How Baked by Melissa's Melissa Ben-Ishay Went from Getting Fired to Launching Her Cupcake Empire

For the baker, getting fired from her job as a media planner in 2008 was the "the best thing that ever happened" to her.

For Melissa Ben-Ishay, getting fired was the “the best thing that ever happened” to her, she says.

The founder of the bite-size-cupcake company Baked by Melissa was working as an assistant media planner in 2008 when she was let go.

“I wasn’t passionate about the work I was doing, and it showed,” she tells PEOPLE.

But instead of sulking that day, the baker, now 34, went home and was encouraged by her brother to whip up a batch of cupcakes. That decision turned out to be a wise move, because those treats would launch her new career.

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Winnie Au

One of Ben-Ishay’s friends, who was staying with her in New York City for the summer, brought the now-famous cupcakes to her job as intern at Alison Brod PR. Brod, an idol of Ben Ishay’s, loved them and put her in touch with a caterer.

“Less than two weeks after losing my job, I was doing events with my cupcakes,” she says. “It was wild!”

Ben-Ishay, who lives in Hoboken with her husband and their two kids, now runs 14 locations of Baked by Melissa in New York and New Jersey. She’s sold more than 100 million cupcakes.

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Melissa Ben-Ishay outside the Baked by Melissa at JFK airport. Brian Bushell

Of course, her journey over the past 10 years has not been all smooth sailing.

“It’s easy to make it sound like it was awesome all the time. Obviously it’s not. The more successful you are, the more challenging situations you run into,” she says. “I’ve learned that I can only control my response and any challenge that I face is an opportunity to learn and grow. Without those challenging days and times and situations, then you don’t go out of your comfort zone and you aren’t given the opportunity to respond in a way that makes you shine.”

Now when she has to make the tough call to let an employee go, she thinks of the position she was in in her media planning days.

“Whenever we end a relationship with an employee, I know in my heart that it’s not only the best thing for the company, but in the best interest of the individual,” she says. “I know from my own experience how important it is that you get into something that’s a good fit for you.”

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