The Smoke Signal

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Baked by a PV grad

Alumnus starts nationally successful cupcake business

PV+graduate+Melissa+Ben-Ishay+poses+with+her+miniature+cupcakes.+Ben-Ishay%27s+cupcakes+have+become+one+of+the+most+popular+items+that+her+company+sells.+
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Baked by a PV grad

PV graduate Melissa Ben-Ishay poses with her miniature cupcakes. Ben-Ishay's cupcakes have become one of the most popular items that her company sells.

PV graduate Melissa Ben-Ishay poses with her miniature cupcakes. Ben-Ishay's cupcakes have become one of the most popular items that her company sells.

Contributed by Melissa Ben-Ishay

PV graduate Melissa Ben-Ishay poses with her miniature cupcakes. Ben-Ishay's cupcakes have become one of the most popular items that her company sells.

Contributed by Melissa Ben-Ishay

Contributed by Melissa Ben-Ishay

PV graduate Melissa Ben-Ishay poses with her miniature cupcakes. Ben-Ishay's cupcakes have become one of the most popular items that her company sells.

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Many people find that discovering their passion and building a career around it is difficult, but Pascack Valley graduate Melissa Ben-Ishay was lucky enough to find hers: baking.  

Ben-Ishay said that working as an assistant media planner in 2008 was not a fulfilling career choice for her and, consequently, she was fired.  

At the time this may have seemed like a crisis, but it ended up being the gateway to creating her nationwide company, Baked by Melissa, where Ben-Ishay is currently the President, Co-Founder, and the Chief Product Officer. Over the past eight years, 15 Baked by Melissa shops have opened across New York and New Jersey.

Curstine Guevarra
The Garden State Plaza Mall houses a Baked by Melissa shop, one of the 15 locations of these stores. 

Baked by Melissa specializes in bite sized cupcakes. Its most popular is the tie-dye cupcake, which is the one that started it all, Beny-Ishay said. It represents who they are: hippies, smart, and fun.

While Ben-Ishay was struggling to find enjoyment in her job, she was also baking her tie-dye cupcakes for everyone and anyone she knew. When she was fired, her brother Brian insisted that she go home and bake. Ben-Ishay listened to his advice.

“I went home and baked four batches of cupcakes because I knew I was responsible for my own happiness.” she said.

The next day, Ben-Ishay sent those cupcakes into work with her best friend’s younger sister, who was interning at a Public Relations agency. The feedback she received was uplifting. The owner of the agency put Ben-Ishay in touch with her caterer, and she started catering events within just a week of being fired from her other job.

“It sounds like it was all seamless, but it took a lot of hard work, self motivation, and persistence.” she said.

Before starting her company, Ben-Ishay graduated PV in 2002 and reminisces about a few of the memorable experiences she had. She says that her favorite times in high school were playing softball and participating on the bowling team with her best friends.

I went home and baked four batches of cupcakes because I knew I was responsible for my own happiness.”

— Melissa Ben-Ishay

She loved going to school at Pascack Valley and had multiple teachers including Ms. Judy Lucia, Ms. Debbie Squiccimarri, Mr. John Gabrielson, and Ms. Catherine Drakakis that believed in her and empowered her to do anything she set her mind to, Ben-Ishay said. Their leadership gave her strength and motivation to start Baked by Melissa.

We had a very close relationship,” Squiccimarri said. “As her [softball] coach we spent a good amount of time together. We had so much fun at practices, games, and other school events. Her group of friends always kept me amused and were always keeping me up to date on what was going on in their lives. They lived in my [PE] office.”

After high school, Ben-Ishay attended Syracuse University with an open mind about what she would end up pursuing. Ben-Ishay got her first job as a sales assistant at a media company and her second job was an assistant media planner for an advertising agency.

She believes that without her brother’s help, Baked by Melissa would not exist today. By combining his business skills and her baking skills, they were able to set the foundation of the company.

“When creating a business, it is super important to recognize your strengths and weaknesses and surround yourself with people who have the experience that you don’t.” Ben-Ishay said.

Once the success of the business took off, she was most surprised by the response to their bite-size cupcakes.

“Everybody loves them!” Ben-Ishay said.

She takes pleasure in being able to  give people the opportunity to live out their passions every day.  

On a typical day for Ben-Ishay, she looks through emails, has meetings and cupcake tastings, works on new products, focuses on product brand and marketing, and brainstorms ideas for future flavors.

Ben-Ishay takes inspiration from everywhere: her experiences as a kid, her favorite foods, going out to dinner, taking a trip to the supermarket, and even TV shows. She is constantly thinking of new products and flavor ideas because food is truly her passion.

After a long and tiring day, she heads home to her house in Hoboken, New Jersey to spend time with her daughter.

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About the Contributors
Katie Mullaney, Staff Editor

This is Katie's second year working on The Smoke Signal! She is in her Junior year and is currently working as a Staff Editor. She is very excited to...

Curstine Guevarra, Photo Editor

Curstine Guevarra, a senior, has been in The Smoke Signal since her freshman year. This is her third and final year serving as the Photo Editor. She...

1 Comment

One Response to “Baked by a PV grad”

  1. Judy Lucia on March 1st, 2018 4:44 pm

    I am so very proud of you ! You always were special and driven to success! Congrats on your successes!!
    Looosh

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