Ellie and Pat O’Brien are the founders of Square Root, a Nutnola and Nutnola Butter company that was inspired by Ellie’s litany of autoimmune diseases. Frustrated by constantly feeling left out with dietary restrictions and by the notable absence of any similar products on the market that checked all the necessary boxes, they set out to create food that brings everyone together.
“We created something that can be shared around the table at a big family dinner, after a great hike or between a parent and their child without the worry of someone being excluded because of a dietary restriction,” Ellie said.
“In its purest form, food is the greatest common denominator across the world. Languages, religions, and cultures all create barriers, but food is what unites us,” Pat added.
Ellie is currently eight months pregnant and working as a design engineer at Northwestern University in Chicago where she 3D prints fake body parts for surgical simulation, all while actively growing Square Root. In addition to Celiac disease, the impetus for the brand, Ellie also suffers from Raynaud’s — an autoimmune disease that impacts her circulation. Her most recent diagnosis occurred after a trip to the emergency room in December of 2018; Ellie was hospitalized and almost died due to an extremely low platelet count of 1000 (the average person has a count of 150-450k). Doctors at Northwestern had never seen a platelet count so low. She was diagnosed with Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP); a rare autoimmune disorder that causes you to have chronically low and unstable platelet levels. But, none of that stopped Pat and Ellie as they grew their business. Square Root products are currently sold in Whole Foods throughout Illinois and on their website.
“The meaning behind Square Root is simple — if you look at it in math terms, the square root of a number is that number in its most basic form. And that is exactly the way we feel about food,” Ellie said. They use ingredients, in their most simplistic form, which makes all their products low in sugar, vegan, paleo, and certified gluten-free. It also helps that it tastes delicious.
Square Root Nutnola offers three mouthwatering flavors: Maple Cinnamon, Chocolate Cherry Chia, and Lemon Blueberry. And Nutnola Butter is something they sort of “invented.” Think of it as fancy peanut butter, but way more delicious. Square Root Nutnola Butter offers their original flavor Maple Cinnamon, as well as a brand-new flavor: Chocolate Chia.