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Barbara Anne Gardenhire-Mills

Cooperative Business Assistance Corporation

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Cooperative Business Assistance Corporation


Barbara Anne Gardenhire-Mills is a seasoned community & economic development and training & coaching professional with well over two decades of experience in the government, non-profit and corporate arenas, and a passion for helping others connect with their core purpose and goals personally and professionally through being a "resources navigator" and "servant leader." Barbara Anne currently serves as a Director of Compliance & Engagement for the Cooperative Business Assistance Corporation (CBAC) in Camden, NJ. CBAC is a non-profit, mission-based Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) lender that helps small businesses start, grow, and succeed in Southern New Jersey and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, through micro and small business financing, training, and technical assistance.  

Before CBAC, Barbara Anne served as a Management Analyst & Community Liaison for the White House Promise Zone Initiative in Camden, NJ for the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD). In this role, she served as the primary point of contact for the Camden Promise Zone, a "place-based" initiative through which HUD and 15 other federal agencies partnered via a national "Strategic Alliance Memorandum," to collaboratively address Camden's six, key goals categories in partnership with local, regional and state stakeholders over a 10-year designation period. In collaboration with the mayor's office and lead program implementation partners, she provided training, coaching, and technical assistance in leadership development and community engagement as well as grant program application, implementation, administration, and compliance.

Before joining HUD, Barbara Anne served as a Supervisor of Lender Relations and Economic Development, Women's Business Center (WBC) District Office Technical Representative, and Women's Business Ownership Representative (WBOR) for the NJ District Office of the US Small Business Administration. Under her leadership, the District Office recaptured its ranking in the top 10 Districts in lending out of 68 districts nationwide in FY 2015, and established its first-ever new-hire onboarding, employee performance development, and coaching programs. Prior to that, she served as a Lender Relations Specialist/WBOR & WBC DOTR in the Eastern Pennsylvania District Office of the SBA.

Barbara Anne served in leadership positions with three non-profit organizations before joining the federal government, including serving as Director of Lending & Training for the Women's Opportunities Resource Center (WORC), and as Executive Director of two, additional non-profit CDFI's – both of which she helped to obtain the certification. During her Executive Director tenures, Barbara Anne served as a training consultant for two, quasi-government national agencies. She also served in communications and training leadership roles with two large insurance companies, including operating a community-based initiative for one of them. Additionally, she co-owned a business with her husband for ten years, where she handled operations and financials, and assisted with marketing and business development.

Barbara Anne is a member of the Association for Talent Development (ATD), CDFI Women's Network, Powerful Women of South Jersey, and a few other professional organizations. In 2016 she was awarded "Women's Advocate of the Year" by the National Association of Women's Business Owners (NAWBO) – South Jersey Chapter. In 2011, Cambridge Who's Who® named her a "VIP of the Year." Barbara Anne holds a M.S. in Executive Leadership from Champlain College, where she earned a 4.0 GPA. Barbara Anne also graduated Magna Cum Laude with a B.A. in Political Science/Honors with concentrations in Pre-Law and Women's Studies from Rowan University (nee Glassboro State College). Additionally, she graduated "with honors" when she earned an A.A. in Liberal Arts, with a concentration in Business Communications from Cumberland County College (now Rowan College of South Jersey), and she has earned several professional certifications and adult continuing education certificates.

A lifelong resident of New Jersey, Barbara Anne resides in Mt. Laurel with her husband, 18-year old son, two "furry babies" (rescue puppies), and a variety of other pets. Her hobbies include singing and training in multiple martial arts styles, including:  Kenshi-Kai ("Ancient Hand" traditional Okinawa Goju-Ryu Karate-Jutsu), Pai Hur Chuan Chi-Kung (Taiwan Internal White Crane Kung Fu) and Iaido (Japanese Sword). In March 2018, Barbara Anne earned the rank of Shodan (1st Degree Black Belt) in Kenshi-Kai Goju-Ryu through the North American Branch of the International Okinawa Goju-Ryu Kenshi-Kai Karate-Justu Kobu-Jutsu Association. She is also an active member of the Tiger Family Iaido Association and a certified judge and a voting member of the United Martial Arts Referee's Association (UMARA).