Summary of Episode
#35: Margaret Wishingrad joins Annaka and Ethan to chat about Three Wishes, a gluten and grain-free cereal with more protein and less sugar than most traditional cereals. Margaret discusses the process of creating and testing her product, how to create and grow a brand, unorthodox marketing techniques that have generated enough buzz to make the national news, and the importance of gathering feedback.
About the Guest:
Margaret Wishingrad is the CEO and founder of Three Wishes, a high protein, low sugar, grain-free cereal. After struggling to find a healthy cereal for her son, Margaret decided to create her own. Taking on the cereal industry juggernauts is a daunting task, but having had experience running an advertising agency with her husband, Margaret has used her marketing skills to develop a brand and build a following around a product that she is proud of.
Podcast Episode Notes
Creating a healthy cereal [2:04]
Developing a product by leaning into your network [5:21]
The importance of soliciting feedback from family and strangers [11:53]
The advantage of creating a product where you are the target demographic [15:32]
There is no “one size fits all model.” All teams will find things that work for them [22:46]
The story behind the branding of Three Wishes and the decision not to have a mascot [26:44]
Building an authentic relationship with consumers [34:52]
Partnering with retailers and making deals to increase brand visibility with retailers [40:24]
How to get a product into retail stores — make connections with buyers and remind them what your product has to offer [43:40]
Confidence and framing comes with experience, persistence, and passion [47:17]
It takes time and patience to grow your brand and achieve brand recognition [50:01]
Unorthodox marketing and creating a national news story using a drive-through, taste testing activity [51:33]
The power that comes from promoting your brand and talking about your enterprise [58:22]
Margaret’s advice “If you feel like you found a solution to a real problem … go for it!” [1:01:42]
Full Interview Transcript
Annaka: Hey everyone and welcome to Startup Savants, a podcast by TRUiC. I'm Annaka.
Ethan: And I'm Ethan.
Annaka: If you're a returning listener, welcome back. And if you're new, this podcast is about the stories behind startups, the founders who run them and the problems they're solving. This episode we're joined by Margaret Wishingrad of Three Wishes, a food startup turning the cereal aisle on its head.
I loved getting to chat with Margaret, she had a lot of thoughts on retail branding and how to engage consumers through playful easter eggs. Three Wishes really went on a deep dive into the psychology behind product design and they used some really creative marketing strategies to get their brand name out into the world.
So, Annaka, have you ever wanted to be in the 6 o’clock news?
You have. Did you ever get there?
Ethan: Alright. Well, so how about you, listener? Have you ever wanted the 6 o’clock news to bring their camera to your house and ask you about your startup? What about getting the cast of one of your favorite movies back together to have them sample your product?
Well, I can tell you that if you’re interested in either one of those things or maybe something else to put your company in front of thousands of eyeballs, then you should listen closely to what Margaret has to say. Just one more thing before we jump in, if you haven’t checked out StartupSavant.com yet, what are you doing? I mean, free gui des, tools, resources – it’s basically everything you need to totally level up your startup. But enough about awesome websites, let’s talk about an awesome business with Margaret Wishingrad of Three Wishes.
Annaka: Hey Margaret, welcome to the show. How's it going today?
Margaret Wishingrad: Thanks for having me. It's going great.
Annaka: Excellent. So I feel like I say this every interview that I'm super excited, but I am super excited and definitely going to buy some Three Wishes on my way home today. But if you could start us off, tell us about Three Wishes Cereal, the problem it's solving and how it is solving that problem.
Margaret Wishingrad: Sure. So Three Wishes is a new better-for-you cereal that is high in protein, low in sugar, gluten and grain free. And it's solving the problem which is there were no healthy cereals. Cereal was really just dessert, a lot of sugar, no real nutrition. And we came and kind of changed all of those things. So our cereal looks like cereal, tastes like cereal, but it's not really cereal.
Annaka: It's an upgrade.
Margaret Wishingrad: It's an upgrade.
Annaka: And when we were doing research, you had mentioned your son learning the pincer grasp and that being kind of a kickoff for you. How are those things tied together?
Margaret Wishingrad: So the original part was I had my kid, I was one of these kooky moms that's like, "Oh I can't feed my kid anything," because you spend all this time baking them in your body and you're like, "All right, I can't feed you garbage food on the outside world side." So you start to really analyze everything.
And I'm naturally a healthy eater and that recommendation to start picking things up is usually Cheerios. You're usually seeing little kids with a little cup of Cheerios and they're just picking them out. And I definitely wasn't excited about having my kid eat Cheerios as cereal and then as just having a brand background started to really dig into all of these brands and I'm like, "Okay, maybe Whole Foods has something for me." And it's... You look at the set and it's, "Oh, you're fortified with this," and all of these marketing claims, but not really any change in the actual makeup. And that for me was my, "Wow," this category is exactly what I remembered as a kid, which is a ton of sugar, nutrient deficient grains. And I thought, "Okay, well maybe I'm going to make something for myself and my family." And that was kind of the beginning.
Ethan: I remember when I was a kid that the other kids got to eat their cereal out of mixing bowls and I'm like, "That's a half a box of cereal, why don't I get to do that?" But it sounds like maybe that wouldn't have been a great idea anyway.
Margaret Wishingrad: No, no, that is definitely not the great... But you know what, it's really funny. I think everybody has a memory of an experience at their friend's house when their parents allowed something that your parents didn't allow.
Ethan: Oh yeah.
Margaret Wishingrad: I always had a friend where I'm like, "Oh, their mom gives them Lunchables and Gushers. That's currency."
Ethan: It is for real. All right, so we might touch again on the nostalgia of the past later on, but let's go to the beginning of Three Wishes. So do you have any prior experience with commercial recipe development or food production or anything like that?
Margaret Wishingrad: Zero. Truly none. Aside from loving to just whip up things in the kitchen and also, just on the cooking side, I've always played around with ingredients that weren't super conventional. When I was single, before I met Ian, I had a gluten-free roommate. So I've started to... I had really early exposure before gluten-free was something that was pretty common in grocery stores. Seeing her figure out ways to make things that could be gluten free. And so I think I've always had that fun desire to play around and create things in fun new ways. But the actual commercialization and the creation of cereal, which is so extremely technical, couldn't be further from that industry.
Ethan: So let's get into those technicalities. How did you develop the recipes for those first few products?
Margaret Wishingrad: So after I turned to Ian and was like, "Okay..." Ian's my husband, by the way and co-founder. After I turned to Ian and gave him a quick like, "Okay, we're going to make a cereal." And he was like, "Okay, that's crazy. Let's do it." Once we did that, it was who do we know in the food and beverage space that could even guide us in the direction of knowing how to commercialize a product and develop a product? And it truly was the 10 people know 10 people method.
So it's call a ton of people that will then redirect you to a food scientist and a food scientist that would tell you that's not their space and they don't know how to make that. And then they might know somebody else and you're just going down that list of phone calls until you get to one person that's like, "Oh actually this is my wheelhouse, I know how to do that." So you bring on a food scientist, which is one part of the very long journey. The next part is then finding a place that could produce it. Creating cereal is not a commercial kitchen process where it's… you have a recipe, you bring it and you put it in a KitchenAid.
It's extremely, extremely technical. And these things are also produced at really large scales. So it's not so easy to be like, "Hey, let's test something," without testing thousands of pounds of product. So once we gave our food sciences the guardrails, we started to create formulas and then we were able to take those formulas and take them to different co-man’s, which is manufacturing and production facilities, and have them start piloting and testing it with a variety of ingredients.
Ethan: So it was a very detailed, very arduous process it sounds like. How long... This is going to be an excellent two part question. This is my specialty. How long did this process take between, "I want to make cereal," and, "We are making cereal." And how much did that... What was your outlay? How much did that cost?
Margaret Wishingrad: Yeah, so it took two years and it took nearly $200,000. So a whole lot of time, a whole lot of money. And I went into it thinking like, "Oh this is going to be easy. Create something and three months later you have it." And then it was years of us taking any profits we had from the ad agency and putting them towards this. It was before we ever raised any money. And it was an interesting and difficult process.
Annaka: Yeah. Two years to me, I would be, I don't want to say impatient, but I'd be antsy. Was there any point in those two years where we were like, "Are we doing the right thing? Should we maybe bring it back a couple steps?"
Margaret Wishingrad: Every day of those two years. No, I set my mind on, "We could do this. People have done crazier things." And I've had so many times where we got to a formula and I was like, "This isn't right, I don't want to launch this." And everyone around me was like, "No, it's not going to get better than this. This is what it's going to taste like. There's no shot that you're going to get macros, your ingredients and be able to nail it." And I just kept pushing and pushing and each time you push it's more money and more time and I just knew it wasn't right and continued to push. And then finally we all unlocked it and, I tell this story so many times, but I remember leaving production the very first production day when we nailed our final pilot and I left and, it was five in the morning and I'm driving and I call Ian and I just start crying and I'm like, "We did it, we're done." And he is like, "Girlfriend, we haven't even started, what are you saying?" And I'm like, "What do you mean? We just unlocked it."
And there were so many ups and downs in the actual development of the product to even get to the final product. But yeah, that's entrepreneurship. You have to be prepared for those roller coasters. So I'm glad the front part was hard too.
Ethan: Right. So you've pushed back on all these experts, these people that you're paying, these people that have been in industries for probably a ton of years. How did you... You sound like a very confident person and I believe it and the press I've read, you're building an excellent company, you have reason to be confident, but how does one build that confidence or gain that confidence to say, "I know you're the expert but this is my project and this isn't right?"
Margaret Wishingrad: Well I just wouldn't launch it if it wasn't right. So I had no choice. It wasn't like I was confident or excited about pushing back, but for me it was like, "I'm not going to launch something that I see as a subpar product because it's just going to flop."
And I think especially with food more than anything, there is not a ton of room for error because if someone tries it and they don't like it, they're not going to be like, "Oh they put this cute new sticker that says new formula, let me go try it." It's not happening. So I knew that we had to launch something that had the legs to go the haul and for me it was either, "Hey, we reformulate and we get it to a place where I'm super proud of it," or, "This idea is not happening." So it was all or nothing.
Ethan: That makes total sense. Is there any huge difference in the process of developing flavors or coming up with new products now versus when you first started?
Margaret Wishingrad: The biggest part was definitely creating that puff that we were able to accomplish and having it soak the same way in milk like regular cereal does or having all those characteristics that I cared about. The flavor part is still pretty intense and there's a ton of iteration but a lot less difficult than actually getting the cereal to be cereal.
Ethan: And so you tried it, you liked it, you said, "Based on my tastes, I'm going to go forward with this product." So that was the validation that you had for yourself. Was there any other validation that said, "This is it, this is the product, this is the thing that's going to be worth all of that time, effort, money that we put in to make this happen?"
Margaret Wishingrad: My then probably two year old was definitely the biggest critic because he didn't care about my expertise in marketing, he didn't care about channel strategy or any of the product margin. For him it was taste and I had to make sure it was a product he was excited to consume and continue consuming. And so that was a big one. And then the other thing that I really... I learned this from Ian because I think I was definitely way more, not shy, but... Rejection and opinions are an intimidating space for so many. And he really taught me, like, "You need to ask the questions that sometimes are uncomfortable to ask and you need to push the envelope." And anywhere we... It could have been a coffee shop, he would stop somebody and be like, "I need you to taste this and give me your feedback." And they're like, "What are you taking out of a Ziploc, you nut?"
But there were so many... We would just go for all of these different opinions and that feedback was so important because sometimes you're a little too close to a product in the process and hearing someone's complete, unfiltered opinion really helps you get to a great place. So not being afraid of that potential news that you don't want to hear was also really important for us.
Annaka: So leaving the "it tastes good, it functions the way that cereal should function"... Function. Function seems weird in describing cereal.
Ethan: There are a million ways to measure cereals.
Annaka: What about your market said, "We want this that has more protein in it, that doesn't have all this other stuff about it." Who is your market and how did you find them and how did you know this is what they needed?
Margaret Wishingrad: Totally. So we, in the very beginning, to validate that we were actually solving a real problem and not just like, oh, a mom that had a cute idea. It was more of a, "Hey, I'm feeling this, is everyone else feeling the same issue in this category?"
We spoke to a whole wide range of people, whether it was grandparents, whether it was moms with kids, whether it was just single adults. And a lot of people echoed very similar things, which were, and this is interesting, moms of boys felt that their kids... They wouldn't feed them cereal because it was, "Why did you leave the category and what are you looking for?" And moms of boys said that they didn't have enough protein to power their kids. Moms of girls said it had too much sugar to feed their kids. And all of the other ages in between left for a balance of those of, "Hey there's no nutrition, it's dessert."
And some of it was, "I can't have grains or corn or rice because they're pretty inflammatory." And I think in general as consumers just start to study foods and what makes them feel great and what makes them feel not so great, grains are a pretty big thing that most of us should be avoiding in any way that they can. So it was really important for me to create a really clean ingredient product that was I hope... Then we were working on getting it grain-free, but hopefully it was gluten-free, high protein and low sugar. And then we kind of played around with, "What does high protein mean to somebody? What do they want to see in terms of protein content and what does low sugar look like?" And then once we kind of identified those through talking to a ton of people, then that helped us set those boundaries of what we wanted to develop. And then you identify, "What are the ingredients that could make that happen?"
So once we validated that, one, it's a problem. Two, these are the things that people are hoping to see. The next part was creating that product. And then the big part that followed that was channel strategy. Where do these consumers discover product? How do they discover it? What are they looking for in the communication on the packaging? What are they hoping that the packaging makes them feel? So we really spent the two years not only working on the product, we also filled a lot of our time with figuring out all of those different really important strategic things. And then once we kind of all figured those out, it was, "Hey now we have a product, we have a brand, let's now actually get it into the retail doors that we know is going to resonate with the consumers that we're hoping to reach."
And I think that, I call it my superpower, but most cereal is really made by three big companies that are... None of them were founded by a woman that was solving a problem for home life. And for me it was, I'm a millennial mom and I know how to communicate to millennial moms, I know what millennial moms want, and when you create a product for yourself, it's much easier to find those things and know how to speak to those people. So I am always... I always look at myself as the key demo, but I think the other thing that's unique about Three Wishes is if we look at brands like yellow box Cheerios, they really try to appeal to everyone. You see babies eat them, you see grandparents eat them. So as much as... I think it's important for us to identify who that is, but in theory, cereal's for anybody with a mouth. Anyone that loves eating breakfast. And so it really is a wide range of people.
Annaka: Yeah. And as far as that market research goes, were you passing out surveys? Sending out emails? How were you getting this feedback?
Margaret Wishingrad: We were just talking to anybody that we knew in our network and we're like, "Hey, just be honest with me, give me an answer." And it was just... I guess we talked to a lot of people and we just talk all the time. No, but it was really just anytime you're having a meeting that could be... It could be completely unrelated to food and cereal, it could have been a client of ours, it could have been a friend or you're at the park and you see someone else's friend and we would just quickly be like, "Hey by the way, what are your thoughts?" And you just get a 60 second response and you'd sort it in your brain and be like, "Okay, another parent that thinks X, Y, Z's wrong and that X, Y, Z's right." And that just kind of helped us lead to the thesis that we have now.
Annaka: Yeah. Sorry, this is a really unrelated sidebar, however, the character Sonic the Hedgehog was created by the artist going out into Central Park... Or maybe not Central Park, but into New York City and asking people, he had a little host of characters and he'd be like, "Just choose the one you like best." And that's how Sonic came to be. So, I mean clearly y'all did something right.
Margaret Wishingrad: Well I want to keep it in there on the Central Park topic because it's really interesting. So we lived a couple blocks outside of Central Park when we had Ellis and we actually got married in the park, may the boathouse rest in peace whenever it's closing.
But we got married in the park and we struggled coming up with a name for the brand and we were really annoyed one day, and for us it was the hardest thing because we did this for people, creating brands, and we couldn't come up with our own brand name. And I'm like, "Okay, this is the classic shoemaker without shoe situation, here we go." And so we're sitting in the park having this long day and I was literally outside of the boathouse, we have Ellis, it was Ian and myself and I'm scrolling through my phone looking for inspiration on my own Instagram, I don't know why, but I was on my own Instagram scrolling for inspo, "What do we name this brand?" Because we ran into a trademark issue with another name we had.
And I'm scrolling, scrolling and I'm looking at this one post I did. So when I was pregnant with Ellis, I didn't tell anybody, I was superstitious about it. And when I had him, I took a picture of his hand next to this necklace that said "Wish" and the hashtag I used, does anyone use hashtags anymore? The hashtag I used was "three wishes" and I turned to Ian and I was like, "Okay, crazy idea. This is never going to be available because everything on earth is trademarked it feels like, especially in grocery." I was like, "Okay, can you just go to USPTO, Ian, and see if three wishes is available?" And he looks it up and he is like, "Oh my god, three wishes is available." I'm like, "This is crazy." Because we had three claims we cared about. We had the three wishing grads and of course it happened outside of our wedding venue out of nowhere from an Instagram post I posted ages before that. So it was really crazy. But Central Park does hold a very special place in my heart for that reason.
Annaka: You and Sonic, all the way.
Margaret Wishingrad: Me and Sonic. Right.
Ethan: All right. So I want to go to the kind of day-to-day operations of you running your business and focusing on one thing specifically. So you all run Three Wishes inside of your home. How many employees do you have just walking through your front door every day?
Margaret Wishingrad: Well, so before a whole pandemic, we did have some of the team come a few days a week and then it was just Ian and myself and our kids running into meetings. And then now we have people coming... They want to come whenever they want to come. But we've done a great job at hiring and I'm very lucky for the team that we have where everyone's super responsible. I don't feel like I need to hover over anybody and you give them the ability to lead and we've seen that it really helps. So most of the team's actually really remote, so it's just me hanging out in the dining room. Sometimes Ian.
Ethan: Gotcha. Cool. So you don't have 10 people that are just like around the living room.
Margaret Wishingrad: No, but we do love when people... So sometimes the team will come through and we're like, "Oh, let's do a dinner, let's hang." And it really... It's almost symbolic that it's in our home in a weird way where anybody working on this brand is a part of the family. It is a family brand. The name is about the story of a family and everybody that works on this brand and touches this brand is truly... They're an honorary Wishingrad. And so I guess it is fitting that it's in the dining room and we all really love each other and enjoy each other.
Ethan: So in one of the conversations that we had before this call, you mentioned that you run a quote "lean, tight operation.” Can you tell us what that looks like for Three Wishes?
Margaret Wishingrad: My team is tiny. So it's Ian, myself, I have a supply chain logistics person who is in Chicago. And then we have from Ian's agency side, two people that kind of float between his agency and Three Wishes. And that's it. It is tiny.
Ethan: That's it.
Margaret Wishingrad: But I think I'd prefer to keep it that way. But yeah, I think output is most important. I've never been one to really love companies that silo people and don't allow them to work in other areas. I think people naturally are so curious to learn other things and I really wanted to enable that. And so every week we have a really fun long team hang where we're hanging out as people and we're talking about what everyone's up to and then we kind of let everyone think of new things. For example, one of our really popular limited time flavors that we launched back in February this past year was our chocolate covered strawberry. And it was our team hang, we're hanging out and our supply chain person, we're like, "Oh, what do we do for Valentine's Day?" And she just blurts out, "Chocolate coverage strawberry." And we're like, "Oh my god. Yes."
You would've never thought that in any other company, someone from the supply chain side had any say on what flavors becoming the next one where innovation lies. So we really love for everyone to chime in on innovation and chime in on just different things that they want to see this brand do and it's been really fun and rewarding for that.
Ethan: So keeping this small team and everybody having an opinion on... Not necessarily everybody having an opinion on everything, but reaching out to every part of the org for ideas and answers and solutions and that sort of thing.
Do you think that is the strategy that's going to lead you all to the, I'm guessing, quick growth and massive scale that you're looking for? Or do you think that at some point in time there will need to be a larger growth of the team or a change in overall team strategy?
Margaret Wishingrad: Yeah, I think there's no one playbook and one size fits all. I'm very lucky that from the background that Ian and I have, we have a lot of experience. For me it was, "How do we operate the agency?" So that was a really great transferable skill. But then it was also all of the different marketing things and all of the really important brand building things we were able to keep in-house.
So that kind of saves us some resources there. I think naturally, as brands grow you need the additional support. I know I'm a little bit of a control freak, so I love having my hand in everything and staying on top of things, but it's inevitable and at some point that can hurt you. So I think there are certain points where you're like, "Okay, I think we're ready for a hire," and we usually get about two months ahead of that to give ourselves the time to find the right person for that type of role because no good decisions are made under duress. But once we kind of figure out, "Hey, this is the next role," then we start to unroll, unroll the role.
But for now it feels like a really great place for me. It really comes down to is everyone getting everything done with some really great efficiency? Is everyone still very happy? We never want to burn people out either. I'm just very lucky that the team has just an incredible level of output for so few people. And I think part of that is people feel that you give them the opportunities, they want to take advantage of that and they want to learn those things. So again, I'm just super lucky.
Annaka: Yeah, sounds like you have a really great team behind you. And I'm holding off because we're going to talk about branding in just a minute. But first, how did you price your product? I mean cereal's a huge... There are however many. How did you decide how much yours should cost?
Margaret Wishingrad: Well usually we priced out our ingredients to understand that we actually had a business to make sure that there was actual space there. But for me, I wanted to do a few things which was dictate to the consumer that we are a premium brand, which means you're always going to be a little bit more expensive than the conventional product or whatever the comp is in that category. But we did want to be priced in an approachable way too because you want to make sure that it's easier for whoever the person is, whether a family or anybody that you don't want them to feel like, "Oh I'm making an investment in trying something new."
You want to keep that barrier to entry pretty low. So we tried to balance that fine line of, "Oh it's another $1.00, another $1.50 from the not-so-healthy cereals and I know that I'm making good change and choice for myself and my body. So that's kind of how we decided on a pretty healthy price point.
I think the curve ball no one saw was what would happen with the supply chain and how difficult it became to stay at that price point. And it looks like everyone else went up in price, so I think made ours look more reasonable over time as well. But yeah, it was really, how do we thread the needle on price approachably but also dictating that it's a premium.
Annaka: Right. And I think consumers for the most part understand that a premium brand is going to... It's going to be a little bit more...
Margaret Wishingrad: A bit more. Yeah.
Annaka: But I like what you said that it's still within reach. So when you see, I don't know, the two boxes side-by-side and you're like, "Huh, maybe I should try that," but it's not exorbitantly expensive.
Margaret Wishingrad: You're like, "Does that cereal have truffles?" No. So I think that was for us, the whole thing is how do we... We try to stay in what we call “mass healthy.” We want it to be in a way where it could become a household brand. And I think once you exceed a certain price point, it becomes specialty. And I don't want to be a specialty brand. I want to be a brand that can have the legs to become, hopefully, mass.
Annaka: So, you have the product and initial recipe's kind of squared away. Now you need a brand. Where did nailing down the Three Wishes brand start?
Margaret Wishingrad: That's interesting. It's a grueling process because we're very close to it. So we did our branding in house. So Ian's agency is called Big Eyed Wish. It's here in New York. And taking it on internally was quite... I mean once you're so close to something it's so difficult. And the thing I did is I broke the cardinal rule for us, which is, "You can only say one thing to the consumer," and I'm like, "But no I need to say three." So it's really hard to communicate all of these claims at once but try to have them at an even weight because you don't know if the protein resonates with someone, if the sugar resonates with someone, if the grain-free resonates with someone. So that was actually really difficult was having all this communication and being able to do it in a visually pleasing way. And our packaging, I mean there are so many little forensic things on it, I'm holding it up at the minute.
So a few things, if people have video, but if not, I'm just going to talk through it. But the thing we wanted first and foremost is every other brand within cereal is usually product and not brand. You're usually, "I don't know, is that one General Mills or Kelloggs?" No one knows, they just know... I do, but most people don't. But usually you're like, "Oh it's Cheerios," or whatever the product is. It's usually product-forward. And we wanted to make sure we were brand-forward. And so for us that was, "Let's make Three Wishes the biggest thing."
So once we nailed that, we wanted to make sure our actual wishes were right under it so you could understand that that was it. But from a visual perspective, we wanted to thread the needle of it looks innovative, it looks healthy, it looks fun and it tastes great.
So that's kind of the difficult part to land. And where we played around with color. Color's such a huge thing because you don't want to cue that it's too unhealthy, but we don't want to cue that it's beige and boring either. So having those bright colors on a balance. Then we also chose, instead of landing things in a bowl or a spoon, which you see so frequently, we wanted this whole “it’s flying at you” and you kind of decide the occasion in how you want to eat it. We're not telling you to do with milk, we're not telling you to eat it as a snack, you do whatever you want to do with Three Wishes. You could make it into a treat for all I care. You could put it on a smoothie. So allowing the consumer to figure out how they want to utilize the product.
And then the other big decision we did was going with no character. And I think Three Wishes, as a name, lends itself to maybe being a little fun and cheeky and, maybe, mystical, I don't know. But for us we were like, "Okay, characters signal something that we want to stay away from." And so that was it as well.
So that's kind of how we looked at it and it took us as long as it did to make the product as it did to land on the packaging. I maybe have a hundred different versions of packaging and no one agreed on it internally, we just kept... We're like, "No, this doesn't seem right." And when we got to this packaging we're like, "Okay, it's good." So you know it's a good thing when everyone's bought into it. But yeah, that was a difficult process.
But the other fun things that we love that we do on our packaging is the side where we have the ingredients, we have it listed really big just like ingredient, ingredient, ingredient. I don't know if you could see it, but literally just like that. Which is so fun because it allows us to be transparent and not list things out in the size eight font consecutively. So we like that little thing that we've done and then the back is just storytelling and with a fun little Three Wishes story.
Margaret Wishingrad: And that's kind of the visual part of it. And then the tone, we just wanted people to relate to the brand, understand that there were humans behind the brand and tell the story of, "It's the three Wishingrads," but it's also the Three Wishes we had for the category. So we did a lot within one box.
Annaka: As far as the characters go, that's such an interesting point because you think of something like a Froot Loops and then you have Toucan Sam and then you think of something like a Grape-Nuts, which is nothing. There is no care... Is there? There's not a character.
Ethan: I can't think of one. So if they have one, it's not effective.
Annaka: There can't be. But those to me are marketed to two completely different things and you're like, "Okay, we don't want to talk directly to children, we don't want to talk directly to my 94 year old grandfather. What's the difference?" And taking the character out gives you a lot more leeway and maybe people don't think about that.
So some of these key decisions, were these fueled by more market research or were these just your gut instinct, how you felt about it?
Margaret Wishingrad: So by the way, on the market research topic, so no it was just gut. But usually we follow our gut and it's led us to here. We just like to validate it with random outside opinions sometimes. But on... It was definitely just a decision of back to, "Hey, Margaret, Ian are the consumers." We know what we're looking for when we're buying a product, whether it be for ourselves or whether we buy it for Ellis and just how do we resonate with that consumer that's looking for something new, fresh, exciting and delicious?
Margaret Wishingrad: By the way, another fun thing is we spoke about the logo. So right above our actual Three Wishes font, there's a little circle with a W and so it's the three people, it's also the number three.
Annaka: Get out.
Margaret Wishingrad: It's also... Whichever way three looks like a three. And then it was also wishes like a birthday cake, like candles. The amount of little Easter eggs we try to hide in this box is just on another level. We just try to do all these little fun things. The one thing we actually did most recently, from one of our team call hangs, was we realized that the bottom of our box is just a UPC. It is truly the most boring piece of real estate. And we were like, "Okay, if someone's investing the time to flip this thing and look at it and read, why don't we put a little bit of a story here and why don't we send them on a scavenger hunt?" So all of our packaging now has this... Let me actually, I'm going to grab [inaudible]. So you'll see it has a little fun wavy story that then leads you to go to the bottomofbox.com and it basically takes you on this fun little story. You guys are like, "[inaudible]." And it's a fun little like, "Oh you're a cereal sleuth story?" And at the end we reward you with a discount for it.
So it's really fun to engage with our customers, but we're like how do we continue doing these fun things that are both feel good, leave a consumer feeling some type of way, but also kind of make us a little happy. I don't know why [inaudible] those little fun things bring us so much joy. So there's so much within the packaging that we think about, whether it be the tiny bottom part next to the UPC code or just what our packaging looks like from the top, the front, the side. So all super-super considered and something we love to geek out over.
Annaka: I love taking the opportunity to engage with your customer because you're not just being like, "Here customer please buy this." You're giving them the experience of like, "Oh there's always something kind of fun." It's like... I don't know if they still do this. When's the last time I bought a box of cereal? I don't even know. But they had little games and stuff on the back of cereal boxes and it was something to do while you were eating your breakfast. And now, I look at my phone while I eat my breakfast.
Margaret Wishingrad: And kids look at iPads and TVs, which is not so great. And that's why we're constantly thinking of fun ways to engage with a consumer because people like buying from people. They don't like buying from big corporations. So we want to remind people that, "Hey, there's still personality, there's still a family here," and we love doing it.
Ethan: So giving a discount code at the end of the scavenger hunt also gives you something that you can measure. You can see how many people are-
Margaret Wishingrad: Absolutely.
Ethan: ... going and taking this path and following it all the way through. Are you getting a lot of...
Margaret Wishingrad: What an astute observation. No, but yeah, I mean we're seeing some traffic there, but the best, my favorite thing... Because we also kind of point out like, "Oh let us know what flavor you want to do next." And by the way, on the bottom of our boxes, we call out the team or just the internal person that created or thought of that flavor like an ode to them in a fun way. And so it's always really fun to story-tell there. But it does give us something to track. But the thing we've seen that's really fun is like we'll see people email us with a, "Hey I found the bottom of a box and I actually think this flavor's a really great idea and I'd love to see it in this store." And it just opens the conversation for us to really create a wonderful one-on-one bond with our consumers directly. And when you're a retail brand, that's difficult because anytime you're a DTC brand, you could serve them with a plethora of ads, emails, et cetera and it's easier to have a sticky touchpoint. When you're just on a store shelf somewhere, it's hard to know who's buying you without buying a whole lot of data. So this does give us a fun way of just seeing where is this person from? What are they hoping to see? So yeah.
Ethan: Right. Yeah, you've created that incentive to go to the website because you could print out the name of your website in 50 point font on the front of the box and probably not get very many people to visit it. But giving them the ability to have a real reason to go to the website. It's not just like, "Hey, come to our website." It's like, "Hey, you want to do this fun thing? Go to this."
Margaret Wishingrad: Yeah.
Ethan: And then they end up on your website. That is fantastic.
Margaret Wishingrad: Thank you so much. The other thing we also learned over time is that people are really invested in things when they feel like they've put their touch on it. So really allowing people to be a part of the journey and the experience makes them want to root for the brand, makes them want to just stay tuned. So just getting that attention and keeping them tuned is really important to us too.
Annaka: For a brand that may be struggling with maintaining that personality or creating that personality, are there any quick and dirty, like, "Here, do this, do this, do that," and then boom, you have a personality?
Margaret Wishingrad: It's hard for me to answer that because this brand is really a reflection of Ian and myself. We're both just a whole ball of energy and-
Margaret Wishingrad: ... it always feels like we've had too much coffee to drink and it's just who we are as people. So we just bring that across to the brand and we're lucky that people still like us and the cereal and all these other things. But yeah, I mean I think I would just lean into whatever your personality type is because that is who you are. There is nothing worse than consumers seeing effort or seeing the strategy. There's something cringe about that. So I would say if you're quiet and weird, maybe bring someone into that and keep it a part of your story, that's fine. But don't pretend to be something you're not for sure.
Ethan: I'm always looking. I'm always looking for the angle. It's like, "Why did they put this here? What's going on?" All right, so we covered branding, we covered some of the marketing... Sorry Annaka, we've got to...
Annaka: I know, I know.
Ethan: All right. But let's get into sales. Everyone's next favorite thing. What are the current sales channels that Three Wishes is implementing?
Margaret Wishingrad: So we thought about, I mentioned how strategy was super important to us. We really wanted to make sure that you're discovering us in a place where people look for those types of things. So we really focused on natural channels for the first two-ish years of the business because you go there and you're spending time in the aisle. If you look at the data of how long a customer spends in a conventional grocery store aisle versus how long they spend in a natural or specialty store, there is a huge difference. People are reading the box and any time we go into some of these more natural stores like a Whole Foods or a Sprouts, you'll see that the boxes tend to be on the side or on the back. People are spending time reading it. You're walking in the conventional grocery store, you're like, "I need bread, jelly, got to go, let's go, let's go."
So we knew for us, start in a place where you're allowed to tell a story and where people are looking for a story. And that was a big part of it. So we have really great nationwide natural channel distribution and then as the business grows, you eventually have to unlock conventional and just continue going that way. But that's kind of how we've looked at sales.
And then I know we also launched in an age where everyone's like, "You can buy everything online," and shelf space online is limitless. I could sell anything you can ever think of on the internet. Shelf space and retail stores, not so much. So we really set out to be a brand that has an incredible presence in retail because that was actually the hardest of the two. And convincing a store buyer to give you the opportunity and have the shelf space. So even though we are omnichannel and you can buy us on our website and on Amazon, we really focused on brick and mortar.
Ethan: All right. So natural channels you specifically mean natural grocery stores and then the conventionals meaning the big names that everybody's heard of, correct?
Margaret Wishingrad: Yeah. Natural would be Sprouts, Whole Foods, Fresh Market, Fresh Thyme, anything that has fresh, green, there's probably a market in, it's probably a natural store. And then conventional grocery stores are the Krogers and Albertsons of the world just-
Ethan: Got it.
Margaret Wishingrad: ... a big chain, big boy stores.
Ethan: So how many different retailers do you all currently have? And do you have any idea of what the total store count might be?
Margaret Wishingrad: Yeah, we're probably at about 4,000 stores and it is a variety of different retailers, whether it be natural, a mix of conventional and natural, it's all over the place. But we've really focused on making sure majority of that is natural to date.
Ethan: Gotcha. So you hinted at this just a minute ago, but a ton of the big CPG brands rushed to pivot to an online directive customer sales strategy during the height of the pandemic. And yet you all decided to really double down on the retail strategy. What led you to make that decision that seemed to go against the grain at the time?
Margaret Wishingrad: Well, how punny, "against the grain.” Got him.
Ethan: Didn't even know I did that.
Margaret Wishingrad: But for us it was really just looking at every opportunity. So were we focusing online during that period too? Yeah, sure. We relaunched a website within six weeks after the onset of the pandemic to make sure it was an easy shopping experience. But we also knew that one thing... Knowing that we had some of these doors open already, so part of that work was done. We knew that that was an opportunity for us to be an A+ student and vendor. It was the opportunity where there might be shortages from some other vendors or brands that they work with for us to say, "Hey, we planned for this. We have some extra inventory. Do you want to give us additional shelf space? Or because..." Whatever it was, can we do a promotion? We really took that opportunity to say, "Hey, I know no one is spending the amount of time they spent in the stores before, or they're doing a lot of delivery, what are ways that we can lean in with you?" And there is nothing a retailer wants more than partnership from a brand and a brand that's saying, "Hi, I'm willing... Help me grow and help me really have a presence in your store." And so that really, that was super helpful. And we had some weeks where we had some extra shelf placement that we maybe wouldn't have had otherwise.
And so it just gave us extra visibility as a brand and becoming hopefully a preferred partner for a lot of these retailers. And I think the one thing we realized in any business, but also in this business, is you're still working with people even though it's stores, you're working with a buyer, you're working with merchandising teams, you're working with distributors. And so as long as you don't forget that you're human and relationships matter, things get done.
Ethan: Absolutely. They absolutely do. So let's dig in. Let's double click whatever the kids are saying nowadays. How, how, tell me how. How did you get into all of these big name stores so quickly? And don't skimp on the details.
Margaret Wishingrad: It looks so quick. It is totally... When you see a duck in the water and you're like, "Oh, the duck is so still," and those feet under the water are like, so even though it seems like it was really quick, we started talking to retailers before the product was even public. We started months ahead of time knowing that anything, because stores go by resets and reset calendars and sometimes they only bring cereal in every six months or every 12 months. Because in my mind when I was shopping in retailers like, "Oh, you just throw something on the shelf, it's fine," but it's not that easy. And so that relationship takes a ton of time. So knowing that we were going to launch the cereal, knowing we were kind of close, we started sharing it and showing it to buyers.
And the way we got to buyers was really just digging... It was sleuthing. It was finding out you're on LinkedIn, who's this buyer? Who do I know that knows the buyer? Can they introduce me? If they can't introduce me, can I find a broker that can bring me that relationship? And just getting to that relationship by any means possible. Then once you get to the buyer, sharing with them, I think everyone's like, "Well, how'd you get the buyer to take it?" If you're really solving a problem that's not just like, "Hey, I'm here to capitalize and make a brand," we're bringing them something that is super close to who... It's who we are. The brand is about the Wishingrad’s, and solving a problem that I solved in my own home. We're bringing them something with so much passion with heart, but most importantly we're bringing them something to a category that's had no innovation. And so I think buyers are naturally a little bit more inclined to try something new in a category that's been stale.
So then they were like, "All right, we'll give you the opportunity." And the rest is on the brand because all they're giving us is real estate. Once you get the real estate, that's our job now to come in on the advertising side and just, how are we going to motivate people? One, how are they going to know we're even sold here? How are we going to motivate them to buy this product? How are we... You just, how do we stay on top of it? All these little different things that happen once you get into the retailers. But to get there, it was just a ton of going to different expos, going to... And this is right before the pandemic. So going to actual expos or reaching out to different brands that might know different buyers and just doing a million phone calls. And if one person didn't pick up on us, that's totally fine and getting very comfortable with rejection.
That's a thing you'll very quickly learn in this industry is like, you got to be okay with a "no". And then you gotta know how to turn the "no" to a "yes". And by the way, that happens with customers too. You'll have a customer that's like, "Why is my box arriving smashed?" And you're like, "Yep, because they smashed it before they shipped it." But it's really connecting with them and doing the, really telling them like, "Hey, I'm so sorry, I didn't know it was damaged in transit. We'd love to replace it for you."
So similarly that same way, how do we turn a no to a yes? And fortunately we didn't have many no's getting into retail, but anytime there was something or someone that's on the fence, having the data to back it up as to why this is a great fit or why it over indexes with their consumer or any of these other things. But it's not too dissimilar from many other tasks within the process.
Ethan: So I've noticed something about the language that you use. I've noticed it several times in this interview. You speak in a very positive and encouraging way in that if you're speaking to someone and even if you were trying to convince them to do something or have them look at something in the way that you want them to look at that thing, that you make that very possible.
For example, you said you're speaking to the buyers who are... And you're offering them a product that's in a category that has not been improved or had any major movement in the past several years. Whereas I think somebody else might come and say, "I'm not sure that this buyer is going to want what I have because it's unproven. It doesn't have a track record." And I think that those are saying the same thing, but they're positioned in such a different way.
Margaret Wishingrad: Glass half full, glass half empty.
Ethan: Where did that come from? Is that something that you just had your entire life?
Margaret Wishingrad: No, I think this took a lot of time to learn and figure out. And fundraising is an experience that definitely puts you through a lot of that where you're like, "Am I begging someone for money?" And now I look at it and I'm like, "Oh, I gave you the opportunity to get on board a rocket ship." So I think that confidence comes with just experience and time and learning a ton of lessons. And part of it is also, I am an immigrant that grew up in Brooklyn that didn't come from much. And if I could create a brand that's now nationwide, I don't know why someone else couldn't. It's not rocket science, it's just persistence and hard work and optimism and having heart for what you do.
I love what I do so much. Wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. Even on the days that I wake up at 2:00 in the morning for no reason but to remind myself to do something, it's my whole life. People are like, "Well, how do you turn off work and life..." This is my whole life. I love this more than... I love my children more than anything, but I love this, not a lot less than my kids. This is my existence in a way. But that confidence comes with time. It comes with getting comfortable living in potential no's, or it's one of those... All the cliches are so true, but it's getting comfortable in the uncomfortable in a way. And time. I hope I answered it.
Ethan: I think you did.
Ethan: I really think that that's... If nothing else, people are going to hear the way you talk. And if we highlight that that is... The reason you feel the way you do is because she's using the language that she's using. If we highlight that, then people can say, "Hey, that's something that I can do. She said she wasn't born with it, which means I can learn that too." And I think that that's incredible
Margaret Wishingrad: Dress for the job you want and not the job you have. And so that's exactly it. And remember, you're bringing... If you truly believe that you created a solution to something, bring that same passion, love, and energy, and the rest follows.
Ethan: All right. So I'm going to ask one more question about sales and then I'll get off my soapbox. What's the sales strategy moving forward? Are you just going to continue just mashing the gas pedal on the things that are working right now? Or do you have a new trick that's going to create even more acceleration?
Margaret Wishingrad: I don't know if we... I think I never took my foot off the gas. I don't know if we're mashing the gas pedal. So for us, we know, similar to how confidence happens over time, we know that to become a household name brand, which is what I hope to do, I have my name on this, so I would hope that it really has some really wonderful sticking power and stays around for a very long time. But those types of things take... I think the statistic I once read was it takes seven years to become a household name. So it's just... Standing the test of time and making sure that you're growing at a really reasonable and sustainable pace, and that you're not raising too much money to create unrealistic expectations to then make stupid business decisions.
For me, I just want to continue making really great decisions and steering this brand in a way where it continues to grow in a really smart way. And for me, that's channel strategy and just all these other experiences and flavors and innovation. But how do we create this to stay around for a very, very long time?
Annaka: Yeah. I can't remember hearing that. It takes seven years to be a household name. I can't remember if I've heard that before, but I feel like mind blown right now.
Margaret Wishingrad: And I think so many people look at all these other iconic brands that have been around for a long, long time. You're like, "Oh my God, it's been 75 years, 100 years, 50 years." And sometimes you look at these brands and logos, and this is just from the branding geek side, you look at them and you're like, "That is such an awesome logo." And if anyone showed you that logo on anything else, you would've been like, "That is horrible." But when you're used to seeing something and it's embedded in your brain, I think it creates some kind of behavior.
Margaret Wishingrad: So sticking around and doing a good job and standing the test of time, I think is a really important part of it.
Annaka: Yeah, absolutely. So what are some of the most unorthodox marketing strategies that you've tried out?
Margaret Wishingrad: Oh, they're all so unorthodox. Ian always complains that he is the marketing guy that has no budget to execute things. Because I'm always just like, "But why? What is the return it's going to give us?" But yeah, it was, for us, taking these weird times, like a pandemic, and being able to turn them around.
And one of those was that COVID drive-through time. We did a taste test. And so what we did was we used to sample every single weekend before the pandemic we'd go to all the local stores that we were sold at, and we would sample it and find kids and parents to give this product to so they could try it and love it and buy it. And pandemic rolls around. Nobody's going into stores. Nobody wants to hear some dude give them cereal in a little cup either. And Ian looks at me and he is like, "What if we did, we have a U-shaped driveway, What if we did a taste test?" And I'm like, "Are you out of your mind? I'm not leaving the house. I'm not doing a taste test. No one's going to come." All these negative thoughts. And he was like, "Let's just do it. Let's see what happens." So we do it and we set up, we took an empty palette. I took Ellis's little art roll and with paint it was like, "Taste..." Whatever. I don't even remember what I wrote, but we did it. We set up, I had tongs and a mask and the whole kit and caboodle because this was peak 2020, early days.
Margaret Wishingrad: And everyone was just like... And no one wanted to sit at home, how people are just driving around aimlessly to just get out of the house, but go nowhere.
Margaret Wishingrad: That was all of us. And there were people just driving by and just scooping a little cup of cereal to try it. And it just turned into a whole queue of humans. And Ian quickly takes out his camera and was like, "Okay, let me just capture this and share it locally." Say, "Here's this family that's taking this really weird time in business, and how does a small business grow and thrive and figure things out?" And I think it's especially important because in the news cycle it was horrible. Every other news segment was hospitalizations and shortages of things and it was just really sad. And I think news loves an opportunity to maybe bring some good stuff to light.
So we had that and it kind of spread a little bit like wildfire. We had it here in the local paper. Then all of a sudden we have national news networks calling us to do an interview. And we did a three minute segment on national TV when everyone was watching TV during a pandemic. And it was our biggest sales day, maybe in company history. And it was great.
Margaret Wishingrad: All these people that would've never heard about our brand got to hear about our brand. And hopefully they liked us too from the interview. But it was a really interesting opportunity. And I think we always think about media in a similar way of… how do we join this conversation and leave the consumers feel... Not going like, "Oh, look at those capitalists." I want them to always be like, "Oh, look at those... Look at that family that's really trying to get their brand out there, that wants to share their story with the world." And, "Yeah, I'll give them a try." And so we did some other really fun things aside from that one, but that one was definitely probably the kookiest.
Annaka: Yeah. Is there a process for... You're like, "Okay, we should do some marketing or something." Do you have a process for going through and deciding, "Okay, that one's a little too wild. That one's a little too tame."
Margaret Wishingrad: It's usually just our own brains and filters, we'll all look at each other and we're like, "Is that too crazy? Is that too crazy? Is that too crazy?" That's usually how we do it. But we also are like if a tree falls in the woods. So throw things against the wall, hopefully something sticks. A good example of that is one Sunday, we saw this clip circulating of a John Oliver clip where he goes on a rant about no new cereals being invented. And I was like, "Okay, is this weird? Is he going to bring up a sponsored ad within 20 seconds? This is crazy." He never ended up bringing it up, it was just like a rant. It was lovely.
The next day, Ian got our oldest, Ellis, to go with him and get our truck that had the whole Three Wishes side of the truck on the side. Wow. That was side on side, all the things... Pulled up to John Oliver's studio in the city and did this really cute, funny video where Ellis was like, "Hey John Oliver, I have a new cereal for you." It was very cute and funny. And the video went nowhere. It maybe has 12 views on YouTube after you watch it, maybe 14.
Annaka: Because you know we’re watching it too.
Margaret Wishingrad: And hopefully on two different devices. It was super, super cute and it went nowhere and it's fine. Because we spent no time... I mean, we spent time, we spent no real money on getting that done. And if it went somewhere, cool and if it didn't, whatever, we had a really great time just creating this really cute content with Ellis yelling on 57th Street. It was excellent.
So I think as long as you have that attitude and no big expectations out of those things, sometimes it's good to try something and see what happens. TikTok's an incredible example of that. People post the content that I would never think would go viral or songs that would never go viral. And all of a sudden we're all sitting here singing the corn song for no reason. It's like...
Annaka: Oh my God. Yeah.
Margaret Wishingrad: I think I'm still... I think I just brought it up and I'm singing it right now in my head.
Margaret Wishingrad: But no. And now I can't unthink it. But-
Ethan: Is this a song about corn or is this a song from the band Korn?
Annaka: No, it's about corn.
Margaret Wishingrad: No, it's about corn. It's from a viral video.
Annaka: I will show it to you.
Ethan: I'm off the viral trail, so.
Annaka: Are you even on TikTok?
Ethan: Not that I'm aware of.
Margaret Wishingrad: Oh my, this is as bad as you asking me if I had an iPhone.
Ethan: I'm the oldest millennial in the room.
Annaka: And he's younger than me.
Margaret Wishingrad: I am-
Margaret Wishingrad: ... I am taken aback. Any who, that was a real great example of people create content and sometimes it takes and sometimes it doesn't, but you won't know until you try it. So.
Margaret Wishingrad: Do it.
Annaka: Yeah. And if you have the opportunity to have fun while you're doing it, no harm, no foul. Just go out and do it. And so we talked about this earlier, you have done a lot of interviews, a lot of press. What role does that play in brand exposure and marketing?
Margaret Wishingrad: Hopefully it plays a role. It's hard to say. Sometimes you'll see an uptick in store sales and you're like, "Well, what was the reason?" It's hard to really attribute what lifts what. For us, if there was one eyeball that saw it and they tried it and they shared it with someone else, I've done my job. It hits, it hits, it doesn't, it doesn't. But it's always great to get your name and voice out there in a positive way.
So that's all we continue doing it. And then usually someone will reach out to speak to me and I'm like, "You know what? If giving you 10 minutes or 30 minutes is going to create an impact in hopefully one person's life, let's do it."
Annaka: Well, let's do it. Or in our case, a lot of time.
Margaret Wishingrad: Yeah.
Annaka: An hour plus. But do you recommend that strategy for other founders doing interviews and representing their brand out there?
Margaret Wishingrad: Absolutely. As long as it's not a hit piece. But other than that, if you're just out here and you're just sharing the word on why you're doing something and what it is, and there's even a few people listening to it, why not?
Margaret Wishingrad: Unless you have something else that's more important to do with your hour of time. But I doubt it.
Margaret Wishingrad: What's more important than getting the word out there?
Annaka: Exactly. And it's good to... You practice talking about your brand and you practice talking, being confident and you practice... It could be pitch practice. Maybe not in that formal, technical way, but you have an opportunity to talk to someone else about your brand, which I'm sure your mom's like, "Stop talking about it." So here's an opportunity to talk to someone else.
Margaret Wishingrad: Totally. The other really fun thing, because people are like, "Oh, I'm nervous." The one thing that I think I've kept this with me forever, but I remember one of our first TV interviews and it's like live TV. You're like, "Oh my god. And am I sweating?" But I remember turning to one of the TV hosts and they're like, "Just pretend you're at a bar. You know how to be at a bar, right?" And I'm like, "Oh, do I?" So like people are people. And enjoy, just have a chat, see what happens. Go with it so if you're nervous about press or interviews or podcasts or whatever, you're at a bar, you're fine.
Annaka: You're at a bar. It's better than the "imagine everyone in their underwear spiel". Just a little bit more approachable.
Margaret Wishingrad: I might be more uncomfortable if you guys were in your underwear.
Annaka: I know, right.
Margaret Wishingrad: So we'll just pretend we're at a bar.
Annaka: Yeah, exactly.
Ethan: All right. So, you mentioned in your company profile, and I'm going to quote you here, we didn't want to build a brand that's centered around one product. We wanted to build a platform brand.
Can you give us your thoughts on that quote and fill us in on what's next for Three Wishes?
Margaret Wishingrad: Yeah, so we didn't set out to be "Happy O's" or anything that was really specific to a product. We wanted to bring you the same things you love about, whether it’s your cereal or whatever product's next, we wanted to bring that consumer trust and love for the brand. And I think any other brands we think about that we love, whether it be fashion or food, looking at brands like Annie’s and Kind and all these other big huge brands that are just roll out a ton of innovation, you have the same trust for the new line of product because you know what they've done with the past product.
So for us, we chose Three Wishes to be the platform and hope that people get super excited about any other innovation that comes out. And on the innovation train, it takes a really long time as evidenced by making cereal. And so we're just working on things behind the scenes and when we feel like they're ready... And by the way, cereal's a huge category to conquer. It's arguably the longest aisle in any grocery store that you'll ever go into, also with the most colors. So there's a ton for us to do there. But yes, we're always working on other things in the background and when the time is right, then we bring those to the world too, hopefully.
Annaka: All right, what is your number one piece of advice for early stage entrepreneurs?
Margaret Wishingrad: It depends on what day of the week you ask me that. It's so funny cause I'm always like, "You never know where the podcast is going to go." I'm like, "If you catch me on a day where everything's going wrong, I'm like, don't do it. It sucks." And if you catch me on a day where I'm like, "Everything's good, it's flowing." And I'm like, "Do it. It's the best. It's liberating."
So entrepreneurship is the biggest rollercoaster and it's emotional and it's exciting and it's all of the things. But if you really feel like you've found a solution to a real problem that people face, go. Just do it. Don't listen to anybody. The amount of nos I've heard from whatever, anybody... It could be consumers, it could be manufacturers. As long as you truly believe in what you're bringing to this world, go for it.
Ethan: Excellent advice. All right, last question. Where can people find you online and how can our listeners support Three Wishes?
Margaret Wishingrad: You can support Three Wishes by buying Three Wishes, and you can buy us at any of the stores located on our website or on our website or Amazon or Thrive or many other places. So definitely please buy a box and you can find me on Instagram. I'm @MBWish. We are @threewishes on Instagram. And if you want to stalk Ian, because I actually make really great guest appearances on his Instagram, please add @ICWish.
Ethan: Awesome. Thank you so much for all your stories, all your insights. We are going to put all those links and everything else y'all heard today in the show notes. But that is going to be it for this episode of the Startup Savants podcast. Thanks for hanging out with us.
Margaret Wishingrad: Thank you for having me.
Ethan: All right, folks. It's time we pay the Piper once again.
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See you folks.
More on Three Wishes
Margaret Wishingrad, founder of food startup Three Wishes, shared valuable insights during our interview that will inspire and motivate aspiring entrepreneurs.
Margaret Wishingrad, CEO and co-founder of Three Wishes Cereal (and a mother), came up with a solution: grain-free, high-protein cereals that parents can feel good about serving to their kids.