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She Was Down to Her Last $5. Now She Runs a Multi-Million Dollar Cupcake Business. On this inspiring episode of "Behind the Review," listen to Mignon Francois's journey from living off of $5 to owning a multi-million dollar cupcake business and becoming a successful author.

By Emily Washcovick

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Courtesy of The Cupcake Collection

In 2008, Mignon Francois and her family of eight were down to their last five dollars when her neighbor put in a large order for cupcakes from her bakery The Cupcake Collection. It was an order that, if unpaid for, would leave her family destitute.

From that order, Mignon made $60. In a week, she turned it into $600. Fast forward 15 years, and The Cupcake Collection is now a multi-million dollar business with locations in Nashville and New Orleans.

Related: This Entrepreneur Needed an Affordable Vacation and Wound Up Inventing a Thriving Business

Since turning that first five dollars into millions, Mignon has become a successful author and speaker. Earlier this year, she released a new book, Made from Scratch: Finding Success Without a Recipe, about her personal and professional journey.

"I wrote the book because a lot of people were sharing my story, but they weren't always getting the facts right. If you don't give people a story, they'll make up one for you," Mignon said. "I wanted to be the author of my own story, and I wanted to write it down so that others could know what they could do if they believe."

When Mignon started The Cupcake Collection, she barely knew how to bake, had no funding, and was working in a little-known area of Nashville called Germantown. However, she was motivated to provide a better life for her children, so she put in the hard work and research to make herself a great baker.

As The Cupcake Collection grew its customer base and Mignon started winning awards for her cupcakes, Germantown turned into a destination for Nashville regulars and tourists. To this day, The Cupcake Collection has been entirely self-funded, and Mignon has never asked for a loan. Her strategy was to take small steps throughout her business journey.

"A lot of times we're in the situation and we think we're supposed to be further than we are, or we're looking around at everybody else and seeing how they got to where they are, and we're trying to catch up," Mignon said. "As I've been learning in the process, I've been picking up little wins. I've been taking little steps."

After years of both business achievements and obstacles, like the pandemic, Mignon said having faith and an optimistic attitude is what got her through the ups and downs of entrepreneurship. She tries to inscribe a "winning" mindset in her employees and two of her children, who now run The Cupcake Collection's operations.

With her children in charge of the business, Mignon has more time to focus on her writing career and speaking engagements. She also devotes time to mentoring women working at The Cupcake Collection and in her community.

"Now, I want to show other young women that they can do it too," Mignon said. "I'm going to set up a corporate ladder, and I'm going to hold it at the bottom and let them climb so that they know that they won't fall because I'm down here holding it for them."

As Mignon reflects on 15 years of The Cupcake Collection, she shares her tips for business success, including:

  • Turn doubters into supporters. When Mignon first started The Cupcake Collection, she won over a hesitant customer by making her a special red velvet cake, the customer's favorite flavor. Mignon maintained this same dedicated attitude toward customer service as her business grew.
  • Be authentic and transparent to build customer trust. Mignon is honest and upfront to her staff and customers when she makes a mistake. She lives by the belief that customers will sense authenticity in your business and sniff out if you are being ingenuine.
  • Focus on collaboration, not competition. Partner with other businesses or organizations in your community rather than spending energy comparing your business to others. Mignon encourages all her staff, especially her kids, to work cohesively rather than trying to one up each other.
  • Learn the difference between constructive and blatant criticism. Mignon recommends that if feedback is not constructive to you, do not use it. Learn from reviews as an experience to propel yourself forward and don't let criticism bring you down.

Listen to the episode below to hear directly from Mignon, and subscribe to Behind the Review for more from new business owners and reviewers every Thursday. You can also listen to our 2021 episode with Mignon.

Available on: Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, and Soundcloud.

Emily Washcovick

Small Business Expert at Yelp

As Yelp’s Small Business Expert, Emily is meticulously focused on helping local business owners succeed and grow. Her expertise lies in customer engagement, reputation management, and all things digital marketing. Through speaking engagements and thought leadership, Emily shares industry insights that entrepreneurs in any business category can leverage for the growth and well-being of their businesses. She is also the host of Behind the Review, a podcast from Yelp and Entrepreneur Media, where each episode features conversations with a business owner and a reviewer about the story and lessons behind their interactions.

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