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.

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