One day Francois had a line of customers outside the door when she looked up and saw a worker from the Nashville Electric Service (NES) company about to cut off the house’s electricity.
“I signaled my husband,” Francois said. “He begged the guy, ‘Please don’t cut off our service. My wife is finally making something happen.’”
The guy agreed to give them 30 minutes to come up with $2,000. A frantic Francois called her mother, who didn’t even know about the bakery. Miraculously, her mother was able to get money out of a retirement fund and pay the bill. The next time the NES guys came, said Francois, it was to buy cupcakes and become regular customers ordering from flavors like Sweet Lemonade, Sweet Potato and Key Lime Coconut.
But the crowds didn’t show up immediately.
“I kept getting up, baking and opening the door at 7 a.m.,” said Francois. “I had some days I earned $17. I remember the first time I made $100 in a week, then a $100 day, then $1,000 a day. Now, if I just made just $1,000 in a day I’d cry.
Today, The Cupcake Collection employs 12 people at two locations and also sells sweets from a colorful bus. Their once-condemned house is now a solid, lovely painted bakery. The family’s new home is in the Nashville suburb of Hermitage.
All of the Francois’s six children have worked in the business. The older children have left home, leaving only an 11-year-old son at home now.
Dillon Francois, 20, returns home from Middle Tennessee State University two days a week to help out. As a teen, he stood outside trying to get customers to step inside the bakery. Later, he worked the cash register.
Dillon still finds it unbelievable that his mother is baking. “She taught me anything you want to do you can if you just keep working at it.”
The bakery is known not only for selling sweets but also for doling out sweetness. And Dillon learned early that his mother expected him to show people kindness if he was going to work with her.
“You have to be good-hearted to even touch the cash register,” said Dillon. “She wants people to feel the love when they walk in the bakery.”
And his father adds: “We give hugs—and we speak. You wouldn’t believe how many people don’t get any signs of affection.”
Of course, the Francois family gives back part of what it has been given. They have a scholarship fund in their name at Tennessee State University, have helped college bound students raise tuition money and hold regular fundraisers for various causes.
Said A. E. Francois, “When you have lived on Ramen noodles, you can tell when someone is hungry…”.
“I just want people to know there is so much power in believing that if you just start walking with faith, anything is possible,” said Mignon Francois. “When I started walking, I discovered God was a step in front of me, saying, ‘Come on child, I’m waiting on you.’”