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Bun Lady speaks at Franklin Tomorrows Breakfast with the Mayors

The topic Tuesday at Franklin Tomorrow’s first Breakfast with the Mayors in 2013 was entrepreneurs. According to officials, 20 percent of the workforce in Williamson County is made up of entrepreneurs.

“There is something we are doing that’s different,” said County Mayor Rogers Anderson as he and Franklin Mayor Dr. Ken Moore prepared to introduce guest speaker Cordia Harrington, a Franklin resident and one of the 20 percent.

Known as the “Bun Lady,” Harrington, CEO of Tennessee Bun Company and creator of several small businesses along her path to becoming the Bun Lady, spoke to local businessmen and women, many also entrepreneurs. A native of Arkansas, Harrington is the product of a working-class family instilled with a desire to do well in life and the understanding that hard work was a key factor in her desires becoming reality.

After graduating from the University of Arkansas with a home economics degree, Harrington was determined not to use her degree for cleaning houses. Spending almost all of her savings – a total of $600 – she hung her handmade real estate sign, “Concept One,” over the door of a rented building in Russellville, Ark., population 10,000. That was in 1981 when mortgage interest rates had reached as high as 18 percent.

Instead of complaining, “We made houses look nice and managed to sell some property,” she said.

Eventually she was selling houses faster than contractors could build them, so she started a construction company, which allowed her to control the high quality standards she demanded.

When Harrington found herself a single mother, she realized her biggest challenge – finding time for her young children. She decided to open a McDonald’s restaurant, even though that meant moving to Effington, Ill., population 10,000. Undeterred by the slow business Harrington bought a Greyhound Bus Franchise and put the bus stop on the edge of her restaurant’s property, which “drove business to her door.”

“I became one of the top-40 McDonald’s in the country,” she said.

As a McDonald’s franchise owner-operator, Harrington was part of an advertising group where she was the bun expert and dubbed the Bun Lady.

That was when, “I saw an opportunity to be a part of a global supply chain – and I took it,” she said.

That began Harrington’s next chapter of success and, “Bun’s the word.” The Bun Lady opened The Bun Company in Dickson, Tenn. in 1996 as another recession hit.

Point of fact, since she began building businesses, “We’ve had 19 recessions and 19 recoveries,” she said. “Every business I started was during a down dip in a recession. Now’s the time to put the pedal to the metal.”

Harrington now owns three Bun Companies – among the most automated bakeries in the world producing 1,000 buns a minute to supply McDonald’s, Pepperidge Farm, O’Charley’s and other food distributors with high-quality buns, English muffins, and scoop and bake products.

She also bought a trucking company to ensure her products arrive promptly. Yes, it’s called Bun Lady Trucking.

Being an entrepreneur is 100 percent hard work, she said. And that hard work creates the luck – and 100 percent quality product and employees.

“It’s 100 percent down the line,” she added.

Hire key employees like managers with a record of previous success, recognitions of that success and dealing with tough problems and “Hire people that are smarter than you – you can’t afford not to have them,” Harrington advised entrepreneurs in the audience.


Posted on: 1/31/2013


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