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Margaret Wishingrad of Three Wishes shares the blueprint to having a multi-million dollar business

Today I’m joined by Margaret Wishingrad, Founder of Three Wishes Cereal.



In the 12 months since launching, Margaret and her husband slash business partner Ian have built a multi-million dollar business through thoughtful retail expansion, unique guerrilla marketing moments and a tasty better-for-you product that people want to keep buying. We’re going through the blueprint to launch and why it’s important to keep your customers' behaviour front of mind.

Three Wishes is healthy cereal that tastes like childhood indulgence, led by the cereal aisle’s first female founder, Margaret Wishingrad. While other cereals on the shelf force customers to choose between flavor and nutrition, there’s no compromise with Three Wishes. It’s high protein, low sugar, gluten and grain-free and made from ingredients like chickpeas, pea protein, and tapioca.

By the way! We’re just a few weeks away from opening our private network up to Founding Members. If you’re a woman in ecommerce and you’re looking to build your network, get access to women on the show for mentorship and experts to help you build your brand - join the waitlist. We have a limited number of Found Member spots available and you can pop your name on the list at femalestartupclub.com/waitlist.


Please note, this transcript has been copy pasted without the lovely touch of a human editor. Please expect some typos!


00:03:32

So I am Margaret Wishingrad and CEO and Co founder of Three Wishes, which is cereal, which I also built with my husband and the brand for us is around a few things.

00:04:41 So it's a better for you breakfast cereal sales, high protein, low sugar gluten and grain free and those are three wishes or other three wishes was the three wishing grad. And then it was just the three of us. Now there's four of us, but we basically created this product after I realized as a bomb that there was nothing in market for my own family, my own child and here we are now selling cereal. So crazy! Oh my gosh, I love it. What year are we talking about when you have this moment of, I can't find a serial, I might think about making one myself. Yeah, so it is late 2017 and my son at that age was about six months old and one of the things everyone recommends is for pincer skills is cereal and I'm like, oh my God, I haven't had cereal in the longest time and I don't really see anything for my kids, like am I the only one feeling this way, this is a real problem. Um and yeah, it was totally a real problem. Oh my gosh! And so at that point, had you already thought of yourself as becoming an entrepreneur?

00:05:43 Had you done it, had dabbled in entrepreneurship already or was this kind of like out of the blue, hey, I'm gonna, I'm gonna do this now. Yeah, that's a great question. So Ian and I have an ad agency in new york. And so we've been building were entrepreneurs naturally and so we've been building brands for other people and it felt so right for us to be able to build our own brand and take all the same earnings we had from all of our clients and now go and apply it to our own business, but completely opposite side of the spectrum. Right? One is service and one is product so totally different football, interesting in their own ways. It's so funny that you say this because my husband also has a performance marketing agency and we've reached that point where we're like, we need to take these learnings that they were getting from the show be, we're learning from what he's doing, scaling brands and put this into our own thing, we've got so many similarities little love that. I've watched a few of Ian's videos in the past actually, I I followed him on adweek with I'm with the brand stuff. So funny, I love those. Okay, so you have this a half moment, What are the actual next steps and like, in that moment, how long does it take you to actually be like, yeah, I'm going to do this cereal.

00:06:55 It is, I mean, that was instant. I think Ian and I he's an idea person, I'm an execute er and so once I came to and I was like cereal and he's like, oh my God, yes, let's do it, let's start now, like figuring out how this physically gets done and I would say like, I wish cereals Kitchenaid attachment that I could just like crank try and play with it is so highly technical, so difficult to actually create. Um and to the barrier to entry there is pretty high. So Ian is one of the most beautifully network people I've ever met in my life and I was like, I'm like we're going to dig into your phone book. So it was a lot of let's reach out to our friends CPG find the right formulated for the product and start to just narrow down what are the things that are important to us from a, from an ingredient standpoint, from a product experience standpoint, where do we want this to live? Who do we want to deliver this to what are the price points? We started to at the same time as we're trying to develop the product, build out the strategy of what it looks like for us. And so every minute of those two years that it took us to to launch the actual finished good was whether was R and D or strategy or packaging, we were working on all of those things at the same time when you say, you know, you were working on that strategy in the background when it comes to price point, how did you come up with the price point that you wanted to go with?

00:08:10 How did you come up with the things that were important to you or what were the things that were important to you? Yeah. So we definitely we looked at cereal as a category, spoke to a ton of people to understand what's missing in it for you. Why do you no longer consume it? If we changed X. Why would you consume it again? And it was interesting. A lot of parents of boys were like, okay, there's not enough protein from like I can't get my son to eat eggs in the morning or really be fueled with real protein especially for breakfast. And we're like, okay, protein is one of those things we need to tackle. A lot of mothers of girls and daughters said, oh I there's too much sugar, I can't feed it to my girls in the morning, like there's too much sugar. So we're like, all right, so sugar needs to be lowered. And then we just looked at cereal as a whole of what it's made from any ingredient panel. You turn around, you look at it's just nutrient deficient grains and we're like, okay, we as a generation knows so much about the effects of blue and the effects of grain on brain health and body health. And all these things were like, this is a great opportunity to create a grain free alternative that has that same experience. And then once we kind of narrow down what the parameters were like, okay, we don't want to be more than X grams sugar or fewer than X grams of protein, that kind of status.

00:09:20 These are the ingredients we would need to kind of utilize to achieve that. And it was just a lot of tinkering and a lot of, you know, changing certain ingredients for other ingredients to get to what we needed to get to on the product side. And that's what took the longest, wow. And so two years. Was that like from you finding the formulate er right through the Finished product, like what actually takes two years? All right. So we nail down those parameters. We give that same same way in advertising, we give a brief to creatives, we give a brief to the formulation of like, okay, these are the parameters. That's what we need to achieve. It's getting line time because it's not like it's not a laboratory thing, you need to be on the physical machines that make this product and so you're not running, you know, £5 at a time. It's your running thousands of pounds and you're going through a lot of ingredient to just see if it performs and expands properly and coats properly and you know, it taste the same and milk like you would want it to So it was tasting the product and we could have probably launched a year into development and I'm a stickler for product and I'm like, I can't go to market unless this is something that I'm like, so in love with.

00:10:21 And the other thing for us was we have now a four year old. But then when he was, you know, 12, he is the pickiest eater you can ever find and the best thing, it's like, yes, our marketing backgrounds a beautiful thing and the fact that I can, you know like paint a beautiful picture for consumer. But for me it came down to is my son so obsessed with this, whether it's a no box, a box, a pig box, a huge box like it needs to work as a product. Um and when he finally was like mom, I want more of this, I was like, okay, my job here is done. Um and that happened to be two years. So it was a blend of, you know, getting the ingredients, getting the line time being set up to now run this full scale and so it was all of those things that kind of led to the two year timeline. I wish it was shorter. That is so interesting. Did you keep like tally of how many samples you have to do? Oh my God. If I kept, I would have run out of notebooks face a lot of like hundreds. I mean if we counted every flavor in every variation of the puff could yeah, easily. But it was, yeah, it's just like every little tweak changed the product so much, right?

00:11:26 Every little ingredient and proportion. Like it's so so scientific, There was a lot of cereal before we got to the serial. Well, gotta love cereal a lot. I always have to ask about the money side of things. How much money did you need to invest to get started? And how were you were financing it in the beginning? I mean it sounds like you know lots of samplings, two years of R. And D. Formulate ear's sounds like it requires a lot of upfront capital. And then I also imagine serial requires huge smoke us. That's exactly correct. So to get just for us we weren't confident we weren't comfortable in going to the investor community or even our friends and family until we had a really like a great minimum viable product. So everything until the actual like time we had that thing in a bag and we like to try it up until then we bootstrapped in. So that was probably $250,000 of investment to get there. And then from that point on then when we had our product you know is close to what the finished product in market was.

00:12:30 That's when we started to bring it to our friends and family and started to look for investment because it is a product that requires these massive M. O. Q. S. Like truckloads of finished product. And so that you know why we have to go out and raise as well and for you guys, I read that you launched into retail kind of from the beginning was that originally the plan or was the plan to go down to see go e commerce or was the plan to do both? Oh yeah. So I thought about myself. Okay, so I would take a step back with this strategy side of what we did for two years. And for that, when we were thinking about who is the consumer? It's a consumer like myself or my husband or you know, any of our friends and family. We think about the behavior of cereal and cereal is still predominantly Children and predominantly retail. Um, and unless you're a specialized product that adheres to specific diets or super niche, that's where I feel like online is a very interesting thing. But if we think about cereal as a category, it's the biggest aisle in the grocery store, right? It's the longest one with the most skews that you can think of with every flavor, color character you can think of.

00:13:35 And so it is definitely a retail to be product. And so when we thought about that behavior, we knew we were changing what it's made of. Um, the macros, we kept the similar behavior things where it was what we expect taste to look like, what we expect shaped to look like, where we want price point to float. And so we didn't need to change the behavior of purchase. So for us, we're like, okay, let's keep it in retail, let's keep it attainable at an attainable price point in retail. So when that mom like Margaret wants to go and buy her child breakfast, she doesn't have to go order it online and wait two weeks if she wants to do it, she can, it's available there. But you know, I wanted someone to be able to go, okay, I'm going to whole foods, I'm going to pick up, I'm gonna pick up some chicken broccoli and three wishes. And so that's kind of how we thought about it. Hey, it's doing here. I'm just popping in to bring you a quick message in every episode of the FSC show. You'll hear women who were just like you trying to figure it all out and hustled to grow their business.

00:14:45 And I would know a lot of you might be sitting there asking yourself, but how do I actually scale my revenue and get to that next level from where I am now. You also know that so many of the entrepreneurs I speak to have mentioned facebook and instagram ads as a crucial part of their marketing mix From today onwards. I'm really excited to be able to offer our fsc, small business owners and entrepreneurs and no strings attached. Our long chat with leading performance, marketing agency amplifier who you might also remember from our D I y course, full disclosure amplifier is my husband's business. And what's really important to know Is that I've been able to witness first hand the transformation of so many businesses going from as low as $10,000 a month all the way to $300,000 a month. And in some cases upwards to seven figures. So if you're listening in and you feel like you're ready to take your business to the next level, jump on a no strings attached call with amplifier where you can ask all the questions you have about performance marketing and whether it's the right time for you and your business to get started, go to female startup club dot com forward slash ads.

00:15:58 That's female startup club dot com forward slash A. D. S and booking a call today. And so obviously the pandemic kind of hit as you launched. You launched end of 2019, right? Or beginning of 2020, Late October 2019. Oh my gosh, so you're launching right in the lead up to the pandemic, you don't know what's about to come. What was that early kind of time like when you were launching? And what was the launch strategy I guess. Yeah. So we launched when we launched, It was, there's a local store here in Westchester called Stew Leonard's and we just like, we know the family, we decided to sample our product there and we're like, all right, let's see how many boxes we sell on a day that we would sample, We would sell 200 plus units and we're like, okay there's real like love for this and demand here and it was, it was really fun and then from that a producer from Good Day, new york approached us and was like, hey, do you want, there's gonna be this morning segment, you guys want to be a part of it? And we're like, uh yeah, We absolutely do. And I guess what, what is the segment?

00:17:05 They're like, Oh, it's Friday, 25 or whatever it was. Do you want to launch? Like, And we're like, okay guys, it looks like launch days october 25th. And so that's kind of how we decided to launch and it was great. And, and for us, because we spend that time figuring out very in like a very detailed manner like where, what retailers are we approaching? When are we doing it? What are the reset cycles? Because the thing about retail is not like you can go have an appointment with a buyer and then think it's gonna be on shelves in two weeks, right? Everything's on a reset cycle. Your meeting is months, months, months in advance of you possibly been hitting self, you have to work with distributors are so many at so many levels to getting into retail. And so we had authorizations because we started doing the work before launch. We had authorization by the time we did launch within two weeks. We had whole foods. So cal we had Hagman's, we had sprouts a couple weeks after that and whole foods Northeast and it started just pick up and this was kind of pre pandemic. So by the time it was really peak pandemic, we were, we had our approvals and authorizations.

00:18:06 So we were kind of sliding in right in time when you think about like looking back, how long in advance did you need to start reaching out to the buyer of X, Y and Z to get a meeting to kind of open those doors? Are we talking like six months, nine months a year? It varies with every single like retailer and buyer. I think the thing for us is we knew we were creating a real solution for a declining category where there was no innovation. So there was such excitement, buyers were so excited to find something new, it wasn't like, oh, here's another, you know, X, Y, Z. Product. It was, here's something or consumers have been looking for, we are giving the consumer permission to shop in a category that has been so taboo for so long, where it's like, oh, it's just sugar for breakfast. Um, here we're bringing real nutrition, we're allowing you to have that great taste and, and that's kind of, I think there was real genuine excitement there. And so it was a mix of luck and having the right product at the right time. There's no like too early, once you have a product that you're comfortable and ready to get into retail, start finding a way to those buyers and start having those meetings and having those conversations, it could be months before you see a shelf, wow, that's so interesting and something that's so key and keep in mind if that's the way you're going to go down for launch, what actually happened when the pandemic hit?

00:19:25 Like in terms of did you have to pivot more away, obviously more into e commerce but away from e commerce in some ways because you already had these retail stores, I'm wondering what actually shifted and how you have to approach it. Yeah, so it's two fold. So something that was super important for our product is Discovery. Right? And so no one was really going into grocery stores anymore and like walking the aisles, having a great time looking around sampling things, it was like and no sampling sample and a lot of it was like okay you're going into grocery, you need bread water and you got to go home. And so I think that makes it difficult to create some kind of brand awareness when you're just like running past the shelves. The other part of it is I remember it was like so clear. So I remember like some store shelves had so you can only buy a limit of two boxes of any cereal, like the stories only allowing you to box material, so where other brands started to run out of inventory. And because we were new, we're like, oh we have inventory, you want to give a shelf space like we'll bring it in immediately. And so we were able to be a reliable partner for retailers and that was super important that it was, we were both helping each other and that was that was interesting around that time.

00:20:30 And then the other part is relaunched our website to make it because people were now shopping at home. And so within eight weeks we relaunched our entire website and made that experience really seamless for people. So if they wanted to buy it online they could do that as well. And what it really forced us to do was be creative and nimble colleges our lives before cereal and we started thinking of really interesting ways to create some interest and buzz and what can we do in our local community. So our driveway in our house is a U. Shaped driveway and so I was like what if we do a drive thru sample and you'll be in a mask gloves, you have tongues and we just give like sealed samples to anyone that drives by so they could try, they could order it and create some awareness. And so we did that. It was created some fun traffic in town which is really fun. And then it also got some pick up in the news because people were so I think it was such a was such a difficult and sad news cycle that any stories about businesses trying to figure out a way to, to thrive in a really weird situation were so interesting.

00:21:32 Oh, I love that. And I actually saw something else on your instagram that I thought was just the cutest thing. I think it was your youngest son or maybe it was your oldest, but I'm not sure your oldest son with the box of three wishes outside the studio asking for, I forget the name of the guy, john Oliver, john Oliver, that is so cool. Who came up with that idea. So it was, we started john Oliver piece that he had like this whole, this whole thing on cereal and we're like, what can we do to like let john Oliver know that there's a new cereal out there in town. And so, you know, I was sitting that evening and we're like, all right, what do we do? And so we were like, all right, let's just take Ellis in the morning to the studio and find a way to deliver the products to john Oliver and we just like, we decided to capture the experience. It was just so fun. And I think the beauty of being a family business is, and I feel like we don't do it enough. We actually don't share our family enough and we should, but the beauty is we are real humans behind a product, we have stories to tell. And so we try to involve our kids as much as we can.

00:22:33 And so that was really fun to put that together. Did you already have the truck with the billboard on it or was that like, hey, let's get it printed today or however that works. No, no, no. We have, we have a truck in um, in the new york area, one of our local distributors and merchandisers. Um, we printed a truck with him like a year ago. And so when we were sitting thinking about it, we're like, oh my God, we should get the truck. Um, and so we have the truck show up the next morning and we were able to pull it off. So it's just really fun. Oh my gosh, yeah, I love those kind of ideas that are really like surprise and delight moments that are fun, You can capture the personality of a brand in a really cool way that, you know, maybe it leverages the brand on, on the show. Maybe it doesn't whatever, but you still did it and it's still that piece that you're able to tell the story and show it on your own channels and things like that. That's so cool. So after you've gone through that phase of like relaunching your website, you guys are obviously coming from a marketing background, what were the kind of paid channels that you found were really working for you at that time in, you know, when we're considering that it's food at CPG, It's, it's a different space too, you know fashion for example, where maybe instagram ads are working really, really well.

00:23:41 Tiktok ads are working really, really well, what works for you guys. So it's interesting. So we're also sold on amazon were on some other retailers as well and I know a lot of people preach like, okay, you want the email list, you want to push it to your own website and we do that and we have that. But again, thinking back to those consumer behaviors, Cereal is one of those things, especially on Amazon knowing that 45% of searches begin on Amazon and that it's a search engine in its own. that's also a channel we focused on and so I really spent resources and time and tried to build out amazon versus um, okay, let's do a little here, a little there. It was, yes, are rerunning facebook and instagram Sure, but amazon I think was so interesting because also during the pandemic, Um, I don't know if you remember like if you wanted to order streamers for a party, you have to wait 30 days because there's only essential items that would get delivered immediately. Uh, it was a really good time for us to be able to capture that, Okay, you can get this, this is probably the only item you get in two days right now and so being there for consumers that are looking for food on the platform was also a great time for us to push the brand out when you say building it out on amazon, what does that actually mean?

00:24:53 It was just you know PPC campaigns or whether it's you know ads on any other amazon properties that then lead back to amazon um whether you're capturing some of your google search, interacting it to amazon because that past approaches is usually a little bit easier than it is. If you're directing them to a website they may not have seen before. So we we kind of tested a ton of different things to see which networks in which net captures and so we played around with a lot of things And how has that evolved to now sort of 12 months down the track. You've obviously got amazing traction, you've been all over the Internet in the press, you've had these really cool guerilla style activations, what's working for you that's driving growth now and what's kind of like keeping that momentum going being that were brand that really cares about retail so much. I'm the biggest advocate for and taps incremental placement, displays those things when you're especially now I think there's excitement for people to get back into grocery stores and get back into the norm of what their life used to be T.


00:25:57 V. D. On samples still but just being an entire end cap, you can't miss it, you're walking you're like oh what's this brand, let me look, let me try it out and you know, whether it's so I always, I rather if I had that dollar to spend in digital advertising or the dollar to spend in couponing or end cap placement, 1000% the coupon and capital basement. I heard that adds on insta cart, like when it's coming up to check out as a kind of added product or even wasn't sampling on insta cart is a really effective way for brands in the food and CPG says, are you, are you doing that as well? We are and so insecure. It's another interesting one and I think we think about it, you know, if you were advertising on facebook or instagram early days, you probably had some great data and similarly tensor card, it was really a platform in its infancy on the paid ad side at least. Um, so being able to play around there and figure it out as the platform evolves has been really interesting and we've had really, really terrific return on ad spend, so very pleased with insta cart as a platform, but it did require us to be in retail, right?

00:27:04 You can't be on Instacart if you're not sold in retail. Yeah, totally. Right. We don't have it here in the UK, but I've heard a lot of women talk about it on the show and I'm sure something like that is probably here or coming or something, but it sounds really cool. You've had great success in the last year, You've done multi millions in revenue. You're in retail, you've got your e commerce going on when you look back at this first year in business, is there anything that you would do differently or anything that you were like in hindsight? This is the most important thing or those kind of key lessons and insights in hindsight. I mean it's so hard to say because no one predicted a pandemic and it's hard. It's just, it's a bizarre, bizarre time to say like what would I have done differently? I think the thing that has always been in our favor and this might be because it's not our first business is that we're able instead of like freaking out and not knowing what to do in a weird situation were very quick to be like, okay, this isn't working pivot quick, stop burning cash, turn it off, turn, keep going. And that's just always worked well for us in, in any business. And I think having the flexibility and understanding how to just quickly turn things around and be resourceful has been our saving grace.

00:28:14 Yeah, that's so true. So true. And where are you guys now in terms of how big is the team? What's going on? What fun things can you shout about that are coming up over the coming months? Yeah, it feels like there's always something fun. I can't even think of anything, mind, we're always working on new flavors and innovation behind the scenes. So that's something that I have a lot of heart and passion for where the brand is going. I think for me we really are, strategy was natural channel because that's where we know our consumer is the same way it was back to that setting, the strategy thing. It was, who's our consumer, where are they and how do we build a real relationship with them and become a brand that they love and trust. And I think of brands like kind and Annie's that have, you know, whether they're selling you a bar, granola snacks, mac and cheese, whatever it is, you have such heart for the brand and you really, you're willing to buy anything and everything they make. And I think that's a goal. We have three wishes is to be a platform brand like that that you really trust and love and I think that requires that you kind of figure out who your consumers and you double down in that space.

00:29:16Edit So we're not necessarily thinking about like let's go spray our product all over the country and being every door you can think of its, let's focus on the retailers are with continue to open doors with like natural type retailers. Um, and just go deep there and and make someone just love you and lean in with that retailer and lean in with a consumer and that's been really wonderful for us and that's kind of the strategy as well going forward of it. What advice do you have for women who are on the entrepreneurial journey, but a few steps behind where you are, I would just, it's like for me it's like yank the band aid, just go for it. Whatever is holding you back, just like looking in the eye and go for it. They're going to be 1000 fire drills are going to be a million knows whether it's from a co packer or an investor or a retailer. There are a million of them and it just, you have to get really comfortable with the unknown. You have to get really comfortable with rejection. You have to get really comfortable with problem solving. So it's a lot, but you just have to dive in. So true, so true.

00:30:18 Got to get comfortable with the uncomfortable