Before May 2019, Jaclyn Robinson had only made beignets for her family. She didn’t make them often, just when the mood struck her.
But for years the name Mo’Bay Beignet Co. had floated in and out of her mind.
The mother of five is a communicator and photographer with a marketing degree. She loves to create and has the tendency to want to name and market ideas.
“I’m the mom that if asked to head up the school bake sale, says, ‘Well I probably need a website, I probably need a logo. We probably need to brand this bake sale.’ It can’t ever be simple unforturnately,” she said.
In April of 2019, during a college campus visit in California with one of her three daughters, a couple asked if they could pray for Jaclyn.
The husband said something nonsensical to Jaclyn at the time: “I feel like you’re entering into a new season, and I hear a celebration, and it has a jazzy feel, in terms of music. I’m hearing the word math, and I’m seeing a lot of numbers, and I’m hearing the words it doesn’t add up.” Then, he added, “I feel like I’m just really supposed to encourage you strongly to move forward, if something doesn’t add up.”
A month later when her daughter got the acceptance letter for the California college, Jaclyn said God told her “now.”
“I just knew instantly, Mo’Bay Beignet Company,” she said. “I didn’t know what that meant, or what that looked like exactly, but I just knew ‘now’ is the time.”
She started packaging her beignet mix and putting her homemade buttercream and cinnamon syrups in jars, labeling both with the name Mo’Bay Beignet Co., and selling them on Facebook as a fundraiser to send her daughter to her dream college.
A day after her first Facebook post, Domke Market, a west Mobile wine shop specializing in boutique and gourmet products, called to say its customers would love to buy her mixes and syrups. The products were a hit and more stores called.
By September of 2019, Mo’Bay Beignet Co.’s mixes and syrups were in Priester’s Pecans on Interstate 65 and people from all over wanted more.
But the fundraiser turned wholesale business wore Jaclyn out.
“I was ready to quit,” she said. “As far as looking at the cost to produce everything I was producing, and then sell them at wholesale prices, it just wasn’t making sense.”
She sat at her kitchen table looking at receipts, figuring profit and loss margins and said out loud, “This does not add up.”
Suddenly, the meaning of the man’s remarks in California became crystal clear.
“I prayed about it and felt certain that the next step was a brick and mortar” store, she said.
“Being a light and source of joy in every community Mo’Bay enters is what it’s all about. I truly desire to make cities sweeter in more ways than one.”
While praying, walking and looking for a site, at the corner of Dauphin and Hamilton streets, Jaclyn encountered buildings with wrought iron balconies shading the sidewalks. “This looks like something out of the French Quarter,” she thought.
At 451 Dauphin St., she saw a “For Rent by Owner” sign in a beautiful corner building and called. The out-of-state owner who maintains a vacation apartment above the street-level shop immediately became enamored with her idea for a beignet cafe.
The problem was to fry and serve beignets in a boutique space meant bringing the building up to code, which meant more money and more work.
After leaving the city’s planning department, she sat in her car parked at Mobile’s Mardi Gras Park and asked God, “Are you sure 451 Dauphin Street is where you want your company to be?” She pulled out of the parking space and at the light in front her was a car with a sticker simply reading “451.”
“Quickest confirmation I’d ever received,” said Jaclyn. “I took a huge leap of faith.”
Mardi Gras launch
Thanks to “several blessings and miracles along the way,” she signed a lease in October. Mo’Bay Beignet Co. had its grand opening Feb. 6, 2020.
On the first official day of Mardi Gras in Mobile that year, 500 people waited patiently in line to get warm beignets covered in powdered sugar with homemade dipping syrup.
In the two years since, Mo’Bay Beignet Co. has added two other locations in the Mobile area, one in west Mobile and another in Saraland. Mo’Bay Beignet Co. operates in Auburn, Orange Beach and Tuscaloosa as well. It also as a location in Hattiesburg, Miss., and one coming in this summer in Memphis, Tenn. The business also has two food trucks and sells during home games inside Jordan Hare Stadium. What Jaclyn calls the company’s “tsunami of success” resulted in Mo’Bay Beignet Co. being chosen as the 2022 Alabama Emerging Retailer of the Year.
Mo’Bay Beignet has grown through “100% word of mouth and social media” marketing, said Jaclyn.
“I have this amazing volunteer marketing army,” she said of her customers, who “organically began taking pictures of the logo wall and ‘This Way to Beignets’ sign” in each store and sharing them on social media.
“I still have to pinch myself when I think about the success Mo’Bay Beignet Co. has seen in such a short period of time,” said Jaclyn. “I am thankful every day that the Lord blessed me with this company, and He is growing, improving and using it in so many ways.”
Number of Employees
85 corporate, 130 with franchises
I’ve always relied on my faith and personal relationship with Jesus. I don’t look to a single person as a trusted advisor, but I have a handful of people from various walks of life whom I’m thankful to know. I will consult with them from time to time for different perspectives.
Stepping out on faith to open Mo’Bay Beignet Co. in downtown Mobile in 2020.
My learning moments have primarily been relational. Business is built with and by people. To the best of your ability, choose your people wisely.
Everything is hard. Pick your hard. Nothing worth having will ever be easy.
MEMBER SINCE 2020
Mo’Bay Beignet Co. sells fresh, from-scratch beignets with signature buttercream, cinnamon or seasonal syrups on the side along with coffee & chicory and café au lait at its seven locations.
This article is the cover story
of the February 2023 Alabama Retailer.
MORE ABOUT MO’BAY BEIGNET CO.