Baked By Melissa's Founder Says Her Greatest Success Started With Getting Fired

By Melissa Ben-Ishay
Photo credit: Winnie Au

If you've eaten a miniature cupcake recently, chances are Melissa Ben-Ishay had a hand in it: in addition to selling her signature tiny desserts through her company Baked By Melissa's online and retail stores, she also published her first cookbook, Cakes By Melissa, in 2017. But before she began her life as a professional baker, Ben-Ishay attempted to embark on a more traditional corporate career path, working as an assistant media planner at an advertising agency — until she was fired. Below, Ben-Ishay tells Bustle how losing that job was actually an important turning point, and why "failure" can actually be a great wake-up call.

Failure is important. You learn humility, self-responsibility, the importance of a positive approach to challenging situations, etc. In my case, being fired from my job is what led to starting Baked by Melissa.

When I was working as an Assistant Media Planner, I was not passionate about the work I was doing — and it showed. So when I was fired for not being great at my job, it made sense.

While I was working in advertising, I was also baking my tie-dye cupcakes for everyone and anyone. If it was your birthday and I loved you, I baked you my tie-dye cupcakes. The day I was fired from my job, I went home and baked four batches of cupcakes with the goal of starting a new business. I sent them in to work the following day with my best friend’s little sister. Everyone loved them. I wound up getting introduced to a very high-profile caterer who did events for that office.

In no time, I was doing everything I possibly could to make Baked by Melissa a reality. It took extreme focus, a ton of hard work, and making Baked by Melissa my top most priority to get it done.

Without my positive outlook on life, my ability to see every challenge as an opportunity to learn and grow, and the undeniable fact that we can only control our response to the things that happen to us — Baked by Melissa would not exist today.

It goes without saying that being perfect at everything is actually impossible.

If you’ve just been let go from a job you weren’t passionate about, fuck 'em! It wasn't the right fit for you. They did you a favor. Get back up and start looking for something new. There are tons of opportunities out there, and you're the only one who can find them.

Photo credit: Baked By Melissa

It goes without saying that being perfect at everything is actually impossible...I don't think women have to be perfect, but I do think women have it slightly more difficult because there is an added challenge to being the best mom, the best wife, the best employee, etc. I know that I put pressure on myself to be the best in all of my roles, and it's important to remember that we are all human and as long as we are doing our best, it is enough. Nobody is perfect. I do everything I can to let the things that challenge me, motivate me to work even harder and smarter, and respond in a way that I am proud of.

Failure teaches us more than anything, pushes us out of our comfort zone and brings along opportunities that we could have never found without it.

I think that today more than ever, people are afraid to fail, due to false perceptions of perfect lives on social media. In reality, people fail every day and we should not be ashamed of it. We should embrace failure. Failure teaches us more than anything, pushes us out of our comfort zone and brings along opportunities that we could have never found without it.

To fight back against the stigma of failure, we can stop comparing ourselves to others. Never forget that everyone has their shit — they just don't publicize it. And nothing good comes easy. Stop scrolling through social media and thinking everyone has a perfect life without failure — that's a load of crap.

As told to Bustle's features editor Gabrielle Moss. This interview was edited for length and clarity.