NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Mignon Francois, owner of the Cupcake Collection in Nashville’s Germantown neighborhood, heard she could get out of debt by having a bake sale. But she had one problem: she couldn’t bake. So she picked up an apron and learned how to bake not only for her and her family, but for her community.

“You know at that time, this neighborhood looked a lot different,” Francois told Local On 2. “And so knocking on people’s doors as they moved in, they weren’t sure that I wasn’t going to be asking them for something. So they were always pleasantly surprised when I was offering them something.”

“And so they would come back and knock on my door and ask me for product – what they didn’t know was that I often didn’t have electricity here.”

She said at times her home would be dark as she had to save on gas for her generator and try to keep some sense of normalcy for her kids. Francois ‘bootstrapped this company’ one cupcake at a time to put together a means of income, but also found meaning in life during her hardships.

“It’s that I learn to take the simplest, most basic things that were already had in my house and I think that’s the story that I often want to teach people,” she said.

Francois took about two years to learn her craft and run a business before officially opening. And when she did, she still ran into issues that could have easily been speedbumps for her but she kept persevering.

“I believe there’s a lesson in everything. And if you take so much time to get down on the ground and cry, you’re not moving forward,” said Francois. “Yes it hurts, but I think in the end, everything that’s happening to you, is actually happening for you.”

One thing she wanted to change and reshape was her community how they got help especially for first time entrepreneurs or first-generation Black business owners.

“37208 is known as the most incarcerated zip code in the nation, and with that looking like my community, I wanted to be part of changing the story.”

“We don’t have 500 years of ‘my grandfather did it this way.’ So many of us are the first generation of African Americans that can show our children how business should run. And I want to change the story about what good business looks like in North Nashville – giving opportunity for other people to know what they can do if they believe,” Francois said.

Francois remembers recalling a song she heard one day, and hearing the artist talk about luxury. She thought how come she couldn’t work to have that? But a calling told her that maybe wants and needs are different for each individual, and maybe that her path would look different for a reason.

“And that’s what I learned about successful people – they don’t say ‘oh poor me.’ They don’t play the victim role. What they do is try to see what can they do to work harder or smarter, and that’s what I needed to do. What can I do with what’s in my house, to work smarter and not harder, or to be able to bring something to the table for my family.”

Since starting her journey in 2008, Francois has garnered amazing success, locally and nationally, and even expanding their Germantown location with more pop-up shops and opening a brick and mortar location in New Orleans’ Historic Garden District.

“And that’s what we wanted to be – a lighthouse in the community to show other people what good business looks like, and I think we’ve done that,” she said.