Avoiding a smash leads cupcake maker to big break

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

NEW YORK (AP) — How do you get a cupcake from New York to California without smashing it?

That was the problem Melissa Ben-Ishay faced when she launched her cupcake company, Baked by Melissa, with one Manhattan store in 2009. Ben-Ishay, who sells cupcakes that come in varieties such as Chocolate Candy Crunch and Tiramisu, wanted to quickly expand her business nationwide. Shipping to customers who order online was the way to reach that goal.

But the cupcakes, which are slightly larger than the diameter of a quarter and have a small layer of icing, didn't travel well. Ben-Ishay couldn't start shipping until she found containers to keep them intact.

Ben-Ishay and her staffers started working on a design. Success came with what's called a clamshell package, a clear plastic container with tiny compartments that would hold 20 of the cupcakes in place.

"I was so proud of those clamshells," Ben-Ishay says. "We could throw them in the air, slam them against the wall and say, 'look, the cupcakes are perfect!'"

The company found a manufacturer and Baked by Melissa shipped its first cupcakes in April 2010, a little more than a year after it opened the first of its stores. There are now 12 in the New York metropolitan area. Sales from shipped cupcakes have doubled each year.

"Shipping nationwide allowed us to reach people all over the country without opening brick-and-mortar stores," Ben-Ishay says.