Introducing our keynote speaker: Cordia Harrington

Cordia Harrington CEO, The Bakery Cos.

Cordia Harrington did not have a “strategic plan” to a become powerful leader in the baking industry. But in 1993, as a McDonald’s Owner/Operator and a Member of the MoKan Bun Committee, she was introduced to the ground floor of a bakery, she knew this was where she was meant to be. She fell in love with the process, the people and the pace of Baking.

She learned of McDonald’s need for diversity in their supplier chain. So she volunteered to “become their new baker” even though she had no prior experience as a baker. What she lacked in prior knowledge, she made up with persistence. Four years and over 30 interviews later, Cordia had worked her way towards becoming a McDonald’s Baker.

Getting her foot in the door as a supplier was just the first step. She poured all her resources and then some into creating the Tennessee Bun Company in 1996. This new venture came with its share of setbacks and issues. One major challenge was production volume. Cordia remembers the production forecast was over 40hr/week, but when the plant opened is was only  28 hours a week for the first 18 months. Just keeping the bakery afloat was most difficult.

Building an Empire

Over the years, however, her company not only stayed afloat, but thrived. Today, Cordia is CEO of The Bakery Cos., that encompasses the Tennessee Bun Company, Nashville Bun Company, Cold Storage of Nashville and CornerStone Baking Company and Masada. The Bakery Cos. has customers in the U.S., South America, and the Caribbean. They supply products to some of the largest food companies—McDonalds, Five Guys, Whole Foods, Perkins and Pepperidge Farm, just to name a few. It’s no wonder Cordia is fondly known as the Bun Lady.

The plant now turns out over eight million baked goods every day, with more than 500 employees.

Cordia’s legacy will be more than just buns, however. She has worked to make a difference in the industry that won her heart, and loves helping others find success and new opportunities. Together with her husband and business partner Tom, Cordia has helped at least 70 students with scholarships, and assisted 17 former employees and friends in becoming McDonald’s Owner/Operators.

Cordia’s proudest accomplishment? Seeing her children move into the business and carry on down the trail she blazed.

A love for the baking industry

20 years later, and Cordia still loves working in the baking industry and all that it is. In a recent interview she said, “The ‘art and science’ is challenging everyday…no two days are the same.  If a person wants a career that allows them to move around, move up and work among great talent—this is the right industry!”

Listen to Cordia at the annual Society of Woman Bakers Event on February 25, 2018 in Chicago, Il. Sign up for the event.