Black Philanthropy in Central Florida: How entrepreneur Harold Mills invests in the community

ORLANDO, Fla. — Philanthropy is necessary, and can come through people who choose to invest their time, talent or treasure.


Most Central Floridians likely don’t know the name Harold Mills, but have probably been serviced by the work that he’s done as a business leader and philanthropist in the community.

“I sort of dedicated myself to being in places where I can potentially have an impact on others,” Mills told WFTV’s Daralene Jones.

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Mills built a life from nothing, starting with the perseverance and determination of a boy who grew up poor in Ohio.

“I had a happy childhood,” Mills recalled. “Despite our surroundings, you make good with a lot of interesting things, like camping out in the front yard, in the back yard, or whatever. I always knew that education, I think, was my ticket.”

That ticket led him to building what would become the largest black-owned company in the state of Florida, Zero Chaos, inside of a Downtown Orlando office building.

Mills sold the business in 2017, but not before operations for the software company expanded to 56 countries.

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When asked what advise he has for young African Americans who might see what he’s achieved as unattainable, Mills said it’s important to remember that failure is not something to fear.

“You don’t let perfection get in the way of progress,” Mills said. “Don’t let the idea that you have to know everything stop you from trying...failing isn’t a bad thing.”

The wealth Mills has built and the platform he now stands on allow him to invest in other entrepreneurs through VMD Ventures, while making a significant impact in the community and funding projects that are focused on pouring back into people who just need one person to believe in their dreams, through the arts at Orlando Shakes and Rollins College, through education on the University of Central Florida Board of Trustees, and through housing and social needs on the board of LIFT Orlando.

When asked how he decides when and where to serve on a board, Mills says his first question is to ask how many chicken dinners they’re gong to have.

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“I don’t need to be another part of an organization where it’s all about banquets, Executive Director egos, whatever it might be,” Mills said. “You’re there for a reason, for a purpose...to represent a whole community of people who could benefit from you being there, who may not have ever been heard in that organization. You’re there to speak up because the journey just isn’t about you. It’s about the people that you’re bring along with you.”

Mills goes on to share a deeply personal story about the tragic death of his 16-year-old son, Daniel. It has inspired him to shift his giving in a way that would make his son proud.

Watch the extended version of Mills’ story and others in our special, Black Philanthropy: Time, Talent and Treasure, here.

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