From Humble Beginnings to CEO: Nina Vaca’s Success Story

Catherine Chilton

Success was never handed on a silver platter to Nina Vaca, Chairman and CEO of Pinnacle Group. The daughter of Ecuadorian immigrants, she has faced challenges that others would find insurmountable, but with incredible resilience, passion, and drive she has become one of the most powerful and influential Latin Americans.
When her father first came to America, he began making checkerboards at the company where his brother worked. From there he became an entrepreneur, owning his own travel agency. But tragedy hit Nina when she was just 17 and her father was killed when his travel agency was robbed. With the help of her sister, Nina successfully sold her father’s business, and began studying at Texas State University. At the age of 25, with only $300, she started a staffing company called Pinnacle Group. Nineteen years later, in 2015, Pinnacle earned over $1 billion dollars in gross revenue.
As an entrepreneur, some of her greatest challenges were the economic standstills following the September 11th attacks in 2001 and the Great Recession in 2008. In the midst of 2001’s uncertainty, Pinnacle was on the brink of liquidation as most companies were not interested in hiring additional employees. Nina bought her partner’s share in the firm and revitalized their staffing plan to begin bidding for project work. In 2009, she responded to the economic downturn by diversifying services and expanding into Canada, overcoming yet another challenge with optimism and dedication.
In addition to her career as Chairman and CEO of Pinnacle Group, she is a mother of four, a triathlete, civic leader, philanthropist, and winner of a plethora of awards. In both 2015 and 2016, the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO) named Pinnacle as one of the top two fastest-growing women-owned-led firms in the country. She also has been honored as one of the 101 Most Influential Latinos each year from 2008-present. Additionally, she was appointed by President Obama as the Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship. She is Chairman Emeritus of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, as well as the first female Chairman of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Foundation in 15 years.
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