Did your boss fire you or lay you off? Is there a possibility that getting fired was actually a good thing? Do you want another boss? Would your rather spend your day working on something that you are passionate about? Melissa Ben-Ishay, the founder of Baked By Melissa, can relate.
Melissa Ben-Ishay was Fired
I just read about Melissa Ben-Ishay in an Entreprenuer magazine article. In 2008, her employer fired Her from her marketing job. Yet, she did not let that bad experience ruin her life. She decided to pursue something that she was passionate about. The following year, Melissa turned her passion for baking into a business. She opened her bakery, Baked by Melissa in the iconic ShHo neighborhood of New York City’s. Great location…..
She differentiated her bakery by focusing on bite sized desserts. She felt that would allow people to enjoy a sweet dessert without having to feel guilty about it. The cupcakes, macarons and muffins come in very creative flavors such as “Tie Dye” and “Chocolate Chip Pancake.” April’s mini of the month is “Sugar Cookie Dough.”
Baked By Melissa – Today
Melissa Ben-Ishay followed her passion. She differentiated her product from competitors by offering small bite sized versions. She chose a great location for her tasty, yummy baked goods. The result? Today, Baked by Melissa has 13 locations in the greater New York City area, including one in JFK Airport. The company also ships nationwide.
Baked By Melissa company stays flexible and considers new options and markets. For example, they saw the opportunity to expand from being a solely a dessert shop by adding the mini breakfast muffins. The bakery was able to tap into a growing breakfast food market by selling a product that doesn’t necessarily have to be eaten at breakfast.
The Baked By Melissa company is also a great role model when it comes to utilizing free publicity. For example, I discovered the company in an article in Entreprenuer magazine. It sounds like the article came out around the launch of the breakfast muffins. Glamour magazine published an article about Baked By Melissa around the time the company was adding macarons to the menu.
Entrepreneur Magazine Interview with Melissa Ben-Ishay
Lydia Belanger’s published an interview with Melissa on December 6, 2016 in Entrepreneur magazine. , The following is excerpts from the article, “From Cupcakes to Muffins: How Baked by Melissa Plans to Find Sweet Success Once Again”
In a brief interview, Ben-Ishay told Entrepreneur what inspired the expansion into morning morsels and shared what she’s learned so far about moving into a new market.
Why did you decide to add muffins to your offerings?
I love muffins. And whenever I see them in a cafe, I want to buy one, but I can’t commit. I know I’m going to either feel bad about eating the whole thing, because I have no self control, or I’m going to waste it and throw it out. So the thought of doing bite-size muffins just made sense.
We are now introducing a breakfast product, which is something we’ve never done before, so it’s going to increase traffic into our stores in the morning time. We want to be more important to our customers who love our products already and give them more opportunities to experience Baked by Melissa. We think that muffins is the best way to do that.
Do you recall the specific “a-ha” moment when you decided to expand to breakfast muffins?
I’ve actually been thinking about muffins for quite some time. We brought in a new CEO, Seth Horowitz. He comes from Everlast; he’s amazing.
The first time we met, when we knew he was going to start as CEO, we met at a cafe. I purchased two large muffins and put them in the middle of the table. And when he said, “What do you want to do as our next product line?” I said, “Muffins.” When he asked, it was just serendipitous and magical.
I remember a few weeks later, I was heading to another meeting with our whole leadership team to talk about the future, our mission, value proposition, all of that fun stuff. I stopped at another cafe in SoHo and purchased two muffins, again, big muffins that I brought to the meeting and shared with a lot of people. But it was hard to serve them — I made a mess, there were crumbs everywhere. It kept enforcing the need for us to be part of your morning and make bite-size muffins.
Breakfast is a challenging meal for food-focused companies. How did you prepare to be successful in this area?
We changed our store hours. Our stores are open a little bit earlier in the morning, so we can make sure to accommodate the breakfast rush.
From a product perspective, we worked on this product until we had it perfect. We came up with a lot of different variations of each flavor until we settled on each one.
There must have been a lot of trial and error before the rollout. Can you talk about how you approached some of the decisions you had to make?
With anything with do at Baked by Melissa, flavors are always so important to me. I always want them to be classic, recognizable, but also fun. Flavors that make you happy and maybe even bring you back to your childhood.
So with our six flavors, I think I accomplished some of the classics that you expect and almost want when you’re thinking of muffins.
It was just an opportunity to do new things, keep it fun and light, and of course delicious. For me, when we have a new product line, it’s just something that clicks. You know that your customers are going to love it.
Image credit: Baked by Melissa
And what about the approach to stores and production?
In the stores, we changed a few things around. We have muffins on the top shelf of our display cases.
From a production perspective, it’s really fun to train a team to make the muffins. Because, in my eyes, we can always be better. For product, it has to be perfect and delicious. I also just selfishly enjoy making the muffins every day. There’s nothing I’d rather do.
The challenge just came with the planning. We had a tight turnaround time. Once I create a new product line, and everyone tastes it and loves it, there’s just a race to get it into the hands of our customers. So waiting for the ingredients to arrive is always like, “Oh my God, come on, let’s just get it done!”
Why did you decide to launch the muffins now, during the first week of December?
This is our busiest time of year, but if we could have launched any sooner, we would have. In my experience doing what I’m doing, we’ve never had a great product that we wanted to launch and waited around with it. We do it when we can. But the timing is right for muffins.
What other sorts of challenges have you faced when making the move to breakfast muffins and a new market?
As an entrepreneur, you’re always looking to find solutions for problems. I think part of the magic is just constantly asking yourself, ‘How can I be better?’ ‘What could we be doing differently?’
So now we just launched our third product category. I could’ve never imagined doing more than cupcakes eight years ago. So, of course there’s a challenge in that. We’re doing something new. It’s a change. We have to educate everybody on our team to make sure that the messaging is consistent in our stores, on our website, in our kitchen, you name it.
I think the challenge is what’s so exciting. That’s our culture here at Baked by Melissa. Hard work is the most fulfilling thing you can do every day, and everybody wants to be a part of that.
With the cupcakes, it makes sense that many people may want just a small indulgence for dessert. However it seems like people may need more than one mini muffin to sustain themselves in the morning.
I think that’s the beauty of our bite-size muffins. If you don’t want to feel like you ate anything, you could have one, and it’s this bite of happiness. Or if you’re used to having maybe a full-size muffin, you could have six or even 12. Each one is 40 calories, so it’s guilt-free, and you could try them all.
What else can we expect from Baked by Melissa?
We’re going to continue to expand Baked by Melissa as a company. We’re going to continue to expand our national footprint. We’re currently analyzing global opportunities to franchise and license our brand. And of course, product expansion is very important, and we’re going to continue to do that.
Melissa Ben-Ishay’s story is inspirational and educational. Melisssa turned the negative experience of getting fired into an opportunity. She pursued her passion for baking and opened Baked By Melissa. That single bakery is a thriving business with 13 locations that also sells nationwide online. The Baked By Melissa story provides inspiration for each of us that face unexpected setbacks in life.
Setbacks can allow room for new and better opportunities. Starting and running a successful business does require some basic business planning. It allows requires following some and tried and true tactics. We can learn about the strategies that successful business owners use if we take the time to read and analyze their success stories.
Be sure to check out the Baked By Melissa website. They have two Mothers Day gift assortments that will be available starting May 8, 2017,