March 23, 2015 12:00 PM

My American Dream


CORDIA HARRINGTON / Founder & CEO, The Bun Companies

Cordia Harrington remembers the way her mother scrimped to buy her one pair of shoes every year – and how she got her clothes as hand-me-downs from a wealthy cousin. “I’m such a glass-full kind of girl, I wasn’t ashamed,” says Harrington, whose father worked as a salesman by day and cleaned floors at night to make ends meet after the family settled in St. Louis. “I knew I was loved. My parents saw hope and potential in us.” Harrington, 61, more than realized that potential, growing up to found the Bun Companies, a $100 million annual business in Nashville that bakes 7 million rolls, muffins, biscuits and buns a day for clients like McDonald’s, Pepperidge Farm and KFC.

First taste of success: In the fifth grade Harrington started her own neighbor-hood daycare center, charging a quarter per kid per week. “I was always driven,” she says. After graduating college, she used all $587 of her savings to launch a real estate business and later parlayed that into a string of McDonald’s franchises.

Days of doubt: After her first marriage broke up in 1988, Harrington was left in debt, raising three boys, ages 7 and under. “I was scared to death. Many mornings driving to work, tears would be streaming down my face as I watched the sun come up.”

Words she lives by: “Just don’t give up,” says Harrington. “People will say, ‘You’re nuts,’ but if you have something in your heart, go for it.”

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