April 20, 2016 at 1:30pm
Dane Lisser

Learning the Art of Entrepreneurship

Cordia Harrington, CEO and founder of The Bakery Companies, believes trust and respect are two important aspects when it comes to owning a business.

Harrington and her husband, C. Thomas Harrington '70, shared lessons of business ownership with Millikin University entrepreneurship students on April 19 during a course titled The Art of Entrepreneur.

The course requires students to start a business during the semester and sell products in an attempt to meet a sales goal.

"I believe that if you know you're an entrepreneur, then you have to go with your instinct," Harrington said while speaking with a group of students. "I refer to entrepreneurship as resourcefulness."

Excellence in Entrepreneurship       

Cordia Harrington was in Decatur, Ill., to be honored by Millikin's Center for Entrepreneurship with the 2016 Excellence in Entrepreneurship Award, presented during an evening ceremony at the Country Club of Decatur on April 19.

Ms. Harrington and Thomas were also the keynote speakers at a luncheon earlier that day in Lower Richards Treat University Center, addressing the family business and being partners in life and business.

"What we've done with our business is set up an open book policy with our customers," Harrington said. "We treat our customers like we're partnering rather than trying to sell to them. This builds a longer term and better partnership over the long haul."

Since students in this course are starting businesses, they get that immediate connection and hopefully it gives them a vision for where they could be down the road.

The Bakery Companies is a highly-automated, high-speed baking company comprised of four plants with six bakery lines, serving elite customers in the United States, South America and the Caribbean. As CEO, Cordia Harrington guides the executive team to successful planning, business development, sales and marketing, and brand management.

Excellence in Entrepreneurship

Prior to founding The Bakery Companies, Ms. Harrington was a McDonald's owner/operator in central Illinois, where she purchased one (and built two additional) award-winning restaurants. As a franchisee, Harrington was purchasing chair for the St. Louis McDonald's region, president of the Springfield, Ill., Ronald McDonald House Board and a member of the Central Illinois Co-op.

Previously, Ms. Harrington founded and developed Concept One Realtors in Russellville, Ark., growing it to include Concept One Construction, a builder of homes and commercial office condominiums.

"All along the way, it's about people, process and prosperity," Harrington said. "Whenever we make more money, we take a certain percent of it and give it to things we are passionate about. The amount of lives that we can impact, change and give opportunities to is what drives us. Everybody enjoys aspiring and reaching goals together." 

Excellence in Entrepreneurship

Tom Harrington is a 1970 Millikin graduate and a member of the Millikin Board of Trustees. Born, raised and educated in Decatur, Tom started his working career with a local public accounting firm in Decatur. In 1982, Tom established Thomas Harrington & Company, a regional accounting firm serving clients from St. Louis to Chicago, until its eventual sale in December 1997.

After his firm's sale, Tom and Cordia established a wholesale bakery manufacturing company originally located in Dickson, Tenn., called Tennessee Bun Company. Tennessee Bun Company is one of the most automated bakeries in the world, serving over 35 million dozen buns annually. Tom serves as chief operating officer and chief financial officer and is involved in the strategic leadership of the company. 

Excellence in Entrepreneurship

Andy Heise, associate director of Millikin's Center for Entrepreneurship, said, "At Millikin, students know entrepreneurship is important. To actually hear from an entrepreneur that has a tie to Millikin and Decatur, and to hear their story, brings it all to life. Since students in this course are starting businesses, they get that immediate connection and hopefully it gives them a vision for where they could be down the road."  

Click here to read more about Cordia and Tom Harrington's visit to Millikin in an article from the Herald & Review.