360: How The Cupcake Collection Founder Mignon Francois Turned $5 Into Five Million Cupcakes Sold

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360: How The Cupcake Collection Founder Mignon Francois Turned $5 Into Five Million Cupcakes Sold

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This week I sat down for a very inspiring chat with Mignon Francois; mom of seven, best-selling author of Made from Scratch: Finding Success Without a Recipe, and founder of a multi-million dollar cupcake empire, The Cupcake Collection. 

In this episode she shares:

  • Why having a great product and determination got her community to support her vision
  • The different financial methods she used, like cash stuffing, to reinvest into her business and employees
  • How she leveraged $5 and turned it into a legacy with over five million cupcakes sold 
  • And much more, you don’t want to miss the gems she’s dropping!

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Nicaila Matthews Okome 0:00

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Hey, Hey friends, welcome welcome back to the show. It's Nicaila here and today in the guest chair I have Mignon Francois. She is a number one national best selling author, entrepreneur and renowned Baker who has inspired millions on her journey of going from drowning in debt to building a multimillion dollar cupcake Empire the cupcake collection, she leveraged $5 and turn it into a legacy with over 5 million cupcakes sold. Her grassroots story of success has garnered national attention from today with Hoda and Jenna Southern Living entrepreneur and Business Insider to name a few. And she is also the author of made from scratch finding success without a recipe where she shares her story of finding success with no presets in place. Mignon is a sought after speaker and is committed to equipping and empowering people to change the trajectory of their lives. In today's episode, you'll hear her journey from hating the kitchen, to starting her business out of her own home with a dorm size refrigerator to now owning a cupcake empire. Let's get right into it.

Welcome, welcome to the guest chair, Mignon. I'm so excited to have you think about the cupcake collection.

Mignon François 2:44

Yep, I've been I've been watching your podcast. I'm so excited to be talking to you today.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 2:52

I am very excited when you you know mignon, not many people get through to me via email pitch. I gotta tell you,

Mignon François 3:00

not these days, like, I won't get

Nicaila Matthews Okome 3:03

into that. But your email, you know, your team's email immediately intrigued me I was like, Oh my gosh, who is this? I've never, you know, I haven't come across the cupcake collection yet. But now I know. Yeah. And I want to know, given your background, right, I understand you weren't even a baker, you weren't even a fan of the kitchen. So when did you why did you start this business?

Mignon François 3:27

Yes, I was not good. In the kitchen, I burned the bread. And here we are 70 years later, this is my life and the recipes belonged to me, I was living in my house with no electricity on a regular basis. Running water was something that we often had to go to the Kroger around the corner to purchase. In order to fill up the tub. We had this little burner thing outside of our back door that we could warm the water up with when the electricity was out so that our children could take warm baths. And that was that was common in our household. When I was listening to the radio, and a man said you could get out of debt by having a bake sale or a garage sale. Well I knew I couldn't have a garage sale because we sold everything we had to get to Nashville. So it's gonna have to be a bake sale problem is I don't know how to bake not even out of a box. But I had these two daughters who were really, really loved to be in the kitchen. And both of them. We thought what one would be a homemaker and the other one would go to college to be a chef. That's that's what we thought and believed to be true. And so I went to them with my idea and as soon as we got started on our idea my oldest daughter led me No, Mom, I'm not really interested in your little bakery idea. So I'm going back to New

Nicaila Matthews Okome 4:56

Orleans. Gotta love the honesty.

Mignon François 4:59

She was Going back home to New Orleans where we're from. And so without her, the youngest daughter wasn't interested. So I had put a sign outside of our home that said bakery coming soon. And I believed that meant that everybody saw it. And I believe that's what it took to tell the world that I was going to be opening up a business. So I do what I say I'm gonna do. Yes. I'm a person who keeps my word. And so I believed, well, I guess I gotta learn how to bake. And so that's what I did. I started, I started with my grandmother, a telephone call to my grandmother, because she was my favorite Baker and maker, she taught me how to cook long distance when I was 17 over the phone. So I was like, I'm just gonna do what I've done before, I'm gonna call grandma. And I'm gonna get this recipe, and that's gonna be what it is. My grandma was like, but I don't have any recipes. And I she would make from her soul, you know, be a pinch of this, a little bit of that. But I feverishly wrote, like, my life depended on it, what my grandmother was saying. And after we hung up the phone, she told me call me back, if you need to, my mother would only give me five minutes to talk to my grandmother, because that's what she could afford. Because long distance back in those days was an unlimited. You know, we used to have to pay into pay minutes. And so my me and my grandmother would talk really quickly, in order for me to get the instructions. And so coming 17 years later, into my own kitchen, we knew how to do this. And so she said, Call me back. And so I wrote down everything she said, and I made my first unsuccessful attempt to make a cake. And then I went back again, and I studied what she had said. And there in my kitchen, I had this aha moment, every stupid thing that you've ever had to do is taking you from where you are to where you want to be. And I had gone to Xavier University studying to become a doctor, I had to change my major and move schools because I was flunking out of my science classes, because I couldn't apply the science to the human body. And so here in my kitchen, it wasn't clicking for you, right. And I came here my kitchen. 70 years later, it all made sense. Oh, this is chemical reacting. It's just flour, sugar, butter and eggs that I understood. And then I began to realize that I can manipulate ingredients to get what I wanted out at them. And I began to write my recipes from that day forward.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 7:52

Isn't that so interesting that you were a science person in terms of that's what you wanted to do. And you just said, You know what? Bacon's not for me because I'm about becoming a doctor. But then those same principles that you were trying to learn all of a sudden, it made sense, when applied in a different format. And it is all science. There's so much of life. That's all it is science. So how did you get from New Orleans, to where you were you were in that moment? Like what prompted those kinds of moves and that level of financial?

Mignon François 8:29

Near foreclosure? Yeah. So we had, we had always known that we want it to move around. So when we got married, I got married very young, we being you and your husband. I got married really young. I got married two weeks after my 20th birthday. So I was 19 engaged. I only knew my husband four weeks before he asked me to marry him. And we were married three months later. Here, so

Nicaila Matthews Okome 8:58

we liked your family, I have to say about that.

Mignon François 9:02

My mom, the mother and father knew that I was a child that was going to do what I wanted to do. So they decided to support me, even though they really weren't on board with it. But they support it because that's what I wanted to do. And in the end, I wish that my parents had held me down kicking his butt, you know, nothing is wasted. Not even not even a bad decision. Nothing is wasted. So we always knew that we wanted to move around. We we had moved to Houston shortly after we got married. Then we moved back to New Orleans and then we moved to we moved back to Texas again and then we were in Atlanta before we came to Nashville.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 9:51

And then when you started with the materials, what was that initial investment because when I think of like legit baking I think of that big expensive stuff. and mixer, think of those kinds of materials, especially if you're about to do this on a business level. So what was that expense for you?

Mignon François 10:08

I think that I was totally naive. And that's what I hope that your listeners will hear that all you have is all you need to get you from where you are to where you want to be. I was just like you, I believed I needed this big, gigantic commercial refrigerator. I thought I needed all these commercial mixers. But it was the health inspector who came into the house to check on me because we had been working for two years, every day like it was a job, and the store still hadn't opened, and decided I needed to come over here to check on you and see if there's anything I can do to help you get to the finish line. So you can open your store. And he just was like I said that health inspector said this. So he's going around looking at my stuff, checking to see where I was in the progress. And he sees a dorm size refrigerator against the wall. And he said, Is this the refrigerator? You use it to open? And I said, no, like, clutching my pearls? Are you kidding me? You know, knowing I didn't have money for anything, right? He said, will it keep temperature? And will it hold all the ingredients that you need? Even if you have to go to the store more than once a day? And I said yes. So he goes and he writes some more things on a piece of paper. And he hands me an open sheet and tells me to open whatever I like. And I open the cupcake collection with a dorm size refrigerator and a KitchenAid mixer, because that's what I had

Nicaila Matthews Okome 11:32

look bad. That's what you had. Now, what you said, you said something you said two years, it was two years to open. What was one of those two years that you know, why was it taking that

Mignon François 11:52

long that and with the lights being on and off battling with trying to make ends meet. When I started this out, I didn't know it was going to be a business that was going to thrive. I didn't know it was going to be putting people through college and letting people start careers and build careers and climb corporate ladders with me. I want to build trip money for my daughters. My oldest daughter was going to the 12th grade. She needed senior dupes money, I wanted my kids to have what all the rest of the children had. And I was a stay at home mom. So this was my idea to be able to do my due diligence to help make the ends meet in our household. I just wanted to build trip money when I started out. So coming to what it has been has just been laying Yap, as we say in New Orleans, it's just been the extra. And I promised Scott if he would make me successful, I'll tell anybody who will listen about what they can do if they believe you think you need big bunches of lungs and you know a whole bunch of experience under your belt. I had no experience. I didn't know how to how to bake. I was losing the house where the cupcake election exists today. On the day that I opened the store, it was set to be foreclosed within a month. And I opened that store believing if God is who He says He is He can do what he says he can do. And here we are. All these years later I own that property now was able to create a trust for my grandchildren to leave it to them so that as a I could be considered a good a good woman or a good person in the eyes of God who leaves an inheritance to their children's children.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 13:34

Whoa, what a testimony and I love what you said there about the trust. All right, are y'all paying attention? So she went from her almost on her last almost being foreclosed to now having a trust, not just you know, people say Oh, I'm gonna leave this to my kids, then we got nothing in place. You got age. Okay, yeah, your financial ducks wealth planning in a thing. So important lesson for us all.

Mignon François 13:59

And it was it was only $5 that I had when I started. When my neighbor knocked on the door and asked me to make cupcakes for all of her clients. I was sitting in the house with no electricity on that day, because I couldn't afford it. So I would sit in the house in the dark during the day. And then I would turn the generator on to make the lights come up when my children got out of school. So she asked me why I was sitting in the dark and I said because I'm meditating. She believes she believed me and didn't ask what she

Nicaila Matthews Okome 14:34

says she saw that sign. Yes. Someone saw the sign on your front door.

Mignon François 14:39

My neighbor's believed in this place.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 14:41

Yeah. So when you had you know just to make sure people understand the story, your story so you know you had you were down to your last five or what have you, but you use what you had. And you got the ingredients. I'm assuming $5 worth or maybe you worth of ingredients worth, okay, and then started from there. So when you made your first batches and they were bad, were you still selling something in order to reinvest into the business? Like how did it grow from there?

Mignon François 15:12

So when I made my first my first list of ingredients, that's not the $5 I'm talking about when I was practicing in my kitchen before this, that was, in the beginning of the two years, I was practicing in my kitchen before I ever before anyone ever even knew that I would have something I started going out into the community saying, as they would tear down one house and build up 15, I would stop those real estate agents and say, Hi, I'm gonna jump right Sua, I live in the house across the street scene sign bakery coming soon, just to build the rapport that they knew that I wasn't asking them to buy from somebody who's just some person off the street who was scamming them, I would ask them if they would taste what I was testing. And so I would give them a cupcake or give them something I made. And they would come and knock on my door and ask me for more. And those people began to be my first customers. And those were the people who are with me, for the two years, I will make cupcakes, I'd buy a spoon, I will make cupcakes, I will buy a bowl, I would always use something to increase my wheelhouse, I would always use something to increase my storage, so that I would be able to one day open up this business because I didn't have any credit. I didn't have any money. So I was gonna have to bootstrap everything. It was that neighbor who knocked on the door while I was sitting in the dark with only $5 left to my name, who asked me to make cupcakes for all of her clients. That was gonna be 600 cupcakes. And I didn't have any, any money to take the order when I heard God say, but I feed birds and they don't toil for anything or store up and barns. And so I decided to take the $5 that I have, as I was stuffing cash and envelopes in the back of my house, just trying to do this Dave Ramsey baby step plan, where you would snowball your way out of debt. And all I had was $5 and hadn't even allotted anything for my children to eat when she knocked on the door. And so I decided to take a gamble and take that $5 and go to the store and buy what I could I turned it into 60 that day, and took that 60 I put the five back that I started with and went back to the store and turn that 55 into 600 by the end of the week. And that is the money that I've been flipping for 17 years, I did this with no debt, I did it with no knowledge of the business, I did it with no experience, I did it with no loans. And I've used that same seed money to create what I've created today. That is

Nicaila Matthews Okome 17:46

a message right there. That is a message. And I'm glad you keep driving that home. Because I know for myself, one of the things I like to repeat is done is better than perfect. Even still, there are times you're going to buck up against, for lack of a better word, you're just gonna keep confronting this thought that, oh, I can't do this next phase of my life, this next phase of my business until I get this perfect. And you just have to keep on using what you have in that moment. So thank you for reminding us of that, like yes, you can get better. You know, I'm sure your marketing budget now and what you do now is way different than when you had $5. But with that $5 You wouldn't be here now. Besides word of mouth, how did you really start to beef up your marketing,

Mignon François 18:37

I would say that my children were my biggest cheerleaders. And they were the ones that were going out doing whatever they could they would come after they would come after school, they would help me buy and all I could pay them was whatever it was it. Whatever was in the tip jar, that's all I could pay that whatever is in the tip jar. And so we would make these little flyers. I have a background in mass media, and photography. And so I, I was my own photographer. I was my own PR, I had a degree in journalism that I could use. So all these things that I had available to me came back to serve Me. And we would make these little flyers. And we're on this street where there's a really popular restaurant in our block. And people will be milling around and waiting. And that restaurant didn't have any dessert. And so my son would go down there and he got permission to talk to the people. And he would invite them down to eat cupcakes with his mom. And those people would come and they would bring the whole table with them. Because the way the restaurant is set up is that you would eat with strangers and you pass the food around. And so you'd eat until you're full and those people would get up to this day when you go down there. To eat, you'll meet a stranger. And they'll always be a conversation that leads you down the street to the cupcake collection. And it was something that my 15 year old son started people out doing. Were just trying to get people to hear about what his mother was doing down the street.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 20:16

And now people know I'm sure they have it on TripAdvisor. Like, go here. Go here.

Mignon François 20:23

Yes, we want an award from TripAdvisor to.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 20:26

I'm not surprised. So I'm a little confused. Okay. When you opened, were you opening out of your home? Or how did you afford this storefront? If it wasn't out of your home?

Mignon François 20:37

Yeah, that's such a great question. We we opened inside of our house, it was my husband's former man cave, that I make my storefront, I didn't want to open it in my house. I wanted some, you know, storefront somewhere else. Yeah, I want it to be able to go to work and all of that kind of stuff. But I couldn't afford those things. But our home was zoned mixed use. So because I had a separate door, that could people could come through that I could use that room as my bakery. And so this is what I want somebody to hear who may not have a home they already have, or something like what I used, everybody has a measure that they can start with. Everybody has something there is nobody who starts with nothing has nothing that they can use. Everybody has a measure of something, a gift, a talent that they can use to get them started. And I had a house that was condemned when I bought it. My children and our whole entire family, we put in the sweat equity to fix this house up, we moved into it, it was two rooms and a half bathroom and a half bathroom was a toilet and a tub. Like that was the grit of my family. And so we used what we had to get us to where we needed to be. And it was in 2005, that we acquired the property 2008 that we opened the business. So we didn't know when we when we bought this house that that's what our lives is going to be. I didn't even like being in the kitchen at the time. But in the process of hearing this man on the radio, say that we can get out of debt, it can help our family, we were also cleaning up and fixing up this house with whatever little bits and pieces and going to Habitat for Humanity and picking up stuff from off the side of the road. There is a case for my cupcake display that we got for free from a renovation that was happening on the corner. And so it was a window that was on the ground. And I asked them could I have it and we built that and made it into our cupcake case. So

Nicaila Matthews Okome 22:57

it was a matter of using what we had in our hands. And nothing was nothing was too good for us to try. And that's what that's what I'm hoping people will hear yes, I can do all these things now. But that's not where I started. You know what I hear too, it's this idea of you have more than you think you do, or you have more opportunities than you might realize. And I always say this thing to new moms of like your village is bigger than you know. Because I know when I became a new mom, I started talking to people that I hadn't spoken to in years, you know, just love that connection of being a new mom, we all of a sudden we're bonding through Instagram, DMS and things like that. Your village is bigger than you know, when you're starting a business. You might not have this storefront, but what can you use? You know, let's brainstorm like sit down and really think about alright, but what can I do? How can I remix that concept? And I have more. And I want you to start thinking that I have more than I think I do. Because having that frame of mind really works.

Mignon François 24:02

I heard a friend of mine say it like this. When it's in your head. It's an idea when you write it down it becomes a plan. Oh, yes, it Oh yes. It's like write write the vision and make it so that others can run and not pass out trying to make your dream come true. Right. And so there's somebody who you know, who is listening that has been waiting for some some big event to happen in order for them to start. And I just want to be that example that you don't have to wait start right now with what you have, and get to where you're going.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 24:39

And I think the reason sometimes that we wait for this big event to get started is because we're also expecting that it's supposed to pop right where we start so we're like we can't possibly launch here because how am I gonna have my big, you know, launch party? How am I gonna have this Instagrammable thing? If I do this like No, no, no, no, no, that's not gonna happen either. It's not gonna go from zero to a million dollars either. So, you know, once you level set those expectations, you give yourself permission to start and you're like, Okay, that's not real life. That's just Instagram highlight reel. Okay? So I can start here, that is not really doesn't actually look like that to launch a business.

Mignon François 25:20

Yeah, it's not necessarily pretty at first. And that's, you know, it's also not necessarily sweet either. And the things that were happening to me in my life weren't sweet. I was losing everything, including my marriage. After 21 years, my husband asked me for a divorce when I opened up this cupcake collection, was it because of the stress of the business? No, it just, it just was he had other ideas that he wanted to pursue, and they didn't know. But after, after 21 years, it was like, You know what? I mean, I can laugh now because he laughs She who laughs last? laughs Yes,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 26:04

he loves.

Mignon François 26:09

And thank God, I thank God for it. Because I was a stay at home mom, I did it. My question to him was, how am I what am I supposed to? Do? You want to leave? What am I supposed to do? My life has been caring for this family and for your children? What am I supposed to do? And so we decided to get the bakery opened. And in the process of getting the bakery open, you know, sometimes you just life happens. And when things start going, well, you know, we kind of just stayed and it will be about I think it was about seven more years before we actually went through with our divorce five or seven years later before? Nope, it was about seven years later, before we actually went through the dwell.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 26:53

And so at that point, did you stay in that house? Or was it you know, like, Okay, this is we're able to move somewhere else and keep that as just a storefront for the business. Yeah, that's the business grew,

Mignon François 27:06

it pushed us further and further out of the house. So now the bakery contains the entire house and we live separately from the bakery.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 27:20

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So your team has obviously grown. Tell us about the process of hiring and scaling your business and your team. What was that process like for you? Yeah, so

Mignon François 28:28

hiring is really funny because I started out with my children. And I would give

Nicaila Matthews Okome 28:36

people how many kids you have. Because I don't think people realize you literally have a whole workforce.

Mignon François 28:47

I have seven children. And so I started out with them. It was they would come home after school and help me clean up and all that kind of stuff. And they were the they were the first workers that I had, I would get up at two o'clock in the morning just to go in there and start working to thinking that people were going to just bum rush the store. Everybody knew that a bakery was coming soon. And they just didn't. And I would sit there a lot of times by myself. It was people who would discover us or who had discovered us before would sit there for hours with me and say, Oh, this is so great. And they will go out and tell other people and those people would sometimes come up behind the counter say girl scoot over let me help you. And I began to make friends very easily. And friends I still have today that have been so good to me who just wanted to help the cupcake collection to grow and it was a customer who was coming in here all the time for our wedding cake cupcake because she believed that you could tell a bakery on their basics that if you could get white cake right you could do anything and so she was a chef And one day, we just asked her if she would like to work with us. And so she did. And it's some of the things that she implemented for us from the beginning that we're still using today. Because I just didn't know what I was doing. I was just kind of things, what she implementing. So she showed us how to take inventory in as far as like taking orders. We would oversell all the time. And so she showed us how to separate those orders from the things that we were given to the front of the house. So she created a front of house and back of house. And it was just her systems for baking and parting out things that showed us the demand. When I first got started, it was market research was looking out the window, seeing somebody over there who needed a cupcake in their hand, and he raised it outside to say, Hey, listen, would you try it, I'll give it to you, your child. And I began to give the product away, and those people would come back and offer me money for that same product. And that's the way that I also got my first employees, my children would bring their friends home from school, Hey, you want to I'll see if my mom will hire you and their friends would come. And their friends were at work. And those kids, some of those kids are still with me today all these years later. So I'm really excited about what we were able to do. I wanted to show people what good business looks like. And I wanted to light the way for other people to know what they could do, if only they believed. And those same children, I let them know, listen, when my ship comes in, you are getting on the boat. And they believed me and they stayed with me. And I helped them to climb the corporate ladders that they wanted to be a part of. And so when they left, I held their hand leaving as far as like writing recommendations for them wherever they want it to be, because they helped me to create a company that had a reputation that I could stand on. And I wanted to give them something that they could stand on to. And so as they went on to other things, I opened doors for them from people that I knew, and they would come back, and they would hold the door open for somebody else who needed to get in. And that's how we built. That's how we built the business as far as on the on the employee side. And I love that distinction about having to create a system having to really think through demand and inventory and you know, back of house versus front of house, it's not something that you immediately think about right? Like, I'm sure a lot of people who are going into a food based business, they're thinking about how does it taste, we're thinking about we got to get people to like this. But once they're coming in, you have to systematize things, so you're not wasting food, you know, and so you're not always running out of food either. Amen, that I love that. You were so right, I was just worried about what it was going to taste like. Cake is my love language. And I wanted to speak it fluently. I wanted it to be something that people were going to really, really love. And with my name attached to it, my name is so unique. I just wanted people to have you know, say my name, and it'd be something that they enjoy calling my name for. So you're right, all I thought about was what it was going to taste like I felt like if it was good they would come. What I also knew is that I wanted to pay Caesar what belongs to him that there's a Bible verse that says Pay Caesar what belongs to Caesar. So I knew I wanted to be able to afford my taxes. And I wanted to be able to have an accountant. So that's the first hire that I made. The first hire I made was to get an accountant on on the team who was counting my money. And then you say, Okay, this is what you need to do with your money. And this is when you will be able to afford somebody. And that's how I was able to make a company that had a good firm foundation because I hired an accountant, and then a tax attorney right after that. And how did you find those people? So my accountant went to church with me. And then the tax accountant that we had was a customer of ours. And her husband was just he just liked the business and just said, Hey, I want to introduce you to my wife, and she was a tax attorney. And so that's how we met her. You're only about six degrees from the next person who's anointed to help somebody.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 34:18

Your village is bigger than you think. Yeah. You probably know somebody Yeah. And now this is a disclaimer not to say hi, everybody in your network you know, the homie was gonna count that we still need those certifications. Yeah.

Let's talk a little bit more about money these first few years. What was your experience? Now you know, your marriages is failing. So you really need to make money at this point. A lot of people are losing money in the first few years of the business. What was your experience? Were you profitable? Were you just breaking even were you able to take a salary What was going on? Yeah, so

Mignon François 35:00

you know, flour, sugar, butter and eggs was a very cheap commodity back then. Okay, so we started out with our cupcakes being only $1.50. And so I

Nicaila Matthews Okome 35:12

just come to New York, you know how much

Mignon François 35:17

people would tell me, I pay you more for this, they always told me I pay you more for this. And that made them want to come and buy more from it. So we were always we were always profitable from day one there, because we were in our home, we didn't have overhead, we were already using the electricity, I began to be able to help make ends meet right away. So I would take the money that I made from the day and I would part some out to go buy more ingredients. And then I would save some, in order to, you know, pay taxes, I would always I would always say different envelopes. So that same envelope system that I was working on when the first customer knocked on the door was the envelope system I was using to build my business. So we were always profitable from the beginning, because we didn't have any credit that we could use to get into debt with, right. So I would go and buy some ingredients. And from what I what I made in the day, I would put some aside. Now listen, it didn't become big piles of money at first either. I used to have $17 days. I remember, you know, sitting on my chair and saying God, I mean, I thought people were gonna come I thought, This is what you told me to do when my husband had called to check on me one day and asked me how things were going. And I got ready to open my mouth and complain about it. And in that moment, I say, You know what, whatever it is God sent it. So I'm going to be grateful for it. And my life changed that day. It was that day that I never had a $17 day again, we we got a $50 day, then we got our first $100 day, I remember our first $1,000 day, our first $10,000 day Yeah, because all along, I was grateful for everything that came knowing that if it came, it wasn't a surprise to God. And I thank God for every person that came to that store, believing that they were sent there. And I would take the money that they were bringing me and I would make sure that I paid my bills first. And if I paid for the things first and everything else was mine. And that has also been the same philosophy that carried us through the pandemic, one of the things that I looked at, as we were going into a recession, because I opened my business during the recession. So when people were talking about being recession proof was like, Well, wait a minute, I opened a business with no money during the recession.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 37:47

I only know recession based businesses.

Mignon François 37:50

And the way that I did it was I look to the past and for my future. If nothing is new under the sun, then nothing is new under the sun. And that's got to include this bakery business, right. And so I looked at the Great Depression, and I saw how they were doing money. And I saw that the people who are cash rich, who didn't have a lot of debt, were the names that you still know today, the Procter and Gamble's the Hilton Hotels, the people who make tide, you know, dis. So these were the people Sears and Roebuck like these were the people who were thriving in a Great Depression, because they were able to make loans to the people who didn't have any cash. And when they were able to call their loans back when things turned right side up, they began to be wealthy. And those names are still here today.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 38:43

Yes, I love that you say that. I love talking about that. Because cash is cash is truly King. We hear a lot about just so many aspects of wealth and building and all of that. But you know, when you're running your business day to day, you got to be able to have cash flow. So that's like first and foremost establishing how are we going to make sure that we have cash flow your business with no cash is that business.

Mignon François 39:13

So true. And I believe that's been one of the guiding principles for me at the cupcake collection. I'm not even in debt to my employees. So what I do with my team is they're paid every seven days. There's a reason for that, because when I was struggling, I couldn't see my way 14 days from now, especially when I got paid today and I used all my money and I don't have anything left. And I believe that you could figure out two days or you could figure out five days, you might be able to tussle up Hey, can I eat at your house? Can I Can I have the leftovers whatever you need to do for five to seven days, but when it starts being 14 days and 21 days and 30 days is too much. So I decided a long time ago that I would never forget where I came from. And so I made it such and it cost me more money to do it this way. Because every time you run a payroll, it costs you in taxes, it costs you and running that payroll. But it's my commitment to my team that I'm going to make sure they're paid every single week from what it is that they brought in the the week before. And on top of that, I'm sharing profits with them. So when I say my ship comes in, you're getting on the boat. I'm doing it right now. So they're sharing, they're sharing in the profits of how we grow. So their hard earned labor, they get to see that they get to see the fruits of their labor, and they get to celebrate with the cupcake collection. So when when I when they went to work, bringing joy to America

Nicaila Matthews Okome 40:50

that is deep, that really is unique. You really don't hear people say that they do that kind of system. And you're so right about how, when you're going paycheck to paycheck every 14 days, if you're lucky enough to have a paycheck come in every 14 days, it is stressful. It is a long way. And I'm sure that helps to keep and maintain good employees. Oh, yeah, wait, you have no system going? Yeah, it

Mignon François 41:18

does. It does help you keep good people, but at the same time, it makes them be willing to invest back in you, when we we saw ourselves going into the pandemic, they were afraid. They didn't know what was gonna happen. I didn't know what's gonna happen. And the government was offering them a better opportunity to leave me and go sit at home and take a pic paycheck. And I went to those same employees. And I said, Listen, don't leave me, I can do I can at least do out of my savings, what the government is willing to do for you. So if you stay with me, I'll make sure that I match what they're willing to do. And they still could have left because there came a point where the government said, you know, we'll even give you more to sit at home. But my team didn't take it, my team stayed with me, and they did our jobs for the business. So that that meant delivering cupcakes here. And there, they did it. If that meant, you know, taking a phone into their house and answering the phones at home, they did it. And they did whatever, whatever was needed. And when we got right side, right side up. And when the government started helping out companies like mine, who kept all of that we kept all of our team employed. We didn't lose anybody during the pandemic, because we couldn't afford it. We grew during that time. And we realized that amazing needed comfort that they could control. And cake was one of those things that they chose that because a 10 year old pandemic,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 42:45

pandemic, we were all.

Mignon François 42:51

Yes. So when we got right side up, I was able to pay them back for the cuts that they took in order to stay with me, just because I wanted them to know that I appreciated it.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 43:03

Now, let's talk about the operations. So what's shifted in your business operation wise, from when you had $17 days to when you had $10,000 days?

Mignon François 43:15

I think I think that we are still doing things the way that we had done that before. And that's what I want. I want others to also know that when you become successful, it doesn't mean that your problems go away, it just means that you have bigger problems, you know, it just means that you have more of those things. So we added more locations, ultimately to the cupcake collection. And so as we've added more locations, we've learned how to get up earlier, but nothing has changed. It's been the same way that we've done it in the beginning is the same way that we're doing it right now.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 43:50

I mean, more. So when you're fulfilling, you know, 20 orders a day versus when you like you said have more locations now. And you're fulfilling 1000s of orders a day, that scale of operations has to change, like whether it's staffing, whether it's assembly line, whether it's Oh, cupcakes that night, was it? Yeah, how does that happen?

Mignon François 44:13

So when I say we're still doing it the same way, we were still getting up and baking them fresh every single day. But one thing that I would say that we are doing besides having added more people, we are a very small team that does a very large volume. One thing I did add, like from the beginning the beginning we were doing things like using an adding machine and then we added something by toasts now and so everything is handled. As far as cashier wise, it's handled on a machine that also connects and talks with our website. And so we have a marketing team who is making sure that SEO is optimized and all that there's somebody who is responsible for the social media and marketing whereas Before it was just me and my kids making flyers and walking down the street. The one thing that I would say that we added that was just the intuition of who I am. And my science background is I modified a doughnut filler, because I realized that donut fillers were doing the operation that I needed them to do in scooping cupcakes that if I can't get here, I could get the viscosity of my mix to go through a funnel and in through, like a little depositor that I could make a machine to deposit cupcakes, so I modified a doughnut Villar like what they put the cream inside of filled donut. I modified one of those to be a cupcake depositor for me. So instead of a scooping cupcakes one at a time, you can now scoop cupcakes for a cross at a time through a machine that is making every single one the exact same size so that you're no longer having to worry about that human error of oh, you know, like when you go to an ice cream parlor, and they scoop the ice cream out, eventually, you get really good when you're doing this all the time. But I wanted to make sure that it was exactly the same every single time and especially as we were looking at wanting to show possible investors that we wanted to take on because people wanted to buy franchise opportunities into the business. And so we wanted to be able to show them, we wanted to not have waste. And we wanted to show them how it's been done. So I haven't been able to figure out yet how to ice the cupcakes like that yet, because our product really is butter and sugar. You know what I mean? It's not, it's not thinned out by lard or shortening or anything like that. And it's not with a whip topping or anything. So this is really what it sounds like

Nicaila Matthews Okome 47:00

a patent waiting to happen. If it hasn't happened yet. We can figure out the other layer added a new pet and once we figured that out. You mentioned investors. So before we jump into the lightning round, I'm interested to know as you open up new locations, what did that look like from an investment point of view? Did you have to take on investors financially? How did you do that?

Mignon François 47:24

So I bootstrapped everything. So as I began to grow my business, I kind of got arrogant about it right, as people wanted to give me things, I didn't want to take it, because I felt like when I needed it, nobody would help me. So I'm gonna continue to help myself. And so I i bootstrapped everything. But then I began to learn that I didn't want to use my money, I should use other people's money to get me from where I am to where I want to be. And I got connected to a really smart woman who is a president for a particular bank here in Tennessee, who began to teach me about money. And her whole team began to teach me that we were the first generation of African Americans with access to wealth transfers outside of insurance policies, and that my children would be the first generation of African Americans with access to wealth transfers, with businesses and property being left to them. And being the daughter of a man that was born on a plantation. My father was born on a plantation in 1947, in New Orleans, or outside of New Orleans. So being the being the descendant of enslaved people from a sugarcane plantation. And knowing that today we make a living and are leaving a legacy for our children's children. From the spoils of a sugarcane plantation of work, or from sugar cane being farmed, it is not lost on me what we have been able to create, and now how we want to amplify that even further. So we have been working the model to be able to give other people an opportunity to open cupcake collections across the country. And so we did our first one in New Orleans on my sweat equity model, because I know that a lot of times we don't have the cash, we don't have the money in order to invest but we we have the sweat or we have the grit that it would take and so I wanted to see what that would look like for people and now I'm getting ready to take in my first set of investors, my next location that I'm working on right now so this is gonna be a first for me. But I found like minded family, who are doing something similar in another industry, who now want to bring what they have to amplify what we're able to do.

Thank you so much for sharing your own family's journey. I mean, it's it's not dissimilar, all of ours and in different ways, but just an understanding what you are able to do with taking on investors I'm gonna jump into lightning round. I could get talking to you for that's a whole other episode right? So you guys let it let me know if you if you want to dedicate an episode on taking on investment in your business and considerations and all that good stuff, I might need to bring back a round table of my favorite guests. But for now we're jumping into the lightning round. Are you ready? Yes, I'm ready. I'm excited. Ready? So number one, what is a resource in your business that you can share with a side hustle pro audience. So one of the resources that I would say I will use is people capital. My mother was retired from her company, after 35 years being offered an executive level position, she worked her way up from being a secretary all the way to that point. And so sometimes we don't look around to see what knowledge is available to us. So I always look to my elders in order to advance my future. And that was I wonder if that can be a resource that I use because I sit at their feet and learn from what they did in order to get to where I want it to be. So people capital is what I use. And I like that, you know, people capital, of course, you hear human capital, but more in a corporate. And so I like that you brought it back to that reminder. Number two, who is a non celebrity black woman entrepreneur, who you would want to switch places with for a day and why

Yeah, I would love to switch switch places with the Lisa, Gary a, she is a black woman who is one, one of the few that are certified as a contractor in Tennessee for all commercial things. So from residential to commercial and industrial, and she's getting ready to open a theme park based on literacy, because that because of the need in this area for our children to still learn to read. So she's she's opening up a theme park based around literacy. And I'm so excited for him because I want to go sit for my contractor's license, she would be the person that I would love to change places with. Just for a day. She's so smart. And she was one of the youngest to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in her industry. So yeah, that's why we want to change places with the Lisa. Gary,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 52:26

I just love this question because I learned about someone new every single time. Number three, what's a non negotiable part of your day these days?

Mignon François 52:33

Yeah, I wake up every morning when I open my eyes. I thank God for waking me up and giving me another opportunity to get it right. I asked him a question. Before I start the day before I put my feet on the ground asked the question I fully intend and expect God to answer for me before I put my feet back into my bed. And that's a thing that I would never want to be able to miss my time with God every day because he's the one that gives me these ideas in the first place.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 53:00

Number four, what is a personal trait about you that has helped you significantly in your business?

Mignon François 53:07

I would think it's my smile. I've been smiling like everyone is watching for a really long time. It's something that I talk about in my book made from scratch, finding success without a recipe is that I hope you will smile like everyone is watching. When I was losing everything I had, I was still smiling when I'm in that gym. And I don't feel like going because I need to elongate my life. And because my cholesterol is high because it because naturally from my legacy. It's that way.

I'm still smiling when I was getting a divorce. And I was and I was going through a very nasty divorce. I was still smiling. Because when people ask you how they're doing is sort of how you're doing sort of like a rhetorical question, how are you today? They really don't want to know. And so I decided that I would let my smile be what people needed, because those people would come back and bring me what I needed. And so I started giving out hugs and smiles no matter how I felt on the inside.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 54:08

Yes. That's an important reminder. And I love smiling. Number five, so now what is your parting advice for fellow women entrepreneurs who wants to be their own boss but are worried about losing that steady paycheck?

Mignon François 54:26

Oh my gosh, becoming an entrepreneur doesn't mean that you're gonna be your own boss. It means that so many more people are gonna be the boss of you. But I want them to know that it truly is the access to freedom. I believe that being an entrepreneur is freedom at its finest and I would say whatever it takes to get there take it. I teach my team that I am not their boss, I am their client because they are in the business of their own labor. So even if they only have one client that being me the cupcake collection, they still are In charge of their lives. And so for them, they understand to look at my business differently because they are in charge of themselves. And so I would say that getting becoming an entrepreneur doesn't mean that you'll get to be your own boss. But it does mean that you get to serve a lot more people. And when you come with an attitude of service, it leaves room for a lot to fall into your hands.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 55:25

Amen. Amen. That is quite a note to end on. And I think it's such a powerful reminder, I saw a quote recently about in Psalm that it's really not about the money it's about getting to live life on your own terms. And I always tell you guys how much flexibility and freedom has been so helpful for me these last few years, especially since becoming a mom and I wouldn't trade it for anything so I'm gonna do what I need to do to keep being able to have that freedom so that was a word what you just said. Now when people continue to get these gems to continue to connect with you, Mignon and the cupcake collection after this episode, yes,

Mignon François 56:07

thank you for asking so they can hop on Amazon and purchase my new book made from scratch by this assess without a recipe and then reviewing it there propels it into a higher highs. They can also visit Instagram and find me on Mignon dot Francoise that's m IG in O N dot F ra n C O I S and then the cupcake collection at the cupcake collection.com We ship our cupcakes nationwide and we've been voted as the best cake and Tennessee the best cake in Louisiana and we ranking in the top 10 in the entire nation.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 56:42

Okay, hello. Hello, guys. We're gonna link to all of that. Get your cupcakes. All right. And thank you again for being in the guest chair. It was absolute pleasure. And there you have it. Hey guys, thanks for listening to side hustle Pro. If you like the show, be sure to subscribe rate and review on Apple podcasts. It helps other side hustlers just like you to find the show. And if you want to hear more from me, you can follow me on Instagram at side hustle Pro. Plus sign up for my six bullet Saturday newsletter at side hustle Pro, that CO slash newsletter. When you sign up, you will receive weekly nuggets from me, including what I'm up to personal lessons and my business tip of the week. Again, that side hustle pro.co/newsletter to sign up. Talk to you soon.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Meet the host:

Nicaila Matthews-Okome

Hi! I’m Nicaila, the Creator and Host of the Side Hustle Pro Podcast. I started Side Hustle Pro when I was a side hustler myself. I was a digital marketer at NPR by day, side hustler by night. Through the powerful stories shared on this show and the courage to launch my own initiatives, I was able to quit my own job and go full time with Side Hustle Pro.

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