Abraham S. Venable
Abraham S. Venable

Abraham S. Venable dedicated himself to improving the position of minorities in all facets of GM's operations from employment opportunities to minority supplier and dealers. In his role as executive director of Urban Affairs, he also encouraged the corporation to "more effectively address social and economic issues affecting minorities.

Born in Washington, D.C., Mr. Venable is a graduate of Howard University with a B.A. and a M.A. in economics. From 1968-69, he was nominated by the U.S. Department of Commerce to participate in the Fellow Program at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. In 1983 he was selected by GM to participate in the Senior Executive Program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology which included 50 executives from 20 countries.

Mr. Venable joined the U.S. Department of Commerce in 1963 and served in a number of assignments before becoming the first minority director of the Office of Minority Business Enterprise (now the Minority Business Development Agency). While there he oversaw the beginning of a massive concerted effort to bring minorities into the mainstream of American business.

Among his numerous awards, he has been honored by the Opportunities Industrialization Centers of America with its OIC Humanitarian Award and awards for outstanding service from the NAACP and the National Urban League. One of several awards from Howard University included the Minority Business Advocacy Award from the school's Small Business Development Center. Recently, the U.S. Department of Commerce awarded Mr. Venable it first Lifetime Achievement Award.

He also holds honorary degrees from Shaw College in Detroit, Grand Valley State College in Michigan, and is an honorary member of Beta Gamma Sigma, a business fraternity at Howard University.

In addition to several trips to African nations to increased trade with the U.S. while with the government, Mr. Venable visited the Republic of South Africa to attend a conference sponsored by the U.S. South African Leadership Exchange Program and to visit GM facilities in Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg.

Mr. Venable is the author of several articles dealing with black businessmen as well as a book, Building Black Business -- An Analysis and a Plan . All rights and proceeds from the sale of the book were assigned to Howard University to establish a scholarship fund in his name. As a result of this, two $100,000 endowment have been established -- one for the School of Business and one for the Jazz Ensemble in the School of Music.

Currently, Mr. Venable serves a chairman of the Institute for American Business, a non-profit organization which he founded. IAB is primarily concerned with developing non-traditional business opportunities for minorities.

Mr. Venable is married to Dr. Anna G. Venable and they have three children -- Karen, Douglas and Stephen.

Al Dawson
Al Dawson

A native of Louisville, Kentucky, Al Dawson received his undergraduate degree from Virginia State University and his master's degree from the University of Louisville. He served as an officer in the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers in Germany from 1960 to 1963.

As one of the founding members of the National Minority Supplier Development Council, he served in virtually every position of leadership in the organization until his retirement after 25 years in 1997.

Those positions included president and chief executive offi cer of the New York/New Jersey Purchasing Council; vice president of Northeast Region, NMSDC; a member of National Board of Directors and the Executive Committee; chairman of the General Assembly of Councils; and chairman of the Orange County Regional Purchasing Council (California).

When the NMSDC was formed in Washington, D.C. in 1974, Mr. Dawson drafted its first charter or Scope of Work, which guided the activities of all councils.

Newport Beach, Calif., which later merged with Lockheed Martin Aerospace. His program received the rating of "Outstanding" for 16 consecutive years by the U.S. Small Business Administration. In 1984, Mr. Dawson received the Small Business Administration Corporate Leadership Award from President Ronald Regan at the White House, Washington, D.C.

Today, Al is retired and resides with his wife Lee in Aliso Viejo, Calif. He has one daughter, Raven (Jessica) Dawson who lives in San Clemente, Calif.

Alexis Herman
Alexis Herman

Alexis Herman, who served as secretary of Labor in the administration of President Bill Clinton -- the first African American in that Cabinet position -- offers a high-level resume in government service and private enterprise.

Her top positions mirror a career of accomplishment. As secretary of Labor, Herman was responsible for regulating areas like labor and employment, pensions and workplace safety. But ask Herman about her some of her accomplishments and what truly stands out in her career, and she will tell you about her work as a 20-something advocate for women as head the Department of Labor's Women's Bureau in the administration of President Jimmy Carter.

In that role, Herman, inducted into the Minority Business Hall of Fame for 2007, challenged corporations to makes diversity in hiring a priority. During her tenure, Herman launched and advocated training programs to give women skill sets as many of them entered the labor market for the first time, and she pushed for opportunities for women business owners.

Such advocacy for women in the late 1970s was tricky, Herman said in an interview with MBN USA , because at the same time support was fervent to create business opportunities for minority-owned enterprises.

"We still struggle with that today," Herman said, who runs Alexis Herman & Associates, a consultancy from Washington. "We said this is a big pie that we all have to share in and we can't substitute one for the other."

Herman, a graduate of Xavier University in New Orleans, said she is proud to have been in a position as director of the Women's Bureau to co-chair the first women's business owners initiative for the federal government. Legislation followed in 1979 to afford women with more opportunities.

"We had no policies at all in place for doing business with women entrepreneurs. There were no government programs that either encouraged or required the participation of women business owners," Herman said.

Following her stint of service in the Carter Administration, Herman worked actively with

Fortune 500 corporations to assist them in setting up some of the first supplier diversity programs - helping companies to "roll up their sleeves" and get about the business of diversifying their supply bases.

Part of that was changing a corporate mindset that would use the excuse, "We would hire them if only we could find them," Herman said.

"In supplier diversity, we said we've got them and we can find them. You've got to have the commitment to use them," Herman said.

Supplier diversity is no less important today than in the 1970s and 1980s, Herman said. In fact, the stakes are exponentially higher today, she added.

"It's very important that we recognize that the future growth and strength of our country is in direct relationship now to the growth of people of color and women in our country. We need to make sure that we relate to the customer base that is going to be part of the future growth of our country," she said.

Herman, a native of Mobile, Ala, noted the vitality of the small business segment of the U.S. economy, where typically minority- and women-owned businesses are competing.

"When you look within that segment and who are those small business owners, largely they are women entrepreneurs. Small businesses are the biggest the contributors today to job creation in our country. So, minorities and women are key to any kind of economic growth for our country in the future," Herman said.

Herman said access to capital remains a vexing issue today for entrepreneurs, particularly minorities and women.

"We can do a better job particularly in the private sector to strengthen access to capital by looking at more long-term commitments and being clear in terms of contractual relationships and business investments and how you create partnerships that aren't a year or two years. Corporations can really help a business grow by forming real, lasting partnerships," Herman said.

Alfred E. Osborne
Alfred E. Osborne

Alfred E. Osborne Jr. is responsible for development, alumni relations, placement and career initiatives, and executive education at the UCLA Anderson School of Management. Dr. Osborne is also the founder and faculty director of the highly acclaimed Harold & Pauline Price Center for Entrepreneurial Studies and an associate professor of Global Economics and Management in the UCLA Anderson School. The Price Center serves to organize all faculty research and student activities and curricula related to the study of entrepreneurship and new business development in the UCLA Anderson School. Dr. Osborne also serves as faculty director of the Head Start/Johnson & Johnson Management Fellows Program conducted at UCLA.

Dr. Osborne was educated at Stanford University where he earned a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering, an MBA in finance, a Master of Arts in economics and a Ph.D. in business economics. His research and teaching career include administrative duties at UCLA as an assistant dean, associate dean, and director of the MBA program as well as two years at the Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington, D.C. while an Economic Fellow at the Brookings Institution. In addition to his responsibilities at UCLA, Dr. Osborne is currently a director of Kaiser Aluminum, EMAK Worldwide, Wedbush, Inc. and First Pacific Advisors, LLC.

Dr. Osborne remains active in the entrepreneurial and venture development community, has served on the editorial boards of several scholarly journals, consults with growing companies on business and economic matters and is an occasional expert witness in business litigation. He is also the first recipient of the Richard J. Riordan Spirit of Entrepreneurship Award and is a recipient of the 3rd annual BridgeGate 20 Awards, which recognize contributions to the high technology community in Southern California. In 2004, the faculty of the UCLA Anderson School presented him with the 2004 La Force Award for exemplary service and leadership to the Anderson community. In 2006, he was recognized by MBN USA magazine as one of the 100 most influential men impacting supplier diversity in America. In October 2007, Dr. Osborne was honored to receive the Annual Leadership Award presented by the Southern California Minority Business Development Council, Inc., for his vision, leadership, and distinguished contributions to small and minority-owned businesses.

Anthony W. Robinson
Anthony W. Robinson

Minority Business Enterprise Education
and Legal Defense Fund

Anthony W. Robinson has dedicated his professional career to ensuring that the gains made by the civil rights movements of the last century will be sustained for generations to come.

Upon his graduation from Washington College School of Law in 1973, he immediately embarked on his career as one of the country’s primary advocates for minority-owned businesses as associate legal counsel for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Since then and throughout his career, Robinson has devoted his skill to providing prime legal support to MBEs across the country. Over the years, Robinson has acted as a litigant or Amicus for dozens of cases, including cases before the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of dozens of MBEs.

Since 1984, Robinson has been president of the Minority Business Enterprise Education and Legal Defence Fund, founded by Parren J. Mitchell, the first African American to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from the State of Maryland. He chose Robinson to lead the organization.

MBELDEF, under Robinson, has engaged in activities on behalf of MBEs that have been comprehensive in nature including litigation, testimony before legislative bodies, legal guidance and technical assistance to local, state and federal agencies. He and the organization have actively participated in the passage and preservation of major MBE legislation from P.L. 95-507, P. L. 99-661 and the Disadvantaged Business
Enterprise Program with the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Most recently he was instrumental in mobilizing the public and private sector (i.e. majority corporations) to work in a collaboration to address those public policy issues that impede building capacity in minority enterprises and historically black colleges. He has advised international business organizations relative to their business development strategies including the African National Congress’ Constitutional Committee, the Department of Transportation for the State of Tanzania, the Indigenous Business Organization of Zimbabwe and Integrare the
supplier diversity program in Brazil.