The North Shore Hispanic Chamber of Commerce will begin a new era as it rings in the new year, with Constanza Pinilla becoming the organization’s first woman president.
Formed in 2019, the chamber helps the Hispanic community by providing education and resources that allow businesses to thrive. Since its inception, the chamber has bridged cultural and language barriers to businesses in need.
Pinilla has first-hand experience with the cultural barriers immigrants face. Born in Bogotá, Colombia, she came to the United States at the age of 5 with her mother and seven siblings. After Pinilla’s parents divorced, her mother’s goal was to provide a better life and education for her children, something she couldn’t do as a housewife in Columbia.
When Pinilla first came to New York, she lived in Jackson Heights, Queens. While her mother worked long hours cleaning offices in Manhattan, Pinilla’s oldest sister took care of the family. After a decade of hard work, her mother moved the family to Kew Gardens, where Pinilla changed schools to graduate from Jamaica High School.
Pinilla became a lawyer but, her career began in economics. She attended New York University earning a bachelor’s in economics. She entered the workforce as a manager in the finance department of Depository Trust and Clearing Corp. She earned her law degree at St. John’s University while working closely with the legal department of DTCC as a strategic international product developer.
The struggles her mother faced as an immigrant working in the United States were a reminder of the importance of an education. Her mother didn’t read English well and had a hard time navigating legal documents while requesting sick leave from work. Through her teenage years, Pinilla often helped her mother translate
mportant documents to get the care she needed.
“The love of education and the realization that perhaps some people may not be given their due rights because they don’t understand the language, made me go for the law degree,” Pinilla said.
After 18 years with DTCC, Pinilla changed careers so she could spend more time with her nine-year-old daughter. She ventured into the world of real estate and law. She established herself as a lawyer and created the Law Office of Constanza Pinilla while simultaneously establishing the Connie Pinilla Team at Compass real estate.
She eventually moved to Glen Cove after her daughter graduated high school in Manhasset. As a realtor, Pinilla decided the city was the right place for her after showing many clients the area. She felt comfort in the city’s quiet neighborhoods.
“It’s a really different town and it has a sense of community,” Pinilla said. “I felt that a lot of towns on the North Shore don’t have that.”
Pinilla became heavily involved with the Kiwanis Club of North Shore, but found her way to the Hispanic Chamber after seeing an advertisement in the Glen Cove Herald.
The front-page ad read that the Hispanic Chamber was seeking a legal counsel who was fluent in Spanish. When she responded, she met current chamber president Ever Padilla.
Padilla tried to establish the chamber for eight years, but struggled with many of the legal aspects required when establishing a nonprofit organization.
Pinilla’s background in corporate America, law and fluency in Spanish were the exact qualifications needed to help get the chamber up and running.
The chamber was in its first year when the coronavirus pandemic affected much of the nation’s economy. It was through those financial struggles that Pinilla took a deep look at the financial needs of the Hispanic community on the North Shore. She once again remembered the struggles her family faced with language barriers, which set into motion a series of webinars providing resources for members needing advice on things like PPE loans.
David Thompson, owner of Extradentary Auto said he’s thankful for the insight and kindness that Pinilla has shown the Hispanic community.
“I could call her anytime and that’s not just me,” he said. “She’s that type of person to the whole community.”
Pinilla said she plans to bring more professionals like lawyers and accountants to become chamber members. She hopes this will broaden the chamber’s network and create a network of professionals for small businesses.
Gaitley Stevenson-Mathews, a chamber board member and public relations officer, said he looks forward to Pinilla’s presidency. “Connie is a person who leads with her heart, and she is committed to everything she does.”