Three Wishes Cereal Co-Founder Margaret Wishingrad on ‘The Power of No’

Decerry Donato

Decerry Donato is a reporter at dot.LA. Prior to that, she was an editorial fellow at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

Three Wishes Cereal Co-Founder Margaret Wishingrad on ‘The Power of No’
Provided by BHE

On this episode of Behind Her Empire, Three Wishes founder and CEO Margaret Wishingrad talks about creating brand awareness and shares the key component to running a successful business.


Three Wishes is a New York City-based company that produces a line of healthy breakfast cereals made from high-quality ingredients.

The inspiration for her business came at a time when Wishingrad was looking for cereal options for her son as a first-time mom. She realized that there was a gap in the market for breakfast cereals that were both healthy and delicious.

“I hadn’t consumed it (cereal) personally in so many years because of how crappy cereals got for you,” Wishingrad said. “And so I revisited it again through my child’s eyes and realized there’s been no real innovation in this category.”

Wishingrad grew up in a family of entrepreneurs, but admitted that she never saw herself as one.

“I was used to family businesses and being maybe a number two at a company,” she said. “But when I met my husband, I really watched him so naturally be this leader and know how to speak to people. I picked up a lot of that from him over time and applied this confidence to myself because the biggest thing is, if you're confident, whatever you're selling or doing, that's more than half the battle.”

Despite not having any experience in the food industry, Wishingrad and her husband asked people around them about their cereal consumption and the consensus was clear - most people stopped eating cereal because of the lack of options with quality ingredients.

“That validated our idea that we need to create a solution for this,” she said.

While she had the passion and drive to make Three Wishes a reality, she still had to convince the right co-packer to believe in her dream.

“It just takes the right people that are gonna give you the right opportunity,” Wishingrad said. “But as important as it is for these people to vet you, it's important for you to vet these people as well.”

A year after trying to find the right manufacturing solution, Wishingrad found the co-packer and is still doing business with them to this day.

Wishingrad credits her business sensibility to her prior career in advertising.

“When you work with really small clients, and they have a whole lot to accomplish and prove with very small budgets, you learn to get really scrappy, ” Wishingrad shared. “Seeing these incredible operators that were able to talk about their innovation or position themselves to retailers…I think there were a lot of little tidbits we took from that.”

Given her experience in advertising, Wishingrad said that she and her husband utilized the two years of product development to carve out a strategy around their launch.

Early on in the business, they received many phone calls from retailers who were interested in the product, but she turned them away because “what retailers provide first and foremost is real estate.”

“They give you a shelf to put your product on,” she added. “They're not directing a customer to your product. They're not there to educate anybody.”

Wishingrad and her husband knew they had to position themselves with retailers that aligned with their product, like Sprouts and Wegmans.

“The power of no is huge and it’s really difficult than it is to say yes to something,” she explained. “In those moments, I knew it wasn’t right for the brand to be in these massive retailers that would be capital intensive.”

While making it onto the shelves of these large retailers is no easy feat, Wishingrad said the right introduction can go a long way.

“You realize that this entire industry is all relationships,” she said. “And finding someone that will either endorse your product and your brand, or you find them directly. So whether it's LinkedIn or seeing that you're connected with someone that knows them and asking them for that introduction.”

Once their products hit the shelves, the next step was to create brand loyalty. During the first year, Wishingrad said she and her husband would demo the cereal in stores on the weekends.

But when COVID hit, she had to put her advertising and marketing hat back on to find creative ways for consumers to purchase their products. She and her husband decided to host a drive thru taste test.

“This was the era when everyone was aimlessly driving just to not sit at home within their four walls,” she said. “Ian just grabbed some content, and we sent it to our local papers and eventually just hiked its way up to USA Today. Then it went to Fox and we had a three minute hit on Fox News National during the heat of the pandemic.”

While Wishingrad understands that going into the retail space is capital intensive, she expressed, “it doesn’t mean it’s for every business.”

She decided that after the first fundraising round, they would stop seeking capital from investors.

“I’d rather run it a little tighter and be more considerate on how we spend the capital,” she said. “As we see a lot of people raise a lot of money, corporate governance becomes a real thing. The larger you get and the more money you raise, you then have a board of directors that you answer to and then you have to think of it as a shot clock. You have X amount of time until these people feel like they need to see a return out of your brand. So you start to get pressured to make decisions that you otherwise may not have had to make.”

Wishingrad is proof of how capital isn’t the end-all-be-all to success.

“I think it has been a journey of 1000 little wins,” she said. “We’re at a really fun stage now where we’ll see random celebrities that we love post the product organically. Like seeing Lizzo eat this product over the weekend.”

dot.LA Reporter Decerry Donato contributed to this post.

This podcast is produced by Behind Her Empire. The views and opinions expressed in the show are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of dot.LA or its newsroom.

Hear more of the Behind Her Empire podcast. Subscribe on Stitcher, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeart Radio or wherever you get your podcasts.

🤠Musk Picks Texas and 🔥Tinder AI Picks Your Profile Pictures
Image Source: Tinder

🔦 Spotlight

Tinder is altering dating profile creation with its new AI-powered Photo Selector feature, designed to help users choose their most appealing dating profile pictures. This innovative tool employs facial recognition technology to curate a set of up to 10 photos from the user's device, streamlining the often time-consuming process of profile setup. To use the feature, users simply take a selfie within the Tinder app and grant access to their camera roll. The AI then analyzes the photos based on factors like lighting and composition, drawing from Tinder's research on what makes an effective profile picture.

The selection process occurs entirely on the user's device, ensuring privacy and data security. Tinder doesn't collect or store any biometric data or photos beyond those chosen for the profile, and the facial recognition data is deleted once the user exits the feature. This new tool addresses a common pain point for users, as Tinder's research shows that young singles typically spend about 25 to 33 minutes selecting a profile picture. By automating this process, Tinder aims to reduce profile creation time and allow users to focus more on making meaningful connections.

In wholly unrelated news, Elon Musk has announced plans to relocate the headquarters of X (formerly Twitter) and SpaceX from California to Texas. SpaceX will move from Hawthorne to Starbase, while X will shift from San Francisco to Austin. Musk cited concerns about aggressive drug users near X's current headquarters and a new California law regarding gender identity notification in schools as reasons for the move. This decision follows Musk's previous relocation of Tesla's headquarters to Texas in 2021.

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  • Penguin Random House agreed to acquire comic book publisher Boom! Studios from backers like Walt Disney Co. - learn more

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Top LA Accelerators that Entrepreneurs Should Know About

Los Angeles, has a thriving startup ecosystem with numerous accelerators, incubators, and programs designed to support and nurture new businesses. These programs provide a range of services, including funding, mentorship, workspace, networking opportunities, and strategic guidance to help entrepreneurs develop their ideas and scale their companies.


Techstars Los Angeles

Techstars is a global outfit with a chapter in Los Angeles that opened in 2017. It prioritizes local companies but will fund some firms based outside of LA.

Location: Culver City

Type of Funding: Pre-seed, early stage

Focus: Industry Agnostic

Notable Past Companies: StokedPlastic, Zeno Power


Grid110

Grid110 offers no-cost, no-equity programs for entrepreneurs in Los Angeles, including a 12-week Residency accelerator for early-stage startups, an Idea to Launch Bootcamp for pre-launch entrepreneurs, and specialized programs like the PledgeLA Founders Fund and Friends & Family program, all aimed at providing essential skills, resources, and support to help founders develop and grow their businesses.

Location: DTLA

Type of Funding: Seed, early stage

Focus: Industry Agnostic

Notable Past Companies: Casetify, Flavors From Afar


Idealab

Idealab is a renowned startup studio and incubator based in Pasadena, California. Founded in 1996 by entrepreneur Bill Gross, Idealab has a long history of nurturing innovative technology companies, with over 150 startups launched and 45 successful IPOs and acquisitions, including notable successes like Coinbase and Tenor.

Location: Pasadena

Type of Funding: Stage agnostic

Focus: Industry Agnostic, AI/Robotics, Consumer, Clean Energy

Notable Past Companies: Lumin, Coinbase, Tenor


Plug In South LA

Plug In South LA is a tech accelerator program focused on supporting and empowering Black and Latinx entrepreneurs in the Los Angeles area. The 12-week intensive program provides early-stage founders with mentorship, workshops, strategic guidance, potential pilot partnerships, grant funding, and networking opportunities to help them scale their businesses and secure investment.

Location: Los Angeles

Type of Funding: Pre-seed, seed

Focus: Industry Agnostic, Connection to South LA and related communities

Notable Past Companies: ChargerHelp, Peadbo


Cedars-Sinai Accelerator

The Cedars-Sinai Accelerator is a three-month program based in Los Angeles that provides healthcare startups with $100,000 in funding, mentorship from over 300 leading clinicians and executives, and access to Cedars-Sinai's clinical expertise and resources. The program aims to transform healthcare quality, efficiency, and care delivery by helping entrepreneurs bring their innovative technology products to market, offering participants dedicated office space, exposure to a broad network of healthcare entrepreneurs and investors, and the opportunity to pitch their companies at a Demo Day.

Location: West Hollywood

Type of Funding: Seed, early stage, convertible note

Focus: Healthcare, Device, Life Sciences

Notable Past Companies: Regard, Hawthorne Effect


MedTech Innovator

MedTech Innovator is the world's largest accelerator for medical technology companies, based in Los Angeles, offering a four-month program that provides selected startups with unparalleled access to industry leaders, investors, and resources without taking equity. The accelerator culminates in showcase events and competitions where participating companies can win substantial non-dilutive funding, with the program having a strong track record of helping startups secure FDA approvals and significant follow-on funding.

Location: Westwood

Type of Funding: Seed, early stage

Focus: Health Care, Health Diagnostics, Medical Device

Notable Past Companies: Zeto, Genetesis


KidsX

The KidsX Accelerator in Los Angeles is a 10-week program that supports early-stage digital health companies focused on pediatric care, providing mentorship, resources, and access to a network of children's hospitals to help startups validate product-market fit and scale their solutions. The accelerator uses a reverse pitch model, where participating hospitals identify focus areas and work closely with selected startups to develop and pilot digital health solutions that address specific pediatric needs.

Location: East Hollywood

Type of Funding: Pre-seed, seed, early stage

Focus: Pediatric Health Care Innovation

Notable Past Companies: Smileyscope, Zocalo Health


Disney Accelerator

Disney Accelerator is a startup accelerator that provides early-stage companies in the consumer media, entertainment and technology sectors with mentorship, guidance, and investment from Disney executives. The program, now in its 10th year, aims to foster collaborations and partnerships between innovative technology companies and The Walt Disney Company to help them accelerate their growth and bring new experiences to Disney audiences.

Location: Burbank

Type of Funding: Growth stage

Focus: Technology and entertainment

Notable Past Companies: Epic Games, BRIT + CO, CAMP


Techstars Space Accelerator

Techstars Space Accelerator is a startup accelerator program focused on advancing the next generation of space technology companies. The three-month mentorship-driven program brings together founders from across the globe to work on big ideas in aerospace, including rapid launch services, precision-based imaging, operating systems for complex robotics, in-space servicing, and thermal protection.

Location: Los Angeles

Type of Funding: Growth stage

Focus: Aerospace

Notable Past Companies: Pixxel, Morpheus Space



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🚁 One Step Closer to Air Taxis in LA
Image Source: Joby Aviation

🔦 Spotlight

Joby Aviation, a pioneering electric air taxi company, has achieved a significant milestone by successfully flying a hydrogen-electric aircraft demonstrator for 523 miles with only water as a byproduct. This groundbreaking flight showcases the potential for emissions-free regional travel using vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, eliminating the need for traditional runways. The company's innovative approach combines its existing battery-electric air taxi technology with hydrogen fuel cells, paving the way for longer-range, environmentally friendly air travel.

For LA residents, this development holds exciting implications for future transportation options. Joby's technology could potentially enable direct flights from LA to destinations like San Francisco or San Diego without the need to visit conventional airports, offering a cleaner and more convenient alternative to current travel methods. The company's progress in both battery-electric and hydrogen-electric aircraft positions it at the forefront of next-generation aviation, promising to revolutionize urban and regional mobility.

Notably, Joby Aviation has already made strides in Southern California by securing an agreement with John Wayne Airport earlier this year to install the region's first electric air taxi charger. This strategic move sets the stage for LA to be among the initial markets where Joby will launch its electric air taxi service. With plans to commence commercial operations as early as 2025 using its battery-electric air taxi, LA residents may soon have access to a fast, quiet, and environmentally friendly mode of transportation that could significantly reduce travel times and traffic congestion in the region. In the not too distant future, LA might find itself in an identity crisis without traffic and excess smog 🤞🤞.


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