A new chapter of brand building.

Building a brand for your clients is one thing. Building your own brand and company—with your husband, no less—is a whole different adventure. But it’s one adventure that this week’s guest embarked upon head on. And their story is quite magical. 

The final iteration was when [my son] said, "Mama, can I have more?"

Margaret WishingradCo-Founder, Three Wishes Cereal

Transcription

Katie Hankinson:                              

         Hi, I’m Katie Hankinson.

 

Mickey Cloud:                                         

 And I’m Mickey Cloud.

 

Katie Hankinson:                                     

  Welcome to Building While Flying, a Sasha Group podcast, where we interview business leaders about how they tackle challenges, stay resilient and navigate ever-changing skies. Welcome to this week’s episode of Building While Flying. I’m super excited today to speak to Margaret Wishingrad, CEO and co-founder at Three Wishes Cereal. [00:00:30] Margaret and her husband also founded a New York based ad agency, BigEyedWish in New York, and she’s a partner there. You love building brands so much, you decided to make one from scratch.

 

Margaret Wishin…:                                   

 Crazy enough to do that. Yeah.

 

Katie Hankinson:                                    

   Now, I know I’m super excited to have you on the show. Welcome.

 

Margaret Wishin…:                                   

 Thank you for having me.

 

Katie Hankinson:                                    

   I know a little bit about Three Wishes Cereal, that it is a high protein, low sugar, grain-free breakfast cereal. It’s clean, and it’s ultimately [00:01:00] revolutionizing the very sugar-laden cereal industry, but I would love to hear a bit from you around the origins of Three Wishes Cereal and how it came to be.

 

Margaret Wishin…:                                

    Sure. So, as I mentioned, Ian and I have an ad agency here in New York. We’ve been building brands forever. I think we always come across many different brands. We’re like, “Oh, how did I not think of Warby Parker or Airbnb or any of these brilliant things?” For us, [00:01:30] the moment really sparked when we had our own children, then it was child. And so, when Ellis was six months old, I was one of those moms that made my own baby foods and really cared about what I was feeding my child. And then when it came for their little pincer skills, cereal was the recommendation. I’m like, “Oh my God, I haven’t had cereal in forever. The last time I do I was a kid.”

    You just remember it was all really sugary. It was really dessert. It was one of those things that your parents didn’t really let you have [00:02:00] at home. You went to someone else’s house to have it. For me, it was like, “Wow. The category really hasn’t changed. There’s nothing I want to feed myself. There’s nothing I want to feed my kid.” I turned to Ian. I was like, “All right, crazy idea, what if we did a cereal? What if we just revolutionized the ingredients, everything about cereal and just made it A-okay to eat again?” He was like, “That’s crazy. Let’s do it.” That was the beginning. For us, it’s a wild ride.

 

Katie Hankinson:                         

              [00:02:30] That’s amazing. So, tell us a bit about what makes Three Wishes Cereal stand out beyond the rest. You mentioned it being obviously revolutionizing those sugar. It’s high protein as well. What are the kind of feature of it?

 

Margaret Wishin…:                           

         So, I think cereal by definition is a grain, right? It’s grain-based. So the fact that we went and pulled out the foundation of what’s early usually is, which is grain, and have plant-based proteins to make up that same base, it was really the things we about was how do we deliver [00:03:00] the same crunch, the same soak and milk, the same flavor experience, and keep it in the same shape so it feels familiar, but take the makeup of what it was before, which is just starchy grains and make it out of chickpea and pea protein and tapioca, which hasn’t been done before. And so, we worked for two years with a food scientist to develop a formula that does all of those things that you expect cereal to do.

     And so, I think at the same way people looked at pasta and were like, “Oh my God, Banza. You take chickpeas and you can make pasta? [00:03:30] That’s usually out of wheat and semolina.” So, it’s a similar thing. So, it’s super different. And then on the flavor and sweetness side, usually it’s a lot of sugar, and here we decided to take a natural sweetener, like monk fruit and mix it with organic cane sugar to give you that same flavor sweetness that you were used to as you consume cereal.

 

Katie Hankinson:                                   

    Who do you see as your principal competitors?

 

Margaret Wishin…:                                

    Yeah. We see a lot of the big cereal, natural version product as our competitors. So with the products, Nexus and Whole foods, [00:04:00] the Cascadians, the Kashis, the General Mills spinoffs, those are definitely the ones we see ourselves head to head on. And then there are the DTC cereals in the space. We don’t necessarily see them as direct competition, but we’re all going for a piece of the pie. Granted, it’s a very big pie. I think the other wonderful thing is we’re just happy to see that there are people coming into the space because it is totally a rising tide lifts all ships. If we can get consumers to eat better and change their lifestyle, [00:04:30] whether they’re choosing us or our competition, the outcome is something we’re really happy with.

 

Katie Hankinson:                                

       I also think the dayparting of cereal as a breakfast is disappearing. Cereal is so much more of a kind of just quick snack at any point in the day. If you know on top of that, the health factor, it becomes a legit thing to just grab in the afternoon in an energy diet.

 

Margaret Wishin…:                                   

 Yeah. It’s interesting. There was a statistic, the increasing popularity amongst millennials [00:05:00] to utilize cereal as a snack versus just breakfast consumption. I think the other fun thing is you see so many people love to do it as a dessert. It was a chocolaty cereal at night, just like [inaudible 00:05:13]. Cereal, and for me and for a lot of people, I think has a pizza effect, where there’s a nostalgia to it. It’s like it was mornings. It’s the weekend. There’s a good feeling association. So you’re eating cereal and you’re enjoying yourself genuinely.

 

Katie Hankinson:                                  

     I totally see that. It’s so much [00:05:30] like the comfort food, which is a whole other category. It’s more of that. It is like a feel-good food. You’re right. It is, I think, also still associated with childhood, which is a nice feeling too. Importantly, what does Ellis think of the cereal?

 

Margaret Wishin…:                                  

  So, that’s a great question. So, the two years of development was… I mean, we’ve probably launched, I don’t know, three, four months, six months into the idea, which is years old now, but for me, I was maniacally focused on it being super close to what you know conventional cereal [00:06:00] is versus a like, “This is a diet substitute.” We didn’t want that, and especially with children. Ellis is the toughest critic. If he could live on donuts and ice cream, he absolutely would. And then he was probably a year old, a year and a half old. So for me, I just placed the product in front of him, walk away and see, does he want more? Is he eating the full serving that I gave him? And just to study his behavior with it. Because yes, does my background of marketing absolutely helped consumers, but [00:06:30] does a two-year-old care about what the box looks like or your price point or where he distributed or brand adjacency? None of those things.

     And so, for me, it was, does Ellis love it? And so, it was iteration after iteration. I know the final one was he said, “Mama, can I have more?” And I’m like, “Ah, we’re done.” That was the beginning, but for me it was just like, “He finally loves it. We’re good. We’re here.” And so, Ellis loves the product. He loves all the flavors. He [00:07:00] loves to walk into my office and take a box that he should not and just rip them open. So we have way too many boxes open at once at home. But yeah, he’s a big fan.

 

Katie Hankinson:                             

          That’s awesome. So number one client super happy, and you knew you were off to the races.

 

Margaret Wishin…:                            

        That’s it.

 

Katie Hankinson:                                    

   Talk a little bit about… Obviously, your background is in marketing. You’ve built an agency that services other clients. How different was it when you actually had to turn the lens on yourself and start making some of those decisions on behalf of your team?

 

Margaret Wishin…:                               

     Night [00:07:30] and day. I mean, you go from service to product, right? It’s a different landscape, but there’s a lot of interesting parallels. They’re both so interesting, right? One, you’re selling an actual physical good, and one, you’re selling someone on a vision of something. They’re both rewarding and there were different ways, but I really love operating a company, where operating an agency is very different.

 

Katie Hankinson:                                     

  Mm-hmm (affirmative). What are some of the early things that you had to relearn or reskill yourself on in [crosstalk 00:08:00]?

 

Margaret Wishin…:                                   

 I think [00:08:00] where we got very lucky is on the smaller clients we work with, we’re watching their business grow. Let’s say clients that came in touch with an idea and we would build out the brand. When it speaks to how he’s in retail, what are the end cap shelf talkers looking like and all these little nuances? And so, we’re able to learn a little bit from their mistakes and understand what didn’t work for them, and then apply those same principles in our business. So I feel like we’re very lucky in that, where we have a front row seat of how the actual business function. [00:08:30] And so, we took a lot of those learnings, and hopefully we took those mistakes and didn’t make them again, and that’s been really helpful. Then, to also just surround ourselves because we were in the brand world and we knew a ton of founders by being marketers, we were able to just take those relationships and turn them into mentors for us, and that’s been really helpful too.

 

Katie Hankinson:                                    

   So I know there are a few challenges during the pandemic when you were trying desperately to reach customers and suddenly found yourself a rather different route to market. Can you talk a bit about some of the ways you creatively figured a way [00:09:00] around that?

 

Margaret Wishin…:                                

    Yeah. This is, I think, the agency, learnings we had, where if a client kills a campaign, you have to pivot and think of a new one overnight. We’re able to, I think, function the same way, where, okay, we identified the challenges quickly. People used to try our product when we demoed it in stores. We’d convert really easy. They love it. They buy it, et cetera, et cetera. Here we’re like, “Okay. We can’t get to stores. No one is going to sample from someone else in a pandemic. What do we do?” We thought about, “Okay. People are doing a ton of drive- [00:09:30] through tests now. We don’t want to really talk about coronavirus and what’s going on, but we do want to take this interesting parallel of people feel comfortable doing drive-throughs.” And so we have a U-shaped driveway in front of our house and we’re like, “Should we just turn our driveway into a sampling booth and a station and just put up a sign?” We live on a pretty busy street and we’re like, “Let’s see what happens. Let’s try to see how consumers, how our local neighbors.”

    I think that the other thing is it was a really heartbreaking new cycle, [00:10:00] and I think anything where you can bring some kind of joy, and whether it’s small businesses figuring out how to thrive or just what’s going on in people’s lives outside of devastation was something really interesting. And so, we’re like, “Okay. Let’s just do this drive-through sample.” And so, masked up, tongs, little sample cups and it was really fun. It was interesting to interact with both our local neighborhood and just see some excitement in people’s lives again. And then, luckily, we had some local news stations [00:10:30] picked it up and it escalated. It ended up getting picked up on Fox National. And so, we had an interview, and it was the biggest sales day we had for the brand.

 

Katie Hankinson:                                     

  That’s awesome. Are there other ways that you’re thinking about bringing some of those more unconventional ways of speaking to consumers and reaching them off to that success?

 

Margaret Wishin…:                                   

 Yeah. I mean, I think we always think from how do we gorilla market our brand or what are the things we could do that are lower costs, but really interesting, unique. Another thing we did, which was really fun was [00:11:00] when we were launching our cocoa cereal, we’re like, “Okay. How do we communicate to people how delicious our chocolate cocoa flavor is? Let’s get people that are experts on cocoa to talk about it.” Ian hunted down the living cast members of the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. We sent them the product and we’re like, “If you guys love the product, please like endorse the product and send us a video back if you’re loving it. If you don’t love it, you don’t have to do that.”

     And so, the four living cast members eat, besides the Augustus Gloop. He lives in Germany. Apparently, [00:11:30] he’s traumatized by being a child star, but Charlie, Veruca, Mike Teavee sent us a clip of them enjoying video. We stitch that together and we put it and we published it. It was just a really fun asset to get the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to talk about our cocoa flavor. So we just tried to do all these fun things of how do we bring in, either something in the zeitgeists and we did into the brand, or something really fun, nostalgic and feel good and just continue to give people the warm and fuzzies about the brand. [00:12:00] That, I think, is just like in our nature and just really fun.

 

Katie Hankinson:                                

       I love it. I think as well there’s something so magical about… I mean, obviously Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the ultimate magical story, but it has such a nice track through to the idea of wishes and wish granting, the whole basis of that story, and the other one is being a small brand and still being able to activate celebrities, even if they are child stars living out in the worlds of nowhere. [00:12:30] It demonstrates that it really is possible if you figure out the right angle and also get authentic advocates rather than just to have the paid option is really good.

 

Margaret Wishin…:                                   

 Yeah. I think it’s a very like lemonade out of lemons mentality. We could have just sat there and gone, “Oh, it’s a pandemic. It’s going to be so hard to grow the brand.” That wasn’t going to help anyone. And so, we were like, “What are these fight, fun, lighthearted things we could do to just keep the momentum going?” [00:13:00] And so, we were very lucky with all the reception we got from it.

 

Katie Hankinson:                                    

   Can you talk a bit about brand storytelling? Obviously, you’ve got a compelling product with quite a differentiated featured in the sense that it’s high protein, low sugar, but you’ve also got this very evocative name. I know it obviously comes from your name. But can you talk a bit about what sits behind the brand, the brand identity and the story that you’re telling as well?

 

Margaret Wishin…:                                 

   Yeah. So the name Three Wishes [00:13:30] came from then, it was the Three Wishingrads, but now it’s four of us, but we’ll keep it three. But yeah, for us, it was how do we weave in who we are, why we’ve created this. It was so many layers. And then the other part was that it was always the convention of three wishes, right? Genie’s granting three wishes. We had coincidentally three things that we changed about cereal, which was made high protein, low in sugar, and we made it grain and gluten-free. And so, it was kind of like super perfect, almost too perfect, but somehow worked out. [00:14:00] But when we thought about the brand and what does it have to look and feel like, it was how do we communicate that we’re new? So, let’s pick out different color schemes that stand out from the rest of the set. Because if you think about cereal, it’s a 40-foot aisle with characters, every color in the Pantone book. There had to be a way to make it really stand out. So, we decided to go with a really fun… It was the crossroad of healthy, innovative, refreshing, and different.

     I think what’s also interesting, if you think about cereal, it’s [00:14:30] always product-specific, where it’s like Cheerios, it’s not O [inaudible 00:14:34] made by General Mills. Most of the time, no one knows if they’re Kellogg, unless it’s special K, but no one knows what their Kellogg post-General Mills. We decided to take a different approach, which would be brand-centered and not product-centered. And so, for us, that allows us to be a platform brand as well. So if it was going to be another innovation we come out with, it’s harder to go from being a Cheerio than it is to go from Three Wishes into another [00:15:00] category. And so, I think that was all really intentional. It’s funny. When he were thinking about how does our brand speak look and feel, we actually initially went super clean, minimalists and we placed it in shelf and it totally got lost, didn’t stand out at all. So that test of constantly putting it in its set and where we knew it would live was super helpful in the process.

 

Katie Hankinson:                                    

   It sounds like everything you’ve done has been quite a lot of iteration by testing things out, learning, and then moving on.

 

Margaret Wishin…:                                 

   Painfully. Yeah. [00:15:30] I think because we come from the background, we’re so close to it, that we scrutinize the little things in details that people don’t even notice or care about, but for us, it’s like, “Oh my God, we have to change it.” I think it’s just the way our brains work.

 

Katie Hankinson:                                    

   A lot of obsession, a lot of obsession about building a brand.

 

Margaret Wishin…:                             

       A lot of obsession. It was the brand that took us the longest to actually design and finalize because it was like we were constantly… It was never done for us. It was ongoing. And then, eventually, we just had to go like, “All right. Pencils down, guys. We’re doing [00:16:00] it. We’re putting it out in the world.”

 

Katie Hankinson:                                    

   Yeah. You have to take your own advice. I feel like that’s one of the number one things, especially if it’s close to your profession, is you end up being unable to take the advice you give clients, which is-

 

Margaret Wishin…:                             

       Oh, absolutely.

 

Katie Hankinson:                                  

     … “This thing is not a deal breaker. Move on.”

 

Margaret Wishin…:                                 

   My biggest thing to clients is always, you can only stand for one thing, and here we are, yelling three things at the same time. We broke all of our own rules multiple, multiple times.

 

Katie Hankinson:                                   

    And you stand by it.

 

Margaret Wishin…:                               

     Yeah.

 

Katie Hankinson:                                  

     [00:16:30] So, it sounds like there’s kind of fairy tale trajectory that everything’s all fallen into place beautifully. Have there been crazy challenge points? Can you talk a bit about some of the times when it maybe didn’t feel quite as magically perfect momentum?

 

Margaret Wishin…:                               

     I think the analogy for me is like when ducks are swimming, they’re so calm above water, but their little feet are going crazy underneath the water, and that is literally what it’s like building a brand is like. You’re like, “Oh, we’re growing. Life is beautiful [00:17:00] like cereal.” Behind the scenes, there are delays because of there are pandemics. You’re dealing with a truck getting stopped somewhere, rerouted. There’s a million fire drills that you’re constantly dealing with, and running both the front end of the business, which is the sales and marketing and storytelling, and then also running the ops of the actual product where there’s so many moving parts, it’s a lot. Then, you throw in children into the mix. I think it was definitely we learned a lot in the year of just how do you build a stable business, [00:17:30] how do you build the stable front end, the website, the retail execution. All of these moving parts are so difficult to juggle. So the juggle is definitely the challenge.

 

Katie Hankinson:                                  

     Where are you today with the brand in terms of size, scale, theme?

 

Margaret Wishin…:                                 

   Yeah. So by the end of the year, we are going to be in over 2,000 doors. We are currently nationally distributed. It is only going to pick up more national distribution. The brand is growing online, on Amazon, through some other e-tailers. I [00:18:00] think part of the brand was yes, in the two years, did we absolutely set up what the product looks like? Yes, but the strategy is also so important. So it was kind of like, “Well, what’s our Mount Rushmore of stores that we want to be in? So we’re lucky that we have retailers like Whole Foods behind us, Sprouts behind us, Wegmans. We just feel super lucky that we were able to create the right product for the right market at the right time, and it’s all falling into place fortunately.

 

Katie Hankinson:                                    

   What about the role [00:18:30] of social in the work that you’re doing? How are you building that out? You obviously had some early success with a bit of an influencer play with your Charlie and the Chocolate Factory cocoa product. How else are you leveraging social?

 

Margaret Wishin…:                                 

   So, something that really important to me, and I think this is just part of how consumers see things now, a lot of people see influencers and they’re like, “Oh, they’re probably getting paid to talk about it,” even though it’s creating some top of funnel awareness. So something important to me has been not paying influencers [00:19:00] and doing this organically. So sometimes we’ll send out product cold. If they post about it, great, because they love it enough. Wonderful. If they don’t, that’s fine too. I think the thing for me is I always want whoever’s talking about it to be genuinely interested and actually enjoy what they’re talking about. I think consumers can see something that’s forced.

      So for us, we’ve been lucky that people have found it in their local stores with influence, picked it up and just decided to talk about it. It’s fascinating because I think about it, I’m like, [00:19:30] I can’t remember the last time I was excited about a brand to posted on my own social network of like, “Here’s what I’m eating for breakfast,” but apparently a lot of people do and that’s been really wonderful. I think part of who we are in our story translates into our product and into social. And so, people see that. It’s kind of like the snowball effect of like, “Oh, this product is great. Oh, and then I read about the brand and I love the brand. I’m going to talk about it more.” It just snowballs.

 

Katie Hankinson:                                   

    What’s next? What are you going to be thinking about next [00:20:00] for Three Wishes?

 

Margaret Wishin…:                                   

 Yeah. I mean, I think we know how long innovation takes so we’re always working on innovation behind the scenes. When we feel like it’s the right time and the right market fit, then we’ll start to launch other products. But I think for us, it’s just continue building that community, continue expanding in the retail doors that we’re already and go in deeper or do really well there and just build a really great stable foundation in business. And so, we’re just happy with how everything’s going and just continue doing it. I don’t know. I think [00:20:30] it’s also that other saying, where you can drive across the country with only seeing 100 or 200 feet in front of you and that’s exactly it. Yes, do we know where we want to end up and what route we’re taking? Always. You always have that in the back of your mind, but we’re really working on it like, “Okay. We got this right in front of us. Let’s tackle what’s in front of us.”

 

Katie Hankinson:                                      

 Take the next step and continue moving forward.

 

Margaret Wishin…:                                   

 That’s it. Yeah.

 

Katie Hankinson:                                    

   What about granting wishes? I feel like I want to see a kind of brand or a big purpose campaign [00:21:00] coming out of [crosstalk 00:21:01].

 

Margaret Wishin…:                                  

  Yeah. I think we always think about what are the things we could do with wishes. It’s such a magical, whimsical thing.

 

Katie Hankinson:                                      

 So magical, yeah.

 

Margaret Wishin…:                                    

There’s also something that’s so nice about now being at the tail end of hopefully this pandemic and being able to interact in person again and do all these fun feel-good things. Now, we’re starting to think about what are these activations and things we could do that aren’t so in our own little sandbox. So, definitely thinking about things.

 

Katie Hankinson:                                     

  Oh, I love that. [00:21:30] Yeah. I can totally see a whole kind of like a relay race of wish granting and that you can have so much fun with it, and especially in your category, I think, too.

 

Margaret Wishin…:                                   

 Totally.

 

Katie Hankinson:                                     

  My one other question, which I had, is a little bit of a step out to side topic-wise is being in a family business. Obviously, Sasha Group is named after Gary’s dad. We’re no strangers to being at least tied to leadership [00:22:00] teams who are related to one another. But how has it been running not just one but two companies with your other half?

 

Margaret Wishin…:                                  

  I mean, it obviously has its challenges. I think what makes us work as a couple, makes us work as partners in the business as well, our skill sets are so entirely different. Ian is allergic to spreadsheets and numbers. I can live in spreadsheets and numbers. I think if I was to put in an advertising perspective, it’s he’s copy and I’m art. I’m just so visual. He’s so like words that and how they make you [00:22:30] feel all these things. And so, we were lucky that we really worked out the kinks within the first few years of the agency, because there are definitely you’ll naturally butt heads, but then you identify like, “Okay. Margaret is really good at this. She should do this. Ian is really great at that.”

     Obviously, we float things to the other side and we’re like, “Hey, what are you think about this? What do you think about that?” But you definitely have to learn how to work together a little bit. But it also makes it so fun because I think it would be difficult as a solo founder to then come home, and start to tell my husband about everything [00:23:00] that’s going on and vice versa and being able to be so fluid and just be like, we’ll be up at 2:00 in the morning and talking about things that are brand-related and it doesn’t feel like work. It feels like just a continuation of who we are and what we’re doing in life, and that’s a really nice, liberating thing. So, I think where some people are like, “I could never work with my husband,” I can never imagine working not with my husband.

 

Katie Hankinson:                                    

   Yeah. I think it’s definitely a polarizing thing, whether or not you can-

 

Margaret Wishin…:                                  

  Totally.

 

Katie Hankinson:                                     

  It’s somebody you deeply trust, but you can also [00:23:30] sometimes want to wring their necks.

 

Margaret Wishin…:                                   

 Yeah. People were like, “Oh my God, you put all your eggs in one basket. One of you doesn’t have a job.” I’m like, “No, the two of us are crazy enough to just do our thing,” and it’s been great for us.

 

Katie Hankinson:                                    

   Now, you have two companies, so more work.

 

Margaret Wishin…:                                 

   Yeah.

 

Katie Hankinson:                                    

   We have this little analogy, Building While Flying, and we really like to ask our guests this with one recurring question, which is… Reason why we love it is for entrepreneurs is because it speaks to the nimbleness, the [00:24:00] flexibility and foresight that’s needed to operate a business, but also because pilots are very well renowned for that checklists and in-flight training that keeps them calm under pressure. So when you’re against the wall, you’ve got to make a tough decision, you’ve really got to do something in the heat of the moment, what is that internal checklist or process that helps you through it?

 

Margaret Wishin…:                               

     It’s funny. I walk around with a fire extinguisher mentally. I’m just like always just putting something out and figuring out how to solve it. [00:24:30] I don’t know if it’s a check… I think for me it comes down to making it… It’s a logical… I try to remove the emotion. I think that’s the first thing. So it’s not like, “Okay. Start to panic. And what do you do?” It’s like, “Okay. These are the two outcomes, or these are the X, Y, Z outcomes. What’s the financial implication? What’s the brand… What are the things that are going to affect it?” And then you just take the least painful route out, and that’s how you’re like, “All right. If I have to lose one limb, but I’ll live, all right, let’s figure it out.”

   And so, [00:25:00] it’s just being quick. I think that nimble thing has been the biggest thing for us. It’s definitely a learning from the agency. The other thing we’ve really picked up is how important culture is and who you have working with you on the same journey and mission. And so, who we hired, who we have involved, whether it’s a broker or buyer, all of these things are part of our family ecosystem. So making sure that everything’s healthy and all the parts of the plane are working are super important for us. And so, checking in on that is a big thing, but it just really being quick [00:25:30] has been the saving grace for the brand.

 

Katie Hankinson:                                      

 Quick and pragmatic, it sounds like, and a lean team as well, which definitely helps. I would love to know who would be a dream brand partnership for Three Wishes Cereal that we can definitely be on the look out for in a couple of years.

 

Margaret Wishin…:                                 

   It’s a great question. I don’t know. Yeah. I think we think about things outside of food, as we think about what are fun things. Is it whatever [00:26:00] the newest edition of the Aladdin Movie is, and it’s a Three Wishes partnership and it’s something Disney and fun and genie-esque? And then we think about breakfast in bed. Is it something with Casper? There are just so many fun, random… Or Sunday morning programming, and it’s cartoons. I think there’s so many fun partnerships.

 

Katie Hankinson:                                  

     I love that. Yeah. The Aladdin thing is genius, or anything where dreams and wishes overlap, I think could be really fun too.

 

Margaret Wishin…:                               

     Awesome.

 

Katie Hankinson:                                     

  Super awesome. Well, thank [00:26:30] you so much for joining us today. It’s been so amazing hearing about Three Wishes Cereal, your journey so far, and what is still to come. Thank you so much for-

 

Margaret Wishin…:                                  

  Thanks, Katie.

 

Katie Hankinson:                                    

   … sharing your story.

 

Margaret Wishin…:                                 

   Thanks for having me.

 

Katie Hankinson:                                      

 Well, now that we’ve finished that thoroughly interesting interview, we’re getting ready to land, but before we do, Mickey and I caught up on some of the themes and topics that stuck out to us.

 

Mickey Cloud:                                         

 Yes, we liken this to the post-game show, where we break down the key lessons we all can benefit from, including us [00:27:00] here at the Sasha Group. Here is The Sasha Sidebar.

 

Katie Hankinson:                                    

   Hey, Chris. It’s a fun to have you standing in for Mickey this week.

 

Chris:                                                

 I am super jazz. I think I’ll be making my first appearance here on Sasha-

 

Katie Hankinson:                              

         The first of many, no doubt.

 

Chris:                                               

  … Building While Flying podcasts. So, thanks for having me. I’m super excited about a conversation that we’re going to be having around this particular podcast, because it runs deep with [00:27:30] me. It runs deep.

 

Katie Hankinson:                             

          Well, yes. I mean, well, tell us. So you obviously go way back with Ian and now with Margaret. So, talk a bit about how you guys go, what your history is.

 

Chris:                                               

  Yes. So, the short story of it all is Ian and I were once creative partners at our first agency. We worked, my gosh, probably four or five years together. It was just one of those beautiful, serendipitous match made in heaven type of scenarios.

 

Katie Hankinson:                                      

 The [00:28:00] creative duo.

 

Chris:                                                

 The creative duo powerhouse. I think everyone hated us because we were so good type of thing. And then we ended up going separate ways at some point in our career paths, but we managed to stay together. I feel like I was replaced by Margaret at some point because she herself is also a creative genius and shares a lot of the same energy that I think Ian has, that I have. So I think it was a good replacement, good stand in for me. But yeah, they’re both amazing, amazing individual, [00:28:30] some of the most genuine people that I know to this day, and just happy and thankful to call them both friends and, again, excited for what they’re building right now and where they’re going.

 

Katie Hankinson:                                     

  Well, with Three Wishes, I mean, what energy Margaret had and what a story they’ve whipped up this brand in what seems to be her insane amount of smarts and pragmatism and just speed. The dynamic duo that was you and Ian is now the dynamic… Well, was it you? And [00:29:00] then a trio with Ellis, and now there’s four of them, so ever growing.

 

Chris:                                                 

Yeah, I think Margaret and Ian are so much more better than Chris and Ian. But yeah, it’s amazing, too, as we get into the story and we hear Margaret talk about it, keeping in mind that they’re doing it from home while raising a family, so all the excuses of, “Well, I don’t have time or I can’t do it,” is completely out the window because as we see here, and of course, we’ve seen it in other cases, but it’s all doable. It’s just a matter of trying [00:29:30] to navigate build while flying, as we go back to the title of the podcast right there.

 

Katie Hankinson:                              

         Totally.

 

Chris:                                               

  It’s doable. It’s certainly doable.

 

Katie Hankinson:                                       

They’re super impressive bunch. So first up, seeing as you are, in fact, our brand director, creative director on the branding side of things, working with me, I thought it would be nice to talk a little bit about the brand itself, the name and just the whole look and feel of what they’ve created. Margaret, after we stopped recording, was telling me how it actually almost wasn’t called Three Wishes [00:30:00] Cereal, and that that was a late development that suddenly just felt so insanely perfect that they knew it was the right thing, but you’ve got a bit of the inside scoop of what some of the early versions were, right?

 

Chris:                                                

 Sure. Yeah. This just goes back to, I think, my relationship with both of them in my time in Chattanooga. When I was going back and forth between New York City and Chattanooga for Sasha related things, we always try to sneak in some time to hang out and have breakfast or have dinner outside right at their apartment. I remember one evening I was there in the [00:30:30] Upper West Side with them, Upper East Side rather, and they were talking about doing this thing. They had another name out there. I won’t get too far into it, but it was a great name. They had some visuals going. I looked at some stuff. They always liked to float some stuff by me occasionally. On the surface, it looked perfect. It looked great. But then I think they did their own testing and Margaret talks about it how for some reason they got swallowed up.

 

Katie Hankinson:                                     

  On shelf, it just disappeared on shelf. It’s so important, [00:31:00] really proved out so important to put it in [crosstalk 00:31:02].

 

Chris:                                                

 Talk about a good tactic to do with your own brand is put it in the context of the other brands that are going to be up against, whether it’s on shelf or elsewhere, because sometimes you can get some good signals as to what’s working and what’s not. I think they recognize that and they quickly moved on from it. I remember a couple weeks later, they had mentioned the new name, which is now the namesake of the brand. I mean, talk about hitting out of the park, right? [00:31:30] The name Three Wishes, wishes as a platform being this huge wide open, creative fun space to play within.

 

Katie Hankinson:                                     

  Totally.

 

Chris:                                                 

There’s a lot of cool things beyond just making the cereal, which she talks about, but then the power of it too, and that it allows them to tell their story in such a unique and passionate way. They do that on the back of the box, the Three Wishes being Margaret, Ian, and little Ellis. So I think there’s some emotion now involved in the brand that I think when you have that storytelling power, and then [00:32:00] you back it up with a good product, I think that’s when you have magic.

 

Katie Hankinson:                                    

   There’s magic. [crosstalk 00:32:05] Their wish is starting to come true. I also like even right down to some of the product proof points, it tracks back to the Three Wishes in terms of the product qualities. I found it hilarious that Margaret acknowledged that they’ve totally broken their own brand rules, because we do the same thing, telling clients, “You need to stay focused, try and stand just for one thing.” They’re standing for three, but I think you need to know the rules before you can break them. What they’re [00:32:30] really doing very well is this idea of building a platform that they can potentially have other products living underneath as well.

 

Chris:                                                

 A very quick point, a good point to make there too is yes, while guidelines and rules and things like that and your brand book is this awesome thing to have, it should never handcuff you. I think a little bit of that call it craziness or rule breaking, I think is always important to pay attention to, trust your gut, because sometimes that’s just the thing you need to add on to your existing brand that can [00:33:00] provide some more magic and power and really taking it to the next level [crosstalk 00:33:03].

 

Katie Hankinson:                               

        I love that. Talking of experimentation, the whole driveway and drive-in driveways stunt was amazing. I just loved how creative they got during the pandemic and when obviously grocery stores took a bit of a dive and no one was going shopping for a while. It just was awesome how they were hyper-creative. I know you were talking about aspects of that too.

 

Chris:                                                

 Well, it’s such a brilliant thing because this is what I personally like to call [00:33:30] swinging for the fences, meaning… And in big moments or more importantly in smaller moments, where no one’s necessarily paying attention or it’s not expected, you can bring these big, powerful ideas that don’t always necessarily need big money behind it in order to be effective. I think they are such prime examples and perfect executioners of this particular thing, whether it was the drive-through sampling, the Willy Wonka thing, which, again, I know some backstory on that. It’s just like it [00:34:00] was almost so easy for them to do because of the connections they had and the conversation they had to get them there.

      One of the most recent stunts, I believe it was with Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, where they heard a bit, a segment around cereal on air. And then the next day, they had a truck there with little Ellis bringing cereal into the studio. This is a good thing for those who are listening to the podcast to understand is just being open and listening and waiting for the next opportunity to pounce on, because a lot of times it’s not money that gets you there, it’s just [00:34:30] timing and just getting there quickly. I think there, again, they’d done such a brilliant job of not playing by the rules and waiting for opportunities to come to them or having to spend a lot of money to get those. They just act on it, and [crosstalk 00:34:46] it works. If it doesn’t, who cares, right?

 

Katie Hankinson:                                     

  Yeah. There’s such a running theme of the hustle aspect, like don’t ask, don’t get, reach out to those people and see if they’re willing to be an advocate of the brand, just send the product. [00:35:00] If people want to stand up and be an influencer, great. I kind of love that because it not only [crosstalk 00:35:05] plays into the authenticity there-

 

Chris:                                               

  So raise your hand, ask the question, knock on the door and see what happens. One thing that I remember about Ian years ago that I loved about, it was just like, “We’re just going to do it? Should we go for it?” It’s like, “Yeah, let’s just go do it.” It’s like, “Okay. We don’t need to ask anyone?” “Nope, we’re just go do it.” It’s like, “Okay.” It’s coming out again with both Ian and Margaret, so I love the consistency [00:35:30] that they have one another and with what I recognize in Ian years ago too, so it’s fun to see that.

 

Katie Hankinson:                                

       I love that. I think there’s like a don’t let anyone tell no vibe to them, as well as that speed and creativity that I really admire.

 

Chris:                                                

 I think they live by that mantra, both of them.

 

Katie Hankinson:                                  

     So, what do you think our question to the podcast listener of us out there should be? Seeing as we’re talking so much about creativity, maybe something like that.

 

Chris:                                               

  I think we have an [00:36:00] excellent question. I think it’s a very important one to ask, and that is, what’s the one thing, the one idea that nine out of 10 people in your world, I’m talking to the listeners here, that nine out of 10 people would tell you not to do? What’s the one thing that they tell you not to do that you think you should go do for your own brand?

 

Katie Hankinson:                                   

    Love it. Well, thank you, Chris. It was great to chat. I [00:36:30] hope this is the first of many.

 

Mickey Cloud:                                         

Thanks for joining us again and for Building While Flying with the Sasha Group today. I hope you learned as much as we did. We’ll meet you right back here next time for another flight.

   If you’d like to hear more about how business owners and brands are navigating these times, tune into the next episode. And if you’re so kind, please rate and review us. Plus, we’d love feedback, so let us know what you think, what you’d like us to dig into next on Building While Flying across brands, businesses, marketing, and more.

 

Katie Hankinson:                                

       Original music by [00:37:00] Fulton Street Music Group.

Welcome to Building While Flying!

This weekly podcast is brought to you by Sasha Group. We’re the consultancy meets agency arm of the VaynerX family of companies. We help ambitious companies build strong brands that flex with the times through strategy, branding media and marketing.

In ever-changing times, businesses and brands have to shift and adapt. And across all sectors, there is an air of experimentation. Business owners are trying new things out in the wild;  building the plane while flying.

Our pilots, Katie Hankinson and Mickey Cloud, will be talking to a diverse range of business leaders and founders. They’ll explore how these guests tackle various challenges while staying resilient and committed to growth. Through these real-life examples of strategies put into practice, we hope to inspire you to experiment and develop your own strategies as we all navigate these uncertain times together.

Margaret Wishingrad and her husband Ian developed and founded Three Wishes Cereal when they wanted a new breakfast option for their young son.

After starting their own agency in New York, they took on the ultimate challenge of building and designing their own brand, together. They co-founded Three Wishes Cereal, a high-protein, low-sugar, grain-free cereal enjoyed by kids and adults alike. They worked with food scientists to develop the recipe, and leveraged their own expertise and network to build and grow the brand. 

In this week’s episode, Katie and Margaret dive into everything about building the Three Wishes Cereal brand, from the first concept to dream brand collaborations. Margaret explains how she applied her agency expertise to her own process, including market research and sampling, and who her toughest critic was along the way. She shares the hardest part of building the brand, and gives us a peek into what’s next for Three Wishes Cereal.

Other in-flight topics:

  • The origin story of Three Wishes Cereal 
  • Building brands for clients vs. building your own brand 
  • Sampling during the pandemic
  • Standing out in a crowded category 
  • Cereal as a “feel good” food
  • Building and running a company with your partner
  • …and more!

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