Business

Stirring up the Cereal Market and Pouring into National Grocery Chains — Podcasts (2021)

Margaret and Ian Wishingard noticed how cereals they purchased for their son Ellis were packed more with sugar than other nutrients. They went on to create high protein and low sugar alternatives and launched Three Wishes Cereal. In this episode of Shopify Masters, Margaret shares how they established retail relationships with national grocery chains, gained their first press coverage, and what’s in their tech stack.

For the full transcript of this episode, click here.

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Show Notes

Transitioning from service-based to product-based business owners

Felix: This all began because you are a mother, and you just weren’t happy with the cereal choices for your son. Tell us more about that moment of realization that led to this business idea.

Margaret: When my now four-year-old was six months old–and this could have been just me as a parent–but you raise this new little human, and you start to consider every little thing you put in their bodies. When it came time to start developing his own self feeding skills, a recommendation was cereal. I had one of those lightbulb aha moments where I’m like, “Oh, my God, I haven’t had cereal in the longest time. What does this category look like? Why am I not consuming it? Is there anything I could feed my kid?” Apparently, I wasn’t alone. It felt like a lot of people departed the category because it was mainly the same sugary cereals I grew up knowing as a kid, which weren’t all that great.

It helped us identify an opportunity to create a product for not only my family, myself, and my kid, but for everyone in between. We spoke to a ton of people to see if the same problem happens in other families. And is this a solution you’re looking for? That was what kick started the idea in our minds of, “hey, it’s the right time to create a product like a healthy, clean cereal.”

Margaret and Ian Wishingard along with their song Ellis in a kitchen setting with boxes of Three Wishes Cereal on the counter.
Margaret and Ian Wishingard originally ran an ad agency before launching Three Wishes Cereal. Three Wishes Cereal

Felix: What is your background? What do you think helped you go from “this is a problem that needs to be solved” to “I’m going to build a business to solve this problem.”

Margaret: Yeah, I don’t know if I had any business doing it, honestly. We come from the service side. My husband and I have an ad agency here in New York called BigEyedWish. We’ve had the amazing, amazing fortune of working with clients like AT&T, Pepsi, and Nestle. We’ve also worked with some smaller clients that would come to us with an innovation, they had no name, no packaging, just wonderful, brilliant innovation. The biggest joy for us was the ability to help with that client. To help create what that brand looked like, spoke like, and what stores it would be in, how it would look. That was a lot of fun. We really enjoyed that brand building part of the interactions. Naturally, when we had our own idea, we made a million phone calls to figure out how to make cereal? Once you make it, how do you get into stores? We really surrounded ourselves with wonderful mentors. We were able to learn from our clients and our mentors as well to figure out how to transition from service to product?

Felix: What was that process like, of basically knocking on doors and gathering advice? What was involved in learning all the facets of creating a cereal?

Margaret: It initially starts with, “let me first validate that I’m actually creating a solution for an existing problem.” Once we got that out of the way and realized, okay, a lot of people departed because it’s either not enough protein for a meal like breakfast, it’s too much sugar for a meal like breakfast, or just downright really not great for you and super nutrient deficient. Once that was identified, we then thought about, okay, how do you go about creating a cereal?

Unfortunately, cereal is not one of those things that you can throw on a KitchenAid attachment and crank out in your own kitchen. It is super, super technical, and requires a lot of food science and knowledge. We started to call our friends that are in the food industry that may have food CPG products out there. We started to figure out “okay, how do we find a food scientist? How do we find a food scientist that specializes in this type of product that then potentially specializes in products without grains? How do we figure out how to recreate that same cereal experience that people have known and loved for such a long time?

It took a lot of phone calls that led to that one phone call. We were so lucky that the natural food world is such an open and warm environment where everyone’s just willing to help because you’re all going after a great similar mission, which is to create clean, better food, that we can all feed each other in the world. We found a really wonderful community and were able to eventually land on developing our product which took two years.

The development journey for a new food product in an established space

Felix: What do iterations look like on a food product? What is that product development process like? 

Margaret: The things we changed about the product was the nutritional portion of the actual panel, and what the product is made of. The things we wanted to keep the same were the familiarity of the shape, the familiarity of the flavors, the way that it was sold, the classic cereal box. It took a ton of iterations to land on a grain-free product that had a grain-like experience. What’s really difficult about cereal is you can’t just run 10 or 20 pounds of the product and see if it works. You have to run thousands, tens of thousands of pounds of product that may not even be viable.

We would basically create the product, and take it back to our friends and family. We would sit in a coffee shop sometimes and talk about it, and people would walk by and look at it. We’d be like, “Taste this, what do you think of this?” Anyone and everyone basically tried all the versions we were creating before we launched. It was really helpful to get all those little bits of feedback, to understand what are the things that are missing? Whether it’s a taste or a crunch experience, and what are the levers we can pull on the production side to make those things a reality. That’s what takes years. It’s between line time, ordering ingredients, testing these things, and getting the feedback and consolidating it. That it really took so much longer than we’d hoped it would take.

Felix: One thing I wanted to touch on was the intentionality behind keeping certain things the same as tradition, while innovating on other aspects. Talk to us about the decision making behind that.

Margaret: One learning we have from being in the brand side of the business is that consumer education is a very expensive proposition. The more that you need to convince someone and tell someone, the more time it’s going to take, the more costly it’s going to be. What we realized was that the thing that people started to not love about cereal wasn’t that it was in a box, its shape, or its flavors. They loved all of those things. Those are the little nostalgic, childlike things they enjoyed. The things they hated were the ingredients, or how you would feel after having so much sugar for breakfast, or the fact that you didn’t really have protein so you were hungry again shortly after eating. We’ve really analyzed the behaviors that people started to dislike about the product. Those were the only ones we wanted to change. We wanted to keep that same whimsical, lovey warm Sunday morning cartoon experience for the product as you would expect a cereal to be.

Felix: Was there anything that you learned during that product development process that helped inform on how to talk about the product in your messaging or marketing? 

Margaret: That was the hardest part for us. We were our own worst enemy because we’re so close to our own packaging, and we developed that in-house as well. The one thing I always tell people is that you have one message. Consumers don’t have that much of an attention span, nail one thing, and communicate one thing as to why they should buy your product. The thing that was really important to my product was there were three things. We were fortunate that once we landed on the name it tied in really well with the fact that we had three claims, and that there were three wishing grants then. But we really just tested it. We would mock up 10, 20 versions of the packaging with the language changing all over the place, claims in different places, things in different colors, call outs in a million different ways. We would test it with friends and family. 

Ian and I would print out boxes, go to our local Whole Foods and put it on the shelf, step back, and look at it to see why things stood out, or they didn’t stand out. The wonderful thing about the internet is you’re able to AB test things. Whether you place a mockup of what you want the box to look like, and then survey and test that. Even in a real life situation, you can put a renderer up that might be a little bit different and see if the conversion changes and how that resonates with consumers. There’s a million ways to test it both in real life and online. Having that data before we started was really important to double down and get it into a ton more doors and eyeballs.

A hand model holding a bowl of cinnamon flavoured cereal against a pink backdrop with coffee, bowl of fruits, and the cereal box in the same frame.
Starting small and locally by passing out samples at grocery stores helped Three Wishes Cereal to gain momentum. Three Wishes Cereal

The other thing Ian and I did that was really helpful was we started locally here in a store in Westchester. We would sample the product on the weekends, and it would sell really well. The one thing that was interesting–and this was the first iteration of our box–people would ask us questions from seeing the box. The box would be on the demo table and they would ask us questions like, “Oh, is it gluten free?” And I’m like, “Well, of course, the gluten free stamp, the certification is right there. It’s so interesting that someone didn’t see it.” That made us realize that maybe it’s not clear to the consumer. Maybe we should clarify it on the box. Every time a consumer would ask a question, it made us think about whether we were communicating something thoroughly enough. If not, how do we communicate it in a clear manner? We just took all of that feedback, absorbed it as best as we could, and our current packaging and strategy reflects it.

Felix: I can imagine that there was a lot of feedback. What was your approach to sifting through that feedback and implementing it in your marketing strategy?

Margaret: The three bullet points that we wanted to get across were the three key things of why we developed the product, the ingredients. Those held pretty true. Initially, the thing we did change was where it now says gluten-free, we had the claim grain free, so it was duplicative to have grain-free both in the black bar on the box and on the colored bar. Under the third claim we realized it’s important to replace that initial portion where grain-free stood, but the principles stayed the same. The things we changed were the font or positioning. Or we capitalize something. It was really more aesthetic. We were pretty lucky that our claims resonated with the consumers once we tested it in person. We did a lot of testing in house internally before with what three claims stood out, how did we stylize them. The research that led to the product led to those claims. Then the optimization leads from the consumers.

Embracing uncomfortable feedback to improve products 

Felix: You mentioned you were able to test the product right in the store and get feedback early on. How were you able to get into that store?

Margaret: Where we were very lucky was we went into the aisle–granted it’s a very oversaturated aisle. It’s one of the largest aisles in a supermarket with the most SKUs and colors. It is definitely a very interesting category. However, it hasn’t had true innovation in the longest time. That’s where we stood out by bringing a product that was grain-free. Grain-free is a big thing, especially for certain diets, and it’s a growing trend. On top of being grain free, our taste with our ingredients was something that really impressed buyers. We were very lucky that anytime we would present the product, it had great reception. 

It was the same way we did those phone calls: “let’s identify who buys for center store grocery and whatever retailers we thought were the right strategy for our product, like a Whole Foods, a Sprouts, a Wegmans.” We’d do our research, find them on LinkedIn. Who’s the buyer? Okay, who do we know in common? How do I get there? Can my distributor get me there? Can a friend get me there? Can a founder? We found our way that way. It all works the same way. You have to ask these questions. There’s a lot of discomfort. Part of being an entrepreneur is breaking through and acknowledging that, yes, you’re going to have a ton of either nos or tough questions, and a lot of uncomfortable moments. You have to get past that and be super open and realize that whether it’s critique or asking questions, it’s all so valuable, and really can change your business and your journey.

Felix: Early on when you get the chance to be in front of your demographic and have this feedback, what do you intend to do with it in the early days? 

Margaret: In the early days, you would hear certain feedback on the product. “Oh, it’s a little crunchy.” Made us work really hard on softening it. If you tried our product from launch to today I know it drastically improved because I’ve watched the tweaks and changes over time. We started with a terrific product and we’re really proud of how far it’s gotten. That’s by way of just listening to feedback. Whether it’s reviews online, or it’s your consumers, buyers, or anybody in between, that feedback is so monumental.

I have other friends in other spaces and businesses, someone that was selling blow dryers, and the biggest driver in their success was making sure that they were reading every Amazon review like, “Oh I wish the cord was five feet longer.” The next iteration had an additional five feet of cord. That was a game changing portion to their product because they stood out amongst the remaining blow dryers due to the extra five feet of cord. Just listening to the consumer has been really a great driver in where you should set your strategy and your product. It’s been helpful.

Emulate the brands your target audience already identifies with

Felix: Given your agency experience, where do you suggest a brand should start when beginning to build their brand identity? 

Margaret: The one thing that’s always been super important is identifying who you’re selling to. Why are they buying from you? What are the things that they like? Why is this resonating with them? For us, it was okay, we know children are still a large consumer of cereals. The category obviously includes adults as well. Cereal is one of those things that anyone from six months to 100 years old can consume. As much as, yes, it’s everyone with a mouth, the thing that stood out to me was I am my own consumer. I created this product for my family. There are a ton of me out there in the world. Sticking out to the millennial family was something that was really important.

That’s why we would test the product and put it on shelves at Whole Foods and stores that we could see these types of consumer shopping in. We wanted to make sure it was in line with the remaining brands that they choose to love. Our vision board had all these other brands that have been really successful in the natural food space, and that resonated with that consumer. We started to think about, okay, what’s the communication that resonates with them? What are the colors that they gravitate towards? What’s the energy and the communication? When we thought about our packaging, the things I wanted to nail was, it has to be the cross section of telling you it’s innovative, telling you it’s healthy, telling you it’s something new, telling you the colors were friendly, inviting, and on the healthier side and maybe didn’t feel so junky because you want it to communicate that you’re healthy.

There were a ton of these little nuances that we thought about, but what we focused on was, who’s our target consumer, and what is going to resonate with them? Just studying the brands that they love. Whether it’s cookware that they love, shoes that they may wear, or whatever these other brands are that are in the same landscape. Identifying that was a really great point for us to start at and then dial into what our brand is going to look like, sound like? What does the website communicate like? What are the really important key points to point out on the website? What do they see first? What’s the shopping and path to purchase look like for this type of consumer? Studying them was super important.

Cocoa flavored cereal placed on top of a chocolate cake.
Understanding which brands customers have an affinity towards helped Three Wishes Cereal to build their own brand. Three Wishes Cereal

Felix: I like that you mentioned looking for inspiration outside of your niche. You looked at cookware and other brands that your target audience would be consuming. 

Margaret: All these little tidbits help because these companies have either nailed it on the first try–which kudos if they did–but more than likely–and we’ve seen this with ourselves–everyone’s optimized over time. I might as well learn from their optimizations. You’ll find something applicable whether it’s nail polish, shoes, or anything in between, the consumer tends to lean towards patterns of some sort. Applying those patterns in our own brand has been the thing that we’ve found to be helpful and accelerate some of our growth.

Felix: You mentioned a few larger retailers that you had wanted to sell in. What was the process of getting into these larger retailers?

Margaret: We had a great launch to start with, but they saw the amount of consideration that we put in every touchpoint of this brand, most importantly leading with product. They were all very happy with the experience of the product, how it tasted, and then obviously they know their consumers better than anyone because they spend all their time studying those people. They knew that the product would resonate really well. The price point of the product was going to work well in their supermarkets. The packaging was really attractive, stood out, and popped on their shelves. For them, they love to take bets on small brands. Our brand story is also a big part of it. Ian and myself being in those meetings, and having the opportunity to talk them through why we’ve created this, what plans we have, what marketing efforts we’ll put behind the brand. And everyone loves that energy and wants to be a part of that journey.

The other thing that’s really important is always including your buyer. Your buyer is not your enemy. Your buyer is a partner in trade, and having someone to lean on and handhold you through that process is such a valuable thing. We’ve always let them feel like they’re a part of the process, that we’d love to take their feedback, and then they feel like they’re building the brand with you. They’ll take that leap of faith and really root for you. It’s how we identified the right places for us in the beginning, and that’s why we’re in them. It’s not like we went to stores that we had no business being in. At this stage of the company, we identified the right fit for the right stage of the brand.

Combining brick and mortar with ecommerce to enhance recognition

Felix: You have plans for greater expansion. What are some of the unique challenges faced with rapid expansion into retail locations?

Margaret: It’s really intentional. It’s rapid, in some sense, but it’s really also for whatever stage the brand is, right? We know it didn’t make sense for us to be in conventional mass retailers because that consumer wouldn’t know who we are. We didn’t work on targeting that consumer. Eventually we started to trickle down and fall into that bucket of consumers knowing us at some point, but we really chose to focus on the natural channels–the Sprouts, the Whole Foods. That was really helpful because you’re building a strong community. It’s your tribe. Your people that follow the brand, and they’ll buy it at whatever stores you’re in. They really become lovers and advocates for the brand, and that is important. Aside from expansion or how rapid that is, it’s really making sure that wherever we are now, we’re growing well and deep and really getting a good footing before we expand. That’s something we’ve been really focusing on.

Felix: What was your experience with expanding into online retailers versus brick and mortar retailers? 

Margaret: This year has been really, really unique. The last year and a half has been such a unique period of discovery. Seeing consumers sit at home and starting to get more comfortable ordering groceries online, has been really fascinating. We want to be where our core consumer is. If that family is shopping at Thrive, FreshDirect, or Amazon, we want to be there. We’ve really made sure to focus on where our consumer is, and they’ve been wonderful channels for us because we were at the right place at the right time and had the right product offering. That’s why we’ve succeeded in those channels

Felix: Is the evaluation process different when you’re looking to expand in those channels? 

Margaret: Everything has its slight nuances. There’s a different cost to doing a business online. Shipping costs are very different, handling those types of products versus selling a product to a distributor than having it live in retail. It’s definitely different going direct versus going wholesale. Each has their nuances, but you figure those out. I had no idea what a distributor actually did, I had no idea of all the little nuances of having those distributor relationships, what that looked like and what it was like to be a product that was sold in retail. Those are just things you learn along the way. It was important to be online and to be available to our consumers for them to discover us because they weren’t going to grocery stores and because they’re in a lockdown. It’s really just about being accessible and making sure that you’re staying relevant.

Instacart: The future of ecommerce? 

Felix: You mentioned Instacart. How do you handle the logistics of that with the retailers? 

Margaret: Instacart is a really fascinating one. It’s definitely a platform and it’s still super early. Quarantine obviously fast tracked Instacart as a company. Their advertising platform is still relatively young. What’s interesting is it gave us an opportunity to say okay, no one’s walking the aisles to discover things. What are ways that you can fall in the top x percentage of a search? How do we optimize there? We definitely have taken some time and focused on doing well on Instacart. In turn, your retailers are really happy because you’re helping the product move. When consumers are ready to come back to stores, they’re so familiar with your product from buying it via Instacart, that they’re continuing to repeatedly buy it off store shelves. It makes everyone super happy. We’re happy because the brand is doing well. It’s selling and the return on your spend via Instacart has been pretty good. Your retailer’s also happy because your product’s doing well in their stores.

Felix: It sounds like brands have some degree of control over product positioning through Instacart. Can you tell us more about that dynamic, and how the relationship works? 

Margaret: Yeah, it’s buying ads. It’s the same thing that you’re doing on Amazon when you’re doing PPC campaigns, or search campaigns and redirecting it to Shopify. You’re able to become a sponsored product, or you’re able to incentivize with some discount for your customer to entice them to try. Create that trial and acquire the consumer that way. You start to populate in their search portion of the website or in the discovery tools in a way that you may not have before. The other thing is, every time you do those promotions with the retailer, it’s then reflected on the platform. Some people, when they’re searching, they’re like, “Oh, interesting. I’ll try this for the first time.” Then they fall in love with the product and may continue to purchase as a repeat consumer non-discount. Instacart’s been a really fascinating one because it’s still so early in the platform on the ad buying side. It’s been great.

The fruity cereal by Three Wishes Cereal against a yellow background and wrapped by a stuffed animal snake.
COVID-19 challenged the Three Wishes Cereal website to be relaunched with the intention of at home grocery shopping. Three Wishes Cereal

Felix: How did you decide where to deploy first, and where to direct your attention next? 

Margaret: Our expertise in advertising has allowed us to have a little bit of knowledge of what the D2C landscape is like, how expensive it is to acquire a consumer, educate them, and get them to go from whatever social platform or media over to your own website to then convert. We understood that there’s an aspect of education that that took. We were really fascinated by cereal. It’s such a grocery item for us, or at least our experience as consumers. We really wanted to make sure we took advantage of being early to shelf with a cleaner, better, grain-free product. So we decided to double down on retail first.

When we realized what was going on with the pandemic we very quickly pivoted. We actually relaunched our website within six weeks, to have a user-friendly shopping experience knowing that people were sitting at home and not necessarily going out to grocery. We’ve really focused on wherever our consumer was at that exact time. The other thing we’ve done–and this has been super helpful on whether it is on our own website, Amazon, or in stores–is we’ve focused on creating newsworthy and exciting moments that include the brand that really creates a great top of funnel effect that then results in an influx of sales, whether it’s on Shopify or any other location we may be sold. That has had a really great return for us.

Using your local press coverage to increase brand recognition

Felix: You mentioned newsworthy and exciting moments that included the brand. Talk to us about some examples of things that you guys have done.

Margaret: We did one recently, and a couple that were really fun and relevant within the pandemic to get to more recent news. During the peak of the pandemic, no one was leaving their houses, no one was doing in-store food demos. It was a really chaotic new cycle. Anytime there was a really sweet, hot, lovely story, the news loved to share it. We thought, okay, this is really interesting, but more than that, let’s just think about our local community. We happen to have a U-shaped driveway here in Westchester, and COVID drive through testing was something that was happening at that time. Ian, my husband, was like, “What if we use our U-shaped driveway, mask up, glove up, and give single pack samples of our cereal because we used to demo, and we’re not able to allow people sampling anymore. What if we just host a drive thru in our driveway and see what result we get out of that.”

People were so excited to get out of their house, drive thru, try something new, say hi to somebody. It was wonderful. We were able to capture that and all of the excitement created locally. That went on to getting onto national TV. From that we had our biggest sales day in company history, just by being able to come into a new cycle that was so weird, and nice and sweet, which is something that created a really wonderful effect on the brand.

Another really fun one we did because we again couldn’t sample, we were launching our cocoa. We figured, “Okay, how do we communicate to people that our cocoa flavor is really delicious and so special?” With that we were like, “Okay, let’s find people that in a whimsical way are experts on chocolate.” We were thinking about Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and Ian basically hunted down all the living cast members of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. We found them, we called them, we emailed them. Any way that we can get to them. We finally got on the phone with them and said, “Hey, if I send you my chocolate cereal, and you actually love it, will you record a video for me endorsing it?” And they said, “Okay, fine. Sure.” So we had Peter Ostrum who played Charlie, then we had Paris who played Mike Teavee, and then we had Julie who played Veruca Salt. We sent it to them, they loved it, they sent us the sweetest clip, we compiled that, and shared that knockout pickup.

Most recently, a really fun one that we did was the NCAA now allows college athletes to earn based on their name, image, and likeness. Ian was always really involved with the school, loves to be a part of it, and loved watching the sports when he was a student. He reached out to the Boeheim family, and so, Coach Jim Boeheim is one of the most famous NCAA coaches of all time. His son coincidentally is also a player this year. We were like, “Okay, can we get Buddy Boeheim to do a commercial and be the first commercial that does an NCAA athlete in a brand, and can we get it out immediately?”

Within two weeks of them allowing the regulation to go out, we were the first commercial that launched. And so, that obviously had press picked up that then resulted in an influx in sales both in retail and online. Figuring out these really cute twists on things that are either in the Zeitgeist or that can affect the new cycle are great ways to create fun little top of the funnel guerrilla like marketing efforts.

Felix: Do these ideas just come from random inspirations, or do you dedicate processes or sessions for coming up with these marketing methods?

Margaret: It’s a funny question. Ian and I, we love to spit ball this stuff all the time. We’re literally sitting next to each other for hours on hours a day. Sometimes we just run through thoughts back and forth. So, it’s really fun to have a creative partner that way. The thing we try to do with our team internally is to have an hour call every week where we all just talk about what’s going on in our lives because we’re all remote. It’s really brought us together to be like, “Okay, what’s going on in the news? What are ways that we can weave Three Wishes into culture? Or any other way into the world? How do we continue to keep this brand top of mind for people?” That’s been really interesting, and it’s a lot of fun. People love to do it whether they’re doing supply chain and come up with a great idea, or any other parts of the business. It’s fun to feel like you’re a part of a growing brand.

Felix: Have you had misfires where something that you thought would be successful turns out failing? 

Margaret: It’s so funny, I don’t even think about the duds anymore. At the moment you’re like, “Ugh, that was a flop.” Every time I talk to Ian about this, we compare it to things like golf. If you get into your own head, the remaining portion of your game is just going to flop because you’re over it, you allow that one bad hole to affect your entire performance. Having the ability to forget about those things, brush them to the back and continue thinking about all the wins and moving forward that way is the only way that you’re going to make it through this roller coaster of a journey. You forget about the duds. There’s a fire drill every single day. This truck didn’t show up. This isn’t where it should be. This is costing more than it should, but you just have to figure it out.

The honey flavour of Three Wishes Cereal
Local press coverage built a foundation of social proof for Three Wishes Cereal. Three Wishes Cereal

Felix: You mentioned a quick relaunch of the website. What kind of changes did you implement in that process?

Margaret: When we launched the website at the same time that the brand launched for us the focus was, “How do we bring in some story about Ian and Margaret? Maybe that should be front and center.” And then having a couple months to look at other websites and see how they’re creating the shopping experience and getting you to convert. Then taking all those learnings, combining that, thinking about, okay, what are we doing and maybe what’s not working really allowed us to plan out a really great solid wire frame like, okay, the first page, we should have a shop button above the fold. We should make sure it’s the easiest. You’ve typed our website because if you typed in our website your intentions are to potentially purchase and you’re highly likely to convert. We should make it really easy for you to shop immediately. Homepage will always allow you to shop above the fold.

Then, what are these interesting, cute, pieces of content–whether it’s educational, imagery, or copy–that can make someone have some takeaway about the brand, whether it makes them feel warm and fuzzy, or they think it’s funny, or whatever it is. Continuing to focus on what does the consumer want to see? How do we want to make them feel? Just implementing those principles. 

The app that has relieved shipping pain points

Felix: Are there specific apps that you use these days to help or keep the business running?

Margaret: There are so many plugins, but the ones that I’ve actually recently liked has been Route. When I got a cold email about the plugin I was like, “Oh, yeah, this sounds, whatever, who cares?” But it’s been fascinating to see how the consumer chooses. What I learned was there were actually more consumers than I realized that wanted to use Route to protect their packages than I would have guessed. It’s great because they’re paying and protecting their package at the same time. There’s no skin off my back. If anything happens, it’s immediately replaced, covered by Route insurance. That one’s been really fascinating, and I’m glad we have it.

Felix: You mentioned that you weren’t interested at first. It wasn’t until you added it that you saw that a lot of customers of yours wanted it. What made you give it a shot?

Margaret: Yeah, so for me, it was so low. It was so easy to do. It was truly you just plug it in. If someone wants to use it, they use it. If they don’t, they don’t. There’s no skin off my back to have it. I figured all right, let’s give it a shot and see what happens. It’s fun to test these things and see how they net out. To see so many people were opting in and chose to protect their packages was fascinating.

The unsweetened cereal by Three Wishes Creal held up by a pair of hands against a blue background.
Simple ingredient labels were easy for customers to understand—and a powerful way to build a reputation.Three Wishes Cereal

Felix: One thing you mentioned was the importance of building your reputation and trust with your customers. What are some ways you’ve cultivated those sentiments? 

Margaret: A key thing for us has always been ingredients and making sure that they’re labeled on the side of our box. They’re listed vertically, in massive font, and there’s so few of them that the transparency with consumers has been wonderful. We’re always happy to talk about the ingredients. We get DMs asking why we choose to use this ingredient versus that ingredient? That openness and transparency of why we chose the things we chose is really what customers love. Then most importantly, we’re real humans. We’re a family that built a brand, not some mega conglomerate corporation. I created a product that I was very excited to share with other parents, grandparents, adults, and knowing that there is a family behind this because it’s such a human element, and it creates an innate trust.

Felix: What has been the biggest lesson that you’ve learned over the last year that has impacted the direction that you want to take the business moving forward?

Margaret: I don’t know if there was one massive lesson. It was hundreds of mini lessons. Overall the most important thing is being open to listening to criticism. Even if you don’t agree with it and you choose not to implement whatever that piece of advice was, taking in those hundreds of bits and figuring out how to optimize has been really wonderful. Being nimble is key and what allows us to really stay afloat.

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