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Welcome to the WISE newsletter, a program of
The Falcone Center for Entrepreneurship at Syracuse University

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

WISE2006: How Single Mom Bread Winner...Became Bun Lady

Cordia Harrington, Founder, Tennessee Bun Company spoke about her career and entrepreneurship.

Harrington has started several companies. She is a former a real estate agent (and started a real estate company in the early 1980s in Arkansas). Frustrated about construction companies not finishing houses on-time, she started her own construction company. In the late 1980s, she met someone who owned a McDonald’s and was impressed to meet people who owned a McDonald’s!

When her life began to change, she decided to use her energy to take her to the next level. She then invested in a McDonald’s franchise as a way of having a more stable life. Owner/operators spend 2,200 hours training before owning a restaurant. They learn every job in the restaurant. It wasn’t easy, but she persevered. In 1990, she was picked to be the owner of a McDonald’s in Illinois. Owning was not easy at first and so to help increase business, she bought a Greyhound bus franchise, put it on the corner, which brought in business (bus riders). (BTW she eventually had three McDonalds.)

Once she landed on the McDonald’s bun committee, she found her calling! When McDonald’s wanted to open another bakery, she lobbied to be the person to run it. She started the bakery in 1996. The bakery now makes 1,000 buns per minute. Her company is the fastest automated bakery in the world. Her clients include KFC, Chili’s, and McDonald’s. Her bun company also makes Pepperidge Farm cookies. She also purchased a trucking company, to haul the buns (BLT – Bun Lady Transport).

One interesting point is that she did not have a contract with McDonald’s for the buns. It was a handshake contract. When the industry went through a lull, she sought a permission to not be an exclusive supplier to McDonald’s, but to service other companies.

Next year, she will build her third bakery. Obviously, her business is increasing, including her trucking business.

Talking about a recent trip, she quoted her cab driver who said (my paraphrase), “Without the disappointments in our lives, we can’t appreciate the good times. Instead of spending energy being disappointed, use that energy to take yourself to the next level.” There is not an easy path for an entrepreneur. You will have huge problems. Persist. Have passion.

During the Q&A period, she mentioned that she has helped past and current employees succeed. That is a great message – we truly need to help each other in order to be successful.

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