Melissa Ben-Ishay was 24 years old and dispassionate about her advertising job when it became clear in 2008 that the economy was headed for a recession. The day she was laid off, she showed up at her brother's office in tears.
She'd been a hobbyist baker, and focused her frustration on a particular kind of swirl-color cupcake she dubbed, "tie-dye." She brought dozens to events and to publicists. With the help of her older brother, she branded her venture Baked by Melissa. He also coached her into cold-calling catering companies that lacked in-house pastry chefs; it wasn't as if she had an office, a staff, or, really, anything other than a name. It didn't feel real.
"I'm sitting on the foot of my bed...saying, 'Hi, this is Melissa from Baked By Melissa. I'd love to bring you a free tasting of my cupcakes.' I felt like a fraud," she says on the podcast.
As her scrappy New York City-based company grew from bedroom to pick-up window to, more than a decade later, 14 locations and a robust e-commerce operation, Ben-Ishay slowly learned to trust her experiences to help her run the business she spent years learning on the job. In December, she stepped up to be chief executive officer of the multimillion-dollar private company that bears her name.
"I truly believe that confidence is earned. And now, almost 13 years later, I have earned the confidence I have in myself," she says.