Shannon Marrs and Paige Squeri’s childhood friendship has lasted decades, through cross-country moves and separate colleges, and forms the foundation of Chirp Research. John D. Rockefeller famously said, “A friendship founded on business is better than a business founded on friendship”. I sat down with Shannon and Paige (virtually) to see how they’re proving Rockefeller wrong and how years of friendship have forged mutual trust and a fierce work ethic.
Jane Deitrich: Where did you meet?
Paige Squeri: I was 5 years old and had gone to camp and Shannon, who was 4, had moved in while I was gone. When I came back her Dad stopped by to say “Shannon has been waiting for you to come home!” I was like, “Who is this Shannon?” (laughs)
Shannon Marrs: We lived in Plano, TX on Sparrow’s Point, which is a big part of why we chose the name Chirp. Even though her parents told me that she wasn’t going to be home for two weeks, I went over there 3, 4, 5 times a day and knocked on the door to see if she was back yet. She had a Cinderella-blue bike on the lawn so I was sure that Paige was going to have long, blond hair…because the girl who owned that bike was going to have long, blonde hair and look like Cinderella.
Paige: What I remember most from that time is…we had so much fun. We had a little club house down at the creek. We basically just bounced back and forth between her house…she had the pool…and mine which had the trampoline.
Shannon: Yes! We played box car children. We were also on a gymnastics team together several days a week. We would paint rocks and sell them to the neighbors (laughs)
Paige: And we would make up dances and sell tickets (laughs)
Jane: So, some entrepreneurial spirit! Did you ever get into any mischief?
Shannon: We may have told the donut shop that we were runaways to get free donuts (laughs) but Paige was always super good. And we never got in fights because she was always so darn agreeable. There was only one time I ever got mad at her for hurting my feelings. Her mom was a Cabbage Patch dealer…a real one…and my grandma made my Cabbage Patch doll. Paige told me mine wasn’t real because it didn’t have the signature on the butt.
Paige: Hahaha, oh yeah!
Jane: Were you close during the rest of your childhood?
Shannon: I actually moved in the fourth grade to California. Over the next ten years, she came to visit me once, and I came back to visit her twice. For college, I went to Baylor and she went to UT. She would pick me up from Baylor on her way from UT to Dallas and I would go to her home for Thanksgiving, Easter, Spring Break…her family was like my second family. Even though we’d only seen each other a handful of times in ten years we kept in touch. She even helped me move into my dorm.
Jane: How did Chirp become a reality?
Shannon: In 2001 Paige moved to Dallas into the neighborhood across the street from mine and we started running together. I was working at Nielsen and Paige had been working at Dell. She had a lot of accounting and legal background and had become a brand manager. Over the years, on our runs, we would talk and she knew everything about my work…my newest sales, how things were going with my boss…she knew all the players.
Paige: We’ve run 3-4 miles, 3 times a week for 15 years, hearing every detail of each other’s lives (laughs)
(I did the math on this, that’s over 8,000 miles!)
Paige: And Shannon would encourage me to use my strengths…my creativity, my organization. She’s always been the person who could see what someone would be great at. She’s always trying to connect people. No matter what position she’s in, she’s good at seeing talent in other people and always has her eye out for putting people in positions where they would succeed.
Shannon: In 2012 my FIL passed away and arrangements had to be made, Paige came alongside and helped me bring my vision to life. We just worked so well together. I was the strategy person and she could put pen to paper. That really made an impression on me. We were able to work together under really stressful circumstances and a very tight timeline. My vision and Paige’s can-do attitude came together in such a beautiful way. In April of 2016, on one of our runs, I told Paige I was considering starting my own business. I never thought about starting my own business until 2016. But I knew Paige would be a huge asset. I asked her, “If I do this, would you want to come work here?” She thought about it for a long time. We would talk about it on our runs.
Paige: We would brainstorm all the things we would need to do. Buy a domain, taxes, insurance, accounting software…
Jane: How did you choose the name Chirp?
Shannon: When it came time to name the company, Paige had a list of names.
Paige: The bulk of the list was just very typical market research type names, and they were really boring… like Truth Telling Research, Accudata…(both laugh). I’m not even sure how Chirp came into my mind, I just knew Shannon liked birds and we met on Sparrow’s Point. It was my last idea and completely different from all the other names on my list.
Shannon: When she said Chirp Research, I got goosebumps and said, “That’s the name!” When I think about Chirp, I’m proud of the way we’ve gone through super stressful and super abundant times, as friends and as business partners, and our friendship really hasn’t changed. We still run together. We’ve had hard conversations…conversations that are awkward to have…but we still love each other.
Paige: People always say not to mix business with pleasure and the fact that we’ve successfully combined the two, it’s such a huge accomplishment. The look on people’s faces when I told them I had quit my job and was going to go work at a start-up for my best friend…the looks on their faces said, “That is not a good idea.” But we balance each other.
Jane: Last question, what do you value most about each other?
Shannon: Paige is so loyal. I love her desire to be better and challenge herself. She’s always there for me. When I had multiple miscarriages, instead of running she would walk with me and then go run with someone else. She didn’t bail on me. And this is a marathon, not a sprint. We are in it for the long haul.
Paige: I’m always blown away by how thoughtful Shannon is. She’s interested in the details about people and remembers them. It’s lovely…it’s a gift…it makes people feel loved. Most people don’t operate that way. That’s why she has a million friends (laughs). This is the last place I’m going to work.