If you’re an avid baker who impresses friends and family with your ridiculously delicious, gooey cookie bars, you might want to think about a career in baked goods. Perhaps it seems impossible when you’re whipping up dozens of crazy colorful sweet treats in your tiny apartment kitchen, but as Melissa Ben-Ishay, founder of Baked by Melissa, can tell you, sweet dreams do come true. This week, in our How to Quit Your Day Job series, we chat with Melissa about how she turned her love of cupcakes into a successful bakery.
Meet the Bakery Pro: Melissa Ben-Ishay
Before launching the popular Baked by Melissa, Melissa worked full-time in advertising. But getting fired in June 2008 from a New York City advertising firm turned out to be the start of a wonderfully creative and fulfilling career. “Within days of being fired, I started baking cupcakes for events and one-off cupcake orders I received — out of my apartment,” says Melissa. Melissa’s older brother Brian, now the CEO of Baked by Melissa, suggested she consider turning her cupcakes into a company. Eight years later, Melissa is no longer frosting her fanciful mini-cupcakes in her apartment. Instead, she shares her treats with her loyal fan base through her 14 locations in New York City and via shipping nationwide.
1. Take baby steps toward your dream. Melissa makes it clear that her success wasn’t achieved overnight, but instead was built on small steps that she took over time. Whatever you want to do as your dream career, think about ways you can challenge yourself to move in that direction while working your day gig. “Do one thing every day that moves you forward,” says Melissa. After Melissa was fired from her advertising job, she still interviewed for ad jobs while working on Baked by Melissa. “Every day I took steps towards my goal of making my company a success, while keeping a realistic outlook and doing everything I could to continue to be employed.”
2. Recognize your weaknesses and strengths. Melissa was confident in her ability to churn out delicious and delightful cupcakes, but when it came to starting her biz, she turned to trusted advisors who had the skill sets she didn’t to help run her bakery. “From day one, I had a supportive team of people who embodied strengths I didn’t have, including my older brother who is now our CEO,” says Melissa.
3. Find creative inspiration anywhere. One look at Melissa’s adorable bite-size cupcakes, like the Tie Dye Cupcake, can tell you that she has fun in the kitchen. As a huge fan of dessert, Melissa is always on the hunt for fun new flavors, and she shares that a walk in NYC or a dinner out can spark her inner cupcake muse. She recently launched a line of macarons at her bakery, but with her carefree spin on the classic French dessert. “I created six flavors, each one double stuffed, to give customers the ultimate macaron experience,” says Melissa.
4. Take responsibility for your mistakes. You’re going to mess up, and it’s going to be okay. It might suck in the moment when you’ve accidentally caused yourself more headache, but mistakes are part of growing your business. Says Melissa, “When I’m frustrated with someone or something, I always ask myself, ‘How could I have responded differently to make the situation better?'”
5. Have fun. Sure, running a successful bakery is hard work, but if you love your job and the people you work with every day, it’s worth it. Melissa loves her crew of bakers and employees and acknowledges that their awesome contributions are what make her company run so smoothly. Plus, frosting cupcakes is an easy way to get a moment of zen during the hustle and bustle of the work day. “I also love working my butt off doing what I love. Most days I’m in the kitchen baking and working on new product. I get to do this alongside teammates, and often take a break to help ice or top the cupcakes,” says Melissa.
Perfect Your Skills
1. Cake Decorating Online Class ($19): Learn from pastry chef Tessa Huff about how to bake a cake from scratch and decorate it like a champ. Plus, when you’re done, you’ll have a gorgeous cake made with homemade vanilla buttercream!
2. How to Start a Successful Bakery or Baked Goods Business ($100): This three-hour course, held at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City, covers the basics of a business plan, marketing and positioning your bakery as unique.
3. Turn Your Talent into a Business in 12 Steps ($149): Here’s a practical road map for the budding entrepreneur looking to get a handle on the legal, financial and pricing aspects for her small business.
What’s your dream career? Tweet us @britandco to let us know, and we could feature it in the next column!
(Photos via Baked by Melissa)