The cupcakes sold by The Cupcake Collection, located in Nashville’s Historic Germantown, are more than cupcakes. They represent an entrepreneurial dream and a new start for the François family. And it has been a successful new beginning.
Mignon and A.E. François were looking for a new income source in 2008 when Mignon decided to give baking a try. Today the business is a family affair with the couple’s six children lending a hand in their free time.
And though it may sound simple, making cupcakes isn’t easy. The couple starts their day anywhere between 2:30 and 4 a.m., preparing baked goodies for seven hours and icing them for five hours–with a Bible study break–before heading to the shop. Everything they sell is homemade–and affordable. Their cupcakes go for $2.00-2.50 a piece. And they sell as many as 1,500-2,000 cupcakes daily. The basic recipe for their notorious treats came from Mignon’s grandmother, Virginia “Jenny” Matthews.
The company has racked up plenty of recognition to match their sales: The Cupcake Collection has been named “Best Bakery,” “Best Cupcake,” “Best Dessert Food Truck” and “Best Roving Food Truck In Nashville”; appeared on ABC’s The Chew; and ranked Number 10 in the Best Dessert Food Truck in the U.S. national ranking. And Mignon has been named “Emerging Business Leader of the Year” and “Woman of Legend and Merit” by Tennessee State University. She told MadameNoire the story of The Cupcake Collection.
MadameNoire (MN): How did you come up with the idea for The Cupcake Collection?
Mignon François (MF): Desperation. My family was hungry and we were not making ends meet. I was looking for a way to help; and I felt the urging of God say, “Bake! Have a bake sale.” I was hearing on the radio that people were saying have a bake sale and you can get out of debt.
MN: Why cupcakes?
MF: There were no cupcake places around Nashville at the time, and it was a hot trend going around the country and my daughters and I figured that cupcakes were something we could do that was manageable without having a skill set of decorating.
MN: Where you into baking prior?
MF: No; baking was not my specialty. I could bake bread really well but cakes, I would always fail at those. I could not even make a box cake mix.
MN: What has been your biggest lesson as an entrepreneur?
MF: That you can do anything; entrepreneurship is staring where you are and working every day towards that goal until you see it happen. I’ve learned that people won’t believe in your idea so don’t expect them to be excited, especially if you are bringing something new to the table. If it was something easily understood it would be done already.
MN: What were some startup challenges for the venture?
MF: Funding and a location. We started selling out of our home and the bakery slowly began taking over. We actually lived in the bakery up until late 2011. With the extra that I had after feeding my family I would purchase a spoon or a bowl, or something I needed for the business.
MN: What has been your biggest surprise since starting The Cupcake Collection?
MF: Success! I thought it was going to be successful, but not like this. I thought that I would just have some additional money for a field trip or to pay the light bill and water bill. I thought it was just going to be some additional money to help out. Now it provides a lifestyle and opportunities for others. We have scholarships at local HBCUs in Nashville and we helped four boys go to college through our Cupcakes for College Tour.
MN: What are your goals for 2016?
MF: My goal for 2016 is to “be”–BE (become extraordinary at serving people in the way God desired for me to do this business). I want to BE (bless everyone) I want to bless everyone that comes into contact with our product. I want to BE (be a bold example of what you can do when you are obedient to your calling).
MN: What do you like the most about what you do?
MF: People. People is what I like best about what I do. I get to groom people, I get to be influenced by people, I get to influence people, I get to bring joy to people; this business is the ultimate experiences of human beings having a spiritual experience.