Back in 2009, Melissa Ben-Ishay began a new relationship and a new bakery business simultaneously. Since then, that bakery has blossomed into the biggest name in little cupcakes, and that relationship has blossomed into marriage and children! We spoke with the mama behind Baked by Melissa about the romance at the heart of her company and what it’s like to work alongside her husband.
Let’s get straight to the good stuff. Tell us how you met your husband…we hear the story is extra sweet.
Melissa: It was opening day of our first store, a little pick up window in SoHo. I was 24 years old and freaking out thinking, “Who the hell is going to stop at this hole in the wall to buy cupcakes they’ve never heard of?” The pickup window was connected to a cafe called Cafe Bari (on the corner of Broadway and Spring St., now the Nike flagship). I was sitting at the bar, which was adjacent to our pick up window, and the bartender looked me up and down and said, “You’re going to be my wife.” I thought he was a jerk at the time, but we fell in love shortly after and I hired him a few months later. Today the two of us are the product development team at Baked by Melissa.
When you met, did you know he was “the one” right away or did it take some time? How did you know?
Melissa: It took a few weeks. The way he looked at me was unlike anyone had ever looked at me before— like I was the most beautiful girl in the world.
How soon after you met did you begin dating? When did he start working for your company?
Melissa: We met in March, we flirted through April, started dating in late June and I hired him around that time too. I didn’t hire him because of the personal relationship, I did it because I needed help and he was amazing. He started out doing deliveries and wound up doing so much more. For the first two years we were in business, the two of us iced every cupcake we sold. We were working 80+ hours a week together and continued to fall in love in the process.
So your relationship and your business grew at exactly the same time. What were those early years like?
Melissa: My relationship and business definitely grew together. Those years were challenging and amazing. Honestly, I think my relationship with Adi saved me— it allowed me to do nothing but work for a long time, which was essential to the success of Baked by Melissa. And he gave me just another reason to get up in a rush to go to work every morning: to see my crush!
How long after opening your first location did you become a mama? What was your adjustment like?
Melissa: We opened our first store in March 2009 and I became a Mama on January 31, 2016— almost 7 years later. The adjustment was just that: an adjustment. It was weird and wonderful to have a new priority in life and I feel so grateful to have the opportunity to work hard for my two greatest loves— my family and Baked by Melissa.
Do you keep your work life and your family life separate? How do you set boundaries?
Melissa: I don’t necessarily make an effort to keep things separate. My husband and I are always talking about Baked by Melissa; it’s a shared passion and we both work on product! Baked by Melissa has given us so much and we appreciate it all. Our kids are in school every day and my husband and I go to work. I do the mornings, my husband does a lot of the evenings, especially when I have to work late. I leave work every day when I am finished with my work – sometimes 3 pm, sometimes 8 pm. Right now I am just focusing on being the best mom I can be and being the best President and Chief Product officer I can be, and that’s really all I think about 🙂
What do you love most about working collaboratively with your husband? Are there challenges?
Melissa: In a weird way it makes life easier to work with my husband. We get to share in the wins and support each other through the challenges. I cannot imagine being with someone who doesn’t understand what I’m doing and working towards all day every day— it’s just a big chunk of my life! And yes, we fight, like all married couples do (especially when you have kids). But we learn and grow from every challenge that comes our way and we make each other better.
With so much love surrounding your company story, it’s no surprise the day we celebrate love is a big deal for Baked by Melissa. How many cupcakes do you sell for Valentine’s Day? How do you prepare for your busiest day of the year?
Melissa: Last year we sold over half a million cupcakes for Valentine’s Day and this year we’ll sell more. We have been preparing since January— stocking up on ingredients, staffing up our stores and bakery and even pre-assembling our cardboard shipping boxes!! Nothing is more fun than executing Valentine’s Day with the most amazing team of like-minded, hard-working and passionate people. I feel lucky to be a part of this company!
What special Valentine’s Day offerings can we buy this year?
Melissa: OMG. We have the most incredible Valentine’s Day assortment. The thought behind it was “better together” so each flavor works well when paired with another. My favorite is the Strawberry— there are strawberries in the cake, freeze dried strawberries in the icing, and it’s topped with a buttery streusel. Dark Chocolate is stuffed with a rich, slightly salty chocolate ganache and we have a White Chocolate flavor with a quinoa crunch topping. They are SO GOOD! I literally cannot stop eating them!! There are also Milk Chocolate and Red Velvet cupcakes, and beautiful gift boxes!! I love eating the Strawberry and Dark Chocolate together as a sandwich. Our product is best in class and ships perfectly. You can choose your delivery date and we guarantee fresh and safe arrival! Order online at www.bakedbymelissa.com for shipping, Manhattan delivery, or in-store pick up.