Cordia Harrington, founder and CEO of the Bun Companies, shared stories from her career journey on Monday in a talk in Neely on “Living Your Dream Life,” the finale convocation in this year’s Belmont and Beyond series from Career Services.
The 2009 Nashville Business Journal Woman of Influence opened her talk by encouraging graduating seniors to be vigilant in the pursuit of their dreams, recognizing that the present economic situation is just one of many career hurdles that will be faced in their lifetimes. “Nobody’s life is perfect. Nobody’s dream becomes a reality without some upsets along the way.”
Harrington went on to relate tales from her own professional life, dating back to when she bartered for office space and leased furniture to open a real estate company in Arkansas in 1980. A construction company and three McDonald’s franchises later, Harrington determined to start her own business after realizing at a McDonald’s committee meeting that bakery suppliers couldn’t keep up with demand. Soon thereafter, in 1996, she borrowed $15 million and opened the Tennessee Bun Company, which now is one of the most highly automated bakeries in the world, producing 1,000 buns per minute.
“The American dream is a journey. You have to be flexible, and you have to be resourceful.”
In addition to Tennessee Bun Company, the Bun Companies now include the Nashville Bun Company, Bun Lady Transport (BLT), Cold Storage of Nashville and Cornerstone Baking Company. Harrington and the Bun Companies have been nationally recognized in many media outlets, including the “CBS Early Show,” ABC’s “Money Matters” and “NBC Nightly News.” In 2007, Nashville Bun Company was honored by a visit from President George W. Bush, who later noted about his visit, “I found a strong spirit of enterprise. Risk-takers like Cordia create jobs and opportunities for their fellow citizens and show the world the power of the American Dream.”