Local woman becomes pioneer in a male-dominated industry

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — In honor of Black History month, FOX13′s Family Focus is taking a moment to recognize the impact of contributions by African American’s in our community.

She is a pioneer in a male-dominated industry, whose resilence comes from determination and never taking no as an answer.

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FOX13 honors business leader Carolyn Chism Hardy who’s paving the way for the next generation of Mid-South entrepreneurs.

When you grow up poor and black in Memphis, often your chances of success are poor. Raised in Orange Mound, Hardy is one of 16 children. Hardy said her mother knew education was her key to more in life.

“My mom had a cycle of success,” Hardy said. “She wanted us to understand that success is our choice and not somebody else’s, not her now where she was from, but it was our choice.”

She said her mission from the beginning was investing in our community, never settling, and getting to the top.

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At the age of 20, her journey began at the Smucker’s facility as the first Black accountant. Hardy quickly set her sights on becoming the first black plant manager at a facility with the highest cost and worst performance.

“I took all of the data from Smucker’s, dumped it into a database, analyzed all of the problems we were having with quality, and I found 80% of the problems were caused by 2-3 decisions,” she said.

She moved the plant to 24-hours a day, having the lowest cost and best performing. Her ability to turn a crisis around is how she became known as a fixer, and it’s also why Coors Brewing in Memphis came calling.

Within two years, she cut the company’s cost by $20-million, earning the highest company award.

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“Environmental health and safety award, we actually won the highest award in the whole company ever, and nobody thought we could ever win the award, but we took it home,” Hardy said.

Yet, she said the company still decided to close.

Hardy leaned on resilience and bought the Coors Brewing Company creating Hardy Bottling Company.

Before selling her company for a multi-million dollar profit in 2009, she was still focused on what’s best for Memphis.

“I love Memphis, and I knew that the brewery would hire a lot of black people, just to be real, they’re sitting right in the center of Hickory Hill, and they’re going to hire from the community they sit in, and I knew they were going to pay a great wage,” she said.


Hardy currently runs four different companies and believes there is still more to do.

She shares every challenge, bit of knowledge she has with the next generation, believing success may not be simple but should never be impossible.

“I want more for our community than what we are getting, is that why you never left, I’m going to stay here until I get it right,” Hardy said.

She is currently the chair of the Federal Reserve-Memphis branch.

Hardy’s companies have invested millions of dollars in the Memphis community.