Imagine you are the worst baker in the world. So bad, in fact, that you would burn a cake-in-a-box. But then, you find your calling and have a chance to become the baker at your very own cupcake paradise, one which would go on to be considered one of the best places to eat in Nashville by Buzzfeed and Thrillist.
That is exactly what founder of The Cupcake Collection, Mignon Francois, did.
Looking to make extra money for her family, Mignon took up baking with the help of her two baking-loving daughters. The family was drowning in debt. Her daughters initially helped her start baking, but soon after, Mignon depended heavily on her grandmother to help guide her through baking on her own. Once she launched TCC, her sons were the advocates for the business, handing out flyers and helping on the front end after they got home from school. Needless to say, this was a family affair!
But the venture wasn’t always a smooth one. In the beginning, they struggled to keep the light on in their house and had to make difficult choices. Mignon also recalls taking her daughter out for a treat and spending $9 for two cupcakes. This price tag affected not only her but her then 12 year old daughter. That inspired Mignon to create cupcakes that offered comfort, were affordable, and tasted homemade.'I had no money, no knowledge of the business and I didn’t even know how to bake.' Mignon FrancoisClick To Tweet
We recently spoke with Mignon Francois about her sweet success and what advise she would offer to those looking to start up their own business.
BlackExcellence- How did you get the inspiration to start a bakery?
Mignon Fancois- I got the idea of having a bake sale everyday while listening to a financial guru on the radio. I was a household manager of 6+1 (aka stay at home mom) and I really couldn’t afford the luxury of taking my children out for sweets because everything was expensive and we were struggling. Once I started to get my recipes together I would practice all day. I had to get someone besides my family to try my baked goods and give me their honest opinion. The neighborhood we lived in was an up and coming urban area so we had a lot of new neighbors moving in. I started to take my baked treats to them as welcome to the neighborhood gifts and to my surprise one day my neighbor knocked on the door and offered to pay me if I baked her more.
BlackExcellence- What was the most difficult part of your journey?
Mignon Fancois- My journey is so unique I don’t think I have one specific moment that made it “difficult.” Our family has been through so much, but it’s a part of our story. The very house where our bakery stands is where I raised my children. Many people don’t know that when we moved in, the property was condemned. Our family practically built that house. Before I opened The Cupcake Collection, there were times where we didn’t have any running water, electricity and wondered what we were going to eat for the night. I worked on a plan for two years before I even opened the doors of TCC. I had no money, no knowledge of the business and I didn’t even know how to bake. However, I stayed persistent, prayed, put in work and believed if God is who He says He is, then He’s going to do exactly what He says He’s going to do. The day my neighbor came and knocked on the door offering to pay me to bake more treats for her, we were using a generator to run electricity in the house. I would keep the lights off in the day time to save gas so we could have a little bit of normalcy at night. I had just finished paying the bills we could afford and I literally had $5 left to feed my family of 8 dinner. I opened the door and she asked why it was so dark in the house, I played it off by telling her I was meditating. She then told me she absolutely loved what I baked for her and would like an order of 60 to pick up the next day for her clients. At that moment I had to decide if we were going to eat Ramen for dinner or was I going to invest in something that potentially change our lives forever. That day I took the last $5 I had to feed my family and turned it into $60 the next day. By the end of the week I turned that $60 to $600 and in 2017 a $10 million award-winning cupcake business celebrating nine years in business this year with two locations, Nashville, TN and New Orleans, LA.
BlackExcellence- If you could go back and re-do one thing in your business career, what would it be?
Mignon Fancois- I wouldn’t go back and change anything however I have learned many important lessons over the years. I’ve had days where it was hard! There are times where I still cry and wonder if this is going to work. There were many ups and downs in business over the last nine years. However, growth requires that you make mistakes. The key is learning from them. I learned to stop thinking about what I want to do and really start listening to God because I know he has bigger things for me than I can imagine. My first vision for TCC was a small walk up window by my front porch. The bakery started to grow and expand so we renovated and it took up one side of the house and we lived on the other. Eventually as the years progressed, the business took over the entire house and we moved out. As I can see now His plans were definitely larger than what I had first envisioned. Even with the success we’ve had I still wake up at 4AM to start production. We bake everything fresh, from scratch daily so it’s important that the quality is there. I’m still very hands on and I love to see my customers and talk with them, laugh with them and even sometimes shed a tear with them.
BlackExcellence: What makes your cupcakes unique?
Mignon Fancois: Our cupcakes are truly made with love and they taste homemade because they are. TCC is a family business and the bakery is the home where I raised my children so I want people to feel welcome when they come. We always greet everyone with a smile and we know many customers by name because they’ve been with us since day one. My mission is to make people feel joy on the inside. It’s so much more than just cupcakes to me. It’s about change, healing, renewal and sowing back into the community that supported me every step of the way. I hire local college students and people from my community. I serve as a mentor to aspiring entrepreneurs, volunteer my time at various speaking engagements and we have a scholarship fund for students at Tennessee State University. One way we give back to the community is through random acts of kindness. Throughout the year we take cupcakes to fire stations, police stations and hospitals as a symbol of thanks for their hard work and dedication. Just this week we delivered over 900 cupcakes to educators in Middle Tennessee just to show them how much we appreciate them.
BlackExcellence: What are your top tips for others who want to start their own business.
Mignon Fancois: 1. Start where you are.
2. Focus on what you are, not what you aren’t.
3. Believe that when you speak what you seek, you will see what you’ve said.
Make sure to stop in and get yourself a treat if you’re in Nashville or New Orleans. If you’re not in the area, not to worry! The Cupcake Collection will ship your orders to anywhere in the U.S. Check out the full selection here.