In the Know
mall vi o Melissa Ben-Ishay built a big business on tiny cupcakes. PHOTOGRAPH BY
Losing her job in advertising is one of the best things that ever happened to Melissa Ben-Ishay. Because if she hadn’t lost her job in 2008, she wouldn’t have needed to bake nonstop to quell her anxiety, and she wouldn’t have ended up with a multimillion-dollar cupcake empire—all by age 32. Melissa is the founder of Baked by Melissa, a 14-store chain built on the appeal of absurdly small cupcakes (they’re one-sixth the size of a bakery cupcake). As the story goes, she was baking so many of them when she was out of a job that she started giving them to friends. One of those friends worked at a high-end public relations firm, and her boss liked Melissa’s cupcakes so much that she started ordering them for clients and events. At the time, the cupcake craze was well under way, and her miniature treats gained a following. For her first orders, Melissa baked in her apartment kitchen and hand-delivered the cupcakes. Soon after, she anted up to rent booths at three busy New York City holiday markets where she charged $1 a cupcake; she sold out of 1,000 each day. “You have to be willing to bet on yourself,” Melissa says. She bet big again in 2009 by leasing her first storefront in the high-rent Union Square area. She has since opened 13 other shops around New York, including a gluten-free store last year. Next on her list: a Melissa-style makeover for macarons. “They can be so unapproachable. I want to make them fun.” And yes, of course, they’ll be tiny.
“You have to be willing to bet on yourself.”
FOOD NETWORK MAGAZINE