Cindy Reese Mitchell’s (NC ’99) journey to her current position as Founding Chief Executive Officer of Mill House Ventures in Canberra, Australia, began when she was a girl growing up in Macon County, Alabama. As a high school student, her passion for service was already stirring within her, so when the time came to apply to university, Tulane was one of her top choices. She received a full academic scholarship, choosing to major in sociology and economics.
“My Tulane experience was foundational for the person I have become. I felt that from the moment I walked into Newcomb Hall, I had found my belonging place. I had amazing women around me, and they showed me a way that I could give back through dedicated service,” said Mitchell.
In 2003 she traveled to Australia on what was to be a six-month contract and has lived there ever since. Mitchell’s goal of using business to create measurable social change resulted in her first endeavor into social entrepreneurship, the creation of No Sweat Fashions. This organization provides employment, training and social engagement for migrant and refugee women living in the Canberra area.
In 2016 Mitchell was asked by the University of Canberra to write a business plan to build a social enterprise community hub. She suggested a different approach, one that would promote a community of social innovators, and Mill House Ventures, a social enterprise business development consultancy, was born. Mill House provides training in the principles of business and social entrepreneurship and assists aspiring social innovators to establish these hybrid businesses through the Social Enterprise Accelerator Program and the Mill House Clinic.
During the COVID-19 lockdown in Canberra, Mitchell’s dedication to serving her community was once again demonstrated when she partnered with local service organizations to establish the Canberra Relief Network. The network was a response to the overwhelming need for emergency food relief during a critical phase of the pandemic.
Mitchell’s outstanding work, inspiring women and girls across the Canberra region, has received much well-deserved attention, and she was selected as the 2020 ACT (Australian Capital Territory) Woman of the Year. She recalled the evening of the awards ceremony vividly:
“After the ceremony, I had many women of color come up to me, saying ‘We won!’ It meant so much to them to see a Black woman, an immigrant, settle in a new community and make a contribution that is recognized. That makes me proud. It’s the culmination of all the women who loved and encouraged me. Now, it’s my time to be that to the next generation.”