Nina Vaca is the Chairman and CEO of Pinnacle Group, a Dallas-based workforce solutions provider. Over the past 19 years, Vaca has propelled the company forward, transforming it into the workforce solutions powerhouse it is today. Through her leadership, Pinnacle Group now offers a suite of business lines that address a range of workforce challenges faced by companies all over the world.
In addition to her business pursuits, Vaca is a committed philanthropist and civic leader. She is a staunch advocate for woman entrepreneurs, especially within the Hispanic and minority communities. In 2014, Vaca was appointed a Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship by President Barack Obama. Vaca has been awarded three honorary doctorates and is the youngest distinguished alumna in Texas State University history.
Tell us about yourself — where did you grow up? Where were you born?
I was born in Quito, Ecuador, but grew up in Los Angeles. I come from a big family. I was the only one of five siblings not born in the United States, so I hold dual citizenship. My parents were very driven and owned their own travel business. They’re the ones who gave me my entrepreneurial drive.
What inspired you to start your own business and become an entrepreneur?
My parents were the ones who inspired me, and they taught me what it was to be an entrepreneur at a very young age. When I was 10 years old, my father tasked me with putting stickers on bus passes for his travel agency. Watching him and my mother start not just a business, but a successful business, had a profound impact on me. I had the chance to see what it takes to start a company, as well as the dedication, commitment and long days necessary to make it succeed. It was like having a front-row seat to the American Dream.
What do you believe is the most important aspect of being an entrepreneur?
I believe the most important aspect is building relationships and putting others first. Communication helps build connections between people, and that’s really at the center of how I function. I sought a degree in communications, which shows how important I believe communication is to success in business.
Pinnacle is owned and led by a minority woman. How did that impact the growth of your business?
We’re lucky that there are organizations like the National Minority Supplier Diversity Council and the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council that have made it their mission to support women-led and women-owned businesses.
At Pinnacle, we have consistently partnered with companies that strive to support women – and minority-owned businesses. We have relationships with our customers spanning decades, which have resulted in incredible outcomes for our customers, for Pinnacle, and for the hundreds of women- and minority-owned companies in Pinnacle’s supply chain.
What advice would you give to other minorities or women starting out as entrepreneurs?
I’m a firm believer in teams and large support networks. No human is an island, and I would advise anyone to build a team of individuals that genuinely wants to see you succeed. This also means expanding networks to include sponsors, advisors, collaborators, and supporters. This is closely related to my belief that relationships are crucial for business success. Having a support network of individuals around who want the best for you isn’t the only ingredient for success, but it’s nearly impossible without it.
What is your biggest motivator?
I believe that most of my motivation comes from the opportunity to change people’s lives, to change communities, and to change the world through business. As an immigrant to the United States, I think my drive and work ethic was fostered by my parents and is fueled by a desire to contribute positively and to give back to others. I don’t know a successful person who is not giving back, my mother taught me “do not strive to be a person of success, strive to be a person of value.”
Can you elaborate on the importance of being a role model? Why is it such a large priority for you?
I’ve been blessed with many mentors throughout my life, but my biggest role model has been and always will be my mother. Through my mother’s example I have never doubted the power of an individual, no matter their size or gender to make a difference. She always taught me to believe in what you’re doing and find ways to give back. It’s wonderful to have success, but what is it for if you’re not using it to open doors for other people. Throughout the last 20 years, I have lost count of how many entrepreneurs I’ve been blessed to help along the way. I love having the opportunity to invest in people who are crazy good at what they do and are determined to succeed.
Have you read?
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