Mignon Francois is Baking Up Joy in Nashville
For this entrepreneur, a piece of cake can solve a world of problems.
Mignon Francois can always find a good reason to celebrate. "If it's your birthday, there's a cake for that," says the founder and CEO of The Cupcake Collection, an award-winning bakery that's located in both Nashville and New Orleans and ships nationwide. "If you're going through a divorce, if you got a promotion, or if you had a hard day—there's a cake for that." Following last year's devastating tornado in Nashville and amid a global pandemic, Mignon is as passionate as ever about spreading joy through sweets. "In these hard times we're dealing with, in all this struggle, people need for something to be a piece of cake," she says.
But things haven't always been easy for the perpetually optimistic baker. "I opened my business with one KitchenAid mixer and a dorm-size refrigerator," says Mignon. "I didn't have any credit or money. I was sitting in the back of my house with no electricity, living on a generator, and counting my dollars trying to do something different. I had $5 left when my neighbor knocked on the door and asked to place an order." That was in 2008. Since then, she's sold over 5 million cupcakes across the country. Here, the entrepreneur talks learning to cook, why she loves wearing wild colors, and the importance of sharing her talents with the next generation.
My Unusual Road to starting a business
"I'm everything that you're not supposed to be in order to be a success. I was a teenage mom and got married really young. I ended up getting divorced 21 years later and became a single mom at that point. I've been in debt up to my eyeballs, and I've been on the verge of homelessness. The very house that my Nashville bakery is located in was up for foreclosure sale on the day that I opened my doors for business. But I believed that if God is who He says He is, then He can do what He says He can do, so I started my company in faith."
How I Learned To Cook
"As a young girl, I would sit with my grandmother while she would snap beans and make meals. There was always a place for conversation. Later, when she lived in the country and we were in the city, my mom would give me five minutes to get cooking help from my grandmother on the phone—that's about all she could afford in long-distance charges. My grandmother would quickly tell me how to do things, but because we had spent a lot of time sitting with each other, I knew what she was doing and what she was talking about. I effectively learned to be a really good cook when I was 17, over the phone and long distance."
What To order First from The Cupcake Collection
"Sweet potato is our most popular flavor. Any other sweet potato cupcake in this entire world wants to be that one. My personal favorite is our coconut crème. It was the thing my grandmother made that I most looked forward to. When I served my version to her, she said that no one had ever gotten as close as I had to making her cake and thought it was even better than hers. That was a huge compliment!"
My Approach to Style
"Whenever I do anything, I want it to be a reflection of me—even my hair; I like it as big as I can get it! I try to be a bright existence in the world. There's this light on the inside that's shining out for other people to see, and what I'm dressed in needs to reflect that. Inevitably, if I go into a room wearing something you're not supposed to (like funky glasses or loud tennis shoes), somebody will say, 'Thank you for wearing that! I wish I had the guts to do it.' The more I get those affirmations, the more boldly I walk out of my house."
Why Building a Legacy Is Important
"In the lineage my sisters and I come from, there were so many women who were good at baking—great, even—but no one will ever know their names. But because of what we're doing at The Cupcake Collection and the fact that we're passing it along, you will experience what they've left behind."
Our Not-So-Secret Ingredient
"Love! If love conquers all, then that includes calories."
"Speak what you seek until you see what you've said."
Mignon's Nashville Short List
The Chef & I
"You become a part of the kitchen here. The waitstaff is attentive and professional to say the least, and the chefs make the food feel unintimidating." thechefandinashville.com
"It doesn't matter what your fitness level is; everyone fits in at this boutique rowing-based workout studio. It has good music as well as a great vibe." therowhouse.com
"The hand-smashed guacamole, house-made chips, and street tacos are among my faves at this restaurant." butchertownhall.com
The Fountain of Juice
"The Hypster Smoothie here tastes like a liquid apple pie that you don't ever have to feel guilty about." tfojuice.com
"My favorite place to escape from the city's hustle and bustle is this network of nearly 100 miles of trails along rivers, streams, and scenic highways." greenwaysfornashville.org
"This Germantown shop always has the cutest kimonos, dusters, and cozy sweaters." piecesfashion.com