From Single Mom to Baking Buns to Benevolent Benefactor

Franklin’s own “Bun Lady,” Cordia Harrington

The moniker “Bun Lady” makes Franklin resident Cordia Harrington chuckle. Good-natured, gracious, approachable and generous, Cordia laughs, “It is not the name I would have chosen” but was bestowed upon her by her Leadership Nashville classmates, and it stuck.

Listed at number 93 on Forbes magazine's list of 100 wealthiest self-made women in 2020, Cordia is the CEO of Crown Bakeries, a
high-speed baking company that bakes over 15 million baked goods daily.

As a single mom with three boys under the age of five, Cordia recalls those early years filled with mornings spent crying on her drive to work and nights crying herself to sleep, yet there is nothing she would change. In Cordia’s view, “The bad stuff molded me. It gave me the chance to rally. It challenged me to think differently. I had to zig and zag and bootstrap so much of my life. It is all part of the fabric of who I am today.”

During college, an exchange student program helped Cordia understand the global world. Such a life-changing experience, Cordia sponsors exchange student programs for 60-70 students annually at Belmont University and the University of Arkansas. As a McDonalds franchisee, Cordia was asked to join the 'Bun Board.' “I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt I was to be a baker for McDonald's. ‘No’ was not an option. I highly recommend that every person follow that voice inside of us even when it doesn’t make sense.” And her plan to be a bun baker for McDonalds probably didn’t make sense since Cordia had no manufacturing experience. But that internal voice kept Cordia moving forward.

Coming to Tennessee to start the Tennessee Bun Company, she felt welcomed and accepted. “This state, this community, this town - they gave me the love and support to be my best self and I am so grateful.” And for all her blessings, Cordia gives back at every opportunity. “I love seeing the sparkle in somebody who is really trying to make their life better and their family's life better. I love to come alongside them. If I can better their life, I don’t care if they stay with us or they go somewhere else.”

Each year, Cordia uses money from her speaking engagements to take women “with a sparkle in their eyes” on an all-expense paid trip to St. Thomas. With tears welling up in her eyes, Cordia recounts how she felt “honored and unworthy” when more than 40 women she took on those trips flew from all parts of the United States to attend the unveiling of The C.O.R.D (Create Opportunities Reach Goals) Cordia Harrington Center for Excellence at the University of Arkansas last month.

Constantly and generously giving back, Cordia and her husband Tom are donating their time, talent, and resources to chair Williamson County's Heritage Ball with an aggressive goal to raise one million dollars for future preservation projects. Considering Cordia’s drive, grit, and determination, there is no doubt she will accomplish this goal just as she has accomplished every other goal she has set for herself.

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