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How The Cereal Industry’s First Female Founder Grew a Multimillion-Dollar Business During the Pandemic

September 3, 2021

The Crunchbase “Female Founder Series,” comprises stories, Q&As, and thought-leadership pieces from glass-ceiling-smashers who overcame the odds and are now leading successful companies.


Margaret Wishingrad is the CEO and co-founder of Three Wishes, the first cereal on retail shelves to meld a delicious taste with nutrition that is high protein, low sugar, gluten-free and grain-free.

Israeli born and Brooklyn-raised, before starting Three Wishes, Wishingrad was chief of staff at an ad agency based in New York. The idea of Three Wishes came to be in 2017, after she and her husband, Ian Wishingrad, welcomed their first son, Ellis. Two years later, in October 2019, Margaret and Ian co-founded Three Wishes, just before the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In a little over a year, the cereal brand grew to a multimillion-dollar business. In this Q&A, Wishingrad shares why she decided to forge her own path in the food industry and her advice to first-time female founders and entrepreneurs. 

Margaret Wishingrad, CEO and co-founder of Three Wishes headshot
Margaret Wishingrad, CEO and co-founder of Three Wishes

Q: Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

Not at all. However, I have always gravitated toward entrepreneurs in my circle. There was something about being able to control your own destiny and forge your own path that I found so fascinating and subconsciously drew me to becoming an entrepreneur. I knew I wanted to work in food when I was younger, but my immigrant parents pushed me away from anything culinary and insisted it should be a hobby. They gave up so much to bring me to Brooklyn, New York, and they wanted to make sure I would have a successful life. As life would have it, it all comes together and now I’m in the food industry and changing the way the world sees breakfast.

 

Q: What inspired you to start your company?

My son, Ellis. When it was time to introduce finger foods to help develop pincer skills, I came across a recommendation of cereal. I thought to myself, “Wow I haven’t had cereal in forever, is there anything on the market for kids?” And after spending hours looking in stores and online, I realized there was absolutely nothing I was excited to feed my kid. Everything was nutrient deficient and made of grains and sugar. From that day forward, it was all I thought about. I would go to Whole Foods obsessively to check out the cereal aisle and figure out where it would fit, how it would stand out, and what I needed to do to get there. 

 

Q: What problems were you trying to solve with your company?

I’m trying to reinvent the cereal category, taking something that’s traditionally nutrient deficient and making it nutrient dense. Cereal’s a staple of so many households, and Three Wishes strives to take away the consumer needing to choose between healthy and tasty. 

There are also an increasing number of children and Americans with severe food allergies, especially dairy and nuts. We make our cereal with pea protein, chickpeas and tapioca. It’s all high protein, low carb, gluten-free and grain-free, but comes in flavors not traditionally associated with healthy food like chocolate, fruity, frosted, cinnamon and honey.

 

Q: What is it like to co-found a company with your partner?

It has been an amazing journey co-founding Three Wishes with my husband, Ian. However, vendors sometimes confuse our dynamic. As the CEO of the company, I once was chatting with a co-packer of ours who I gave a deal to, but he called up my husband for a final financial decision. I couldn’t believe it! Luckily, Ian really supports my leadership and encourages me to take control back when needed. 

 

Q: What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned as the founder of your own company?

Don’t be afraid to take what you’ve worked toward, especially as a female founder. Don’t justify your ask. If you asked for it–and are paying for it–that’s all it should take. Ask for feedback and lead with confidence, not concern. 

Advice that I would tell other entrepreneurs is that following somebody else’s advice is outdated the second you start, and the old direct to consumer playbook is dead. We focused on retail at the beginning of the pandemic when so many other brands were fleeing to their direct-to-consumer channels. 

This route came with new challenges and more work, but our playbook allowed us to build strong relationships with retailers, earning their respect as they saw our effort and intense focus on executing the strategy. We’re now proud to say that we are nationwide in a number of retailers including Whole Foods Market, Sprouts, Wegmans, Fresh Market, Fresh Thyme, and more.

Just remember that retail is in an absolutely unprecedented moment in time that no one can predict. Diversify your sales tactics and treat your brick-and-mortar accounts just like your direct consumers; they’re gold. 

 

Q: What qualities do you possess that you think have contributed most to your success?

I surround myself with incredible people. I know what I’m good at: logistics, innovation, strategy, follow through and decisiveness. But, I know there are people in my circle better than me at certain things. My co-founder Ian, for example, is the greatest networker I have ever met. If there is a partnership I want done or a foot in the retail door,  I don’t have to do it all myself because I know he can handle that part while I focus on my strengths. 

 

Q: What do you find most rewarding about your experience as a founder so far?

I love that no two days are ever the same. While I’ve come to terms that I’ll never have a true weekend off or be able to turn off my email notifications again, I wouldn’t have it any other way. For example, it was recently my wedding anniversary and we had plans to drive upstate for a weekend getaway. It just so happened to coincide with a pretty monumental launch as we were the first brand to partner on an ad with an NCAA player as the national regulations were lifted. On our way, we took an interview with the Associated Press while I was driving to the hotel. Was it romantic? Not that part, but I’ll remember it forever. 

 

Q: What challenge are you most proud of overcoming in your career?

Some of the most rewarding moments have been seeing our brand land in stores that I personally shop in. The experience has been surreal and I’m proud of getting through our first year in business (a pandemic year), reaching a seven-figure revenue, and birthing a human while running this hypergrowth startup. The juggle is the most exciting part; it keeps things fresh and forces me to stay on my toes.