Women in America aren't exactly provided the resources to succeed as working parents, independent entrepreneurs, or stay-at-home-parents. That's what makes Miami baker Misha Kuryla's story of launching and expanding her successful business, Misha's Cupcakes, so impressive. Just five months after her first daughter was born in late 2005, she decided she didn't want to go back to work as an account executive. She wanted to bake. “I thought I wanted to be a full-time mom, but clearly I’m not that good at it," she laughs. In the year that followed, Kuryla sold more than $50,000 worth of cupcakes. Fifteen years later, she owns and operates eight of her own stores.
In November 2019, she moved her flagship from the soon-to-be-demolished Riviera Plaza in Coral Gables to nearby Sunset Drive and expanded it to include room for families to play and for remote workers to lounge with their laptops, a warm cup of coffee, and a scrumptious cupcake.
Cupcakes were on trend in 2005, and Kuryla made delicious, moist cakes that caught on quickly. At first, she would “just force them on people," she says. Her neighbors and friends enjoyed the sweet treats. A friend who was a pharmaceutical representative delivered them to doctors' offices to spread the word. Then Kuryla donated to a Susan G. Komen charity event to fund breast cancer research and, in her first three months, scored her first restaurant client, Morning Call. “I guess I can sell them to businesses,” she thought, and pounded the pavement, where she heard some yeses and many nos. From there, business took off, building up plenty of steam in 2006.
By 2007, she was planning to open in a space at Riviera Plaza, but it didn't work out, and she realized she needed a new direction. So once her daughter entered preschool, she opened a warehouse where she would bring her toddler after school as well as a kiosk at Dadeland Mall. She found a live-in nanny to help with childcare. "It changed my life," she says. As a point in Kuryla's favor, many of her former nannies have gone on to become Misha's Cupcake employees.
Business was busy. She reached larger audiences by selling to Taste Bakery and Books & Books locations. She closed the kiosk and opened her first brick-and-mortar store at Riviera Plaza. She had her second child in 2010 and opened a store in Kendall's London Square three months after giving birth. She still personally made 60-quart bowls of batter and frosting at the warehouse and transported them to the store before opening. She admits, however: “I was getting tired." Although she loved opening stores, she had many people to manage, including drivers. She debuted a Miami Lakes location in 2011; an Aventura shop followed the next year. The one thing that prevented her from expanding even further, she says, was finding the right employees. “You want to be able to have an effect on everybody and have them understand your vision and drive, but there are so many personalities and work ethics," Kuryla explains.
Amid the whirlwind, she was carrying her third child and ended up on bed rest for two months. She still worked office hours from her hospital bed. “I realized I had to change my manner of working,” Kuryla says. “I was really into the physical aspect of it. The mental part — the strategy and planning — was where I had to spend the majority of my time. It was not the best way to get there, but sometimes those wakeup calls are painful.”
Wakeup calls aside, nothing is stopping Kuryla. She soon opened stores in Pembroke Pines and Davie, a one-year kiosk at her alma mater Florida International University, temporary kiosks at Marlins Park and American Airlines Arena, and a space at Miami International Airport that began as a pop-up but is still going strong more than two years later. In 2015, Misha's Cupcakes won New Times' Best Cupcakes. Her cupcakes can also be found at Farm Stores. She plans to expand to major supermarket chains, wholesale, and online for customers who order groceries for delivery.
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Kuryla had been paring down the Riviera flagship to expand business in other areas but noticed the move made customers think Misha's was going out of business. She was simply looking to move to "the right spot," she says. Riviera Plaza is slated to be bulldozed, so the time and the spot arrived appropriately. This past November 14, she and her team opened the new flagship on Sunset Drive. “It was bittersweet because of all of the memories. That was where we got our start really. We had many experiences, many wins and losses, great and terrible experiences," Kuryla says. "But this store on Sunset is like a sunrise for us — a feeling of moving into the next level of where we want to go. It feels new; it feels fresh; it feels kind of beautiful and powerful all at once.”
It's also different from the last flagship. It has a "welcoming community environment," Kuryla observes. Now that “brick-and-mortar stores are going away, I believe there is a space for what we do. We want to make it more of an experience than grab-and-go." Misha's offers comfort and community: Aside from serving coffee, cakes, cupcakes, and cake bars, the store is a place to plug in your computer and let your kids wander around or play board games.
Kuryla finds herself working from the store often these days. She says she missed seeing the faces of her loyal customers, and the Sunset Drive flagship offers her that opportunity. She loves that her product is there for people during their "best of times" — birthdays and anniversaries — woven into their memories. With this new location, Misha's will continue to be a part of Miami's most joyful moments and offer a space to make more.
Misha's Cupcakes Flagship. 5616 Sunset Dr., Miami; 786-200-6153; mishascupcakes.com. Monday through Wednesday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Thursday and Friday 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday noon to 5 p.m.