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Picture of Parren J. Mitchell
Parren J. Mitchell

Though a humble and kind man, former U.S. Representative Parren Mitchell's chosen symbol is a bulldog. Affectionately known as the "Godfather of Minority Business Enterprise," he sponsored and pushed through Congress major legislation that knocked down barriers to allow minorities to obtain major federal government and private-sector contracts.

Mitchell is credited with directing billions of dollars and priceless experience to an eager, entrepreneurial community through protective legislation. Many of the laws have since been weakened by presidential orders and acts of Congress, but the impact of the positive first encounters linger. Fostered by Mitchell's bill during his congressional tenure from 1971 to 1987, many government and corporate ties to the minority entrepreneurial community still remain.

Mitchell's vision for future African American entrepreneurs is fresh, rigorous and challenging. He says businesses are matching formal education, training and better capitalization with some of the same survival skills that made their predecessors successful. The future is one of joint ventures -- pooling the talents of engineers, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, for example, to create new technologies and new uses for existing ones. Larger, well-capitalized businesses will adopt diversification strategies, taking advantage of young talent in the marketplace.

Before leaving Congress, Mitchell founded the Minority Business Enterprise Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc., a non-profit, public interest law firm and membership advocacy organization, which enables him to continue his work.

In 1995, he said he sensed a new spirit among African American entrepreneurs, "They are cognizant of the hostility facing them, but they also have a new sense of power and success, which makes this a very exciting time."

Back to 1995