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Latino Trailblazer

Nina Vaca

  • Gender: Female
  • University: Texas State University
  • Undergraduate Degree: Speech & Communication, minored in Business Administration
  • Hometown: Los Angeles
  • State: California
  • Organization: Pinnacle Group
  • Position Title: Chairman & CEO

When Nina Vaca was growing up in Los Angeles, California, her father sanded checkerboards in a gaming plant, parked cars, and took whatever other work he could find, in order to support a family of seven. Eventually, he went into business for himself, ultimately launching a travel agency which gave Nina an early introduction to entrepreneurship.

“I started working at age ten at my dad's travel agency selling bus passes, I worked the swap meet, at a gas station, [and] in retail,” she explained in a CNN Money feature article. At age 17, her years of training and business know-how were suddenly put to the test in the most tragic of circumstances, when her father was killed during a robbery at his travel agency. She and her older sister were able to run the business for a year, before they sold it.

Despite these life-altering circumstances, she was able to fulfill her parents’ highest hopes when she attended Texas State University, where she majored in Speech & Communication and minored in Business Administration. She also completed executive management programs at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, and the Harvard Business School. In addition, she has received three honorary doctorates for her work in business and the community.

Tapping into her roots, and with just $300 in her pocket and her one-bedroom apartment for an office, she launched a professional staffing company in 1996. Today, Pinnacle Group combines “creative thinking, cutting edge technology, and the technical know-how to deliver innovative solutions” to clients in the United States and internationally. In 2019, it was recognized as one of the largest IT staffing firms in the US by Staffing Industry Analysts. In both 2015 and 2018, the Women Presidents’ Organization recognized it as the fastest growing women led/owned US company.

In addition to running her company, she also sits on the boards of Comerica Bank and Cinemark, and is the Chairman Emeritus of the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC). She is also the Chairman of the USHCC Foundation. As a committed civic, as well as business leader, she is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship.

A passionate advocate for women and entrepreneurs, Nina underscored her support for the advancement of higher education for Latinos as a keynote speaker at HSF’s 2015 Scholar Celebration in Dallas. In June 2019, she spoke at the HSF Entrepreneurship Summit in San Jose, California. Writing about the event, she said, “HSF is not only empowering young Hispanics, they’re cultivating the next generation of leaders, providing them with the tools they need to succeed and instilling in them a great sense of civic responsibility, so they continue to reach back and open doors for others.”

Her many accolades include being named on Latino Leaders Magazine’s list of 101 Most Influential Latinos in America, every year since 2008 and ALPFA’s list of 50 the Most Powerful Latinas in Corporate America, for the past three years. She has been inducted into the Minority Business Hall of Fame and received the 2016 Enterprising Women of the Year Award. In 2018, she was honored with the PVBLIC Foundation Impacto Latino Award, at the United Nations.