisations in our sector, so for a small Brighton-based company to come out on top really is a credit to the team.


What do you still have to learn?

Personally, how to switch off from work more often. I’m getting better at it, but it would be nice to have the ability to go on holiday without checking in on things or worrying that the roof has fallen in if I don’t. Does anybody mange to do that nowadays?

For the team we have a lot of work to do on exporting and supporting our growing number of international clients. We’re getting a lot of help with this, but it’s our biggest challenge for 2023.


You have a four-day work week – what have you learnt so far?

There’s nothing more valuable than having more time. I’ve been pretty much in full-time “commitments” since a child, either through school, weekend jobs, studying or full-time employment.

Three days off a week is liberating, and allows you to experience and try things there simply wasn’t time for before. Whilst also having enough time for life chores, relaxation, learning, socialising or just doing nothing.

The same is true professionally, there’s so much time wasted in the workplace around the nine-to-five-day, attendance-based ideology. Cutting everything back to 30 hours a week really highlights the value of the time you have, reduces procrastination, pointless meetings and tasks. It forces you to innovate, and remove non-productive time stealers.


What’s instore for 5 Squirrels in the future?

2023 will be about international growth and innovation. We’re working on some really exciting, cutting-edge new technologies and formulations we have recently won some large USA and Australian contracts!


Do you have anything to add?

The Living Wage campaign and the four-day week are closely connected. I was recently at a conference on “the future of work in Europe” and the main objection from politicians and trade union representatives on moving to a four-day work week was that many employees are reliant on overtime payments in order to afford a livelihood. Thankfully, the Living Wage campaign is quite well established in the UK, so there’s no way a four-day workweek can be implemented unless staff are paid properly for a five-day week, in the first place.