February is Black History Month. While The Greater Bethesda Chamber of Commerce celebrates all our members throughout the year, this month we are shinning a spotlight on our members within the African American community. Join us all month long for our 2nd annual spotlight series. This special feature helps our communities learn a little more about some of their business leaders who work so hard to make it a community to be proud of.
Today, we would like you to get to know Nina Toche, owner of LaNina.
LaNina, named after founder Nina Toche, is a new luxury designer brand which offers shoes, handbags, and clothing for men, and women. LaNina is also a channel for both men and women to have access to unique luxury goods at an affordable cost. Her products are strictly manufactured in Italy using quality handpicked leather. The overall brand development that Nina has created for her brand, from its colors, its designs, and to its exclusiveness. Her products are specifically intended to allure the individual to relish in the world of fashion, with the confidence that they can look exquisite, classic, and luxurious.
As an immigrant African woman, Nina highly holds her culture background, especially through LaNina products. Her hope for this brand is to inspire all women, especially women of color, Immigrants, her community, and her family & future kids to strive for greatness and believe they can achieve their goals.
We asked Nina three important questions. Read her responses below.
Q1. What are some challenges you faced early on that helped prepare you for the role you are in today and how did you overcome them?
Becoming a business owner has not been an easy role to accomplish. As a young female diving into the manufacturing / retail industry, the primary challenges I faced was gaining the consumer trust; As I looked at entrepreneurs who were already established in the industry, I questioned how to deal with the competitiveness, and attracting consumers was often the only answer. All I could come up with was to offer a higher quality of products and services at an affordable price, products accessible to all classes of people.
Producing my own brand label of accessories, handbags, suits and shirts was another obstacle to Deal with. Consumers are so used to well-known/household brands and can spend thousands of dollars to buy these brands because of the brand’s reputations; while the same kind of merchandise (sometimes made with higher quality/raw materials) are difficult to sell. It is very important to educate our consumers about the new brand we’re proposing to them so they can understand, and gain satisfaction from their investment.
Q2. Who/What is your biggest inspiration in both your personal and professional life?
I grew up in a beautiful home with my parents filling my siblings and I each day with so much love. I believe my mom inspired me to embrace the retail business as she herself has been in the business (fashion industry) for over 30 years. Retail business being established to my satisfaction was still not complete. I knew what I needed, but GOD had taken too soon the person that from here my source of encouragement was coming from, my father Emmanuel Toche; So, I lost track of my momentum and decided to keep the business at the lower stage and continue with my career as an accountant.
A few years later my baby sister Tahirih Toche who is very creative & a graduate of Loyola Marymount University in California, during an exchange she awoke in me my hunger & passion. After days of discussion, I told her what I could have told my dad years ago and she worked me through each step for the creation of the “LaNina” brand.
Q3. What is your biggest piece of advice to businesses struggling with diversity and inclusivity in the workplace?
Business is not ever an easy task to fulfill, but I believe once one has a passion for something, obstacles should not be a barrier for growth, but a reason to fight for our voice to be heard, our vision to be known, and a value attributed to our products and services.
My advice to many entrepreneurs and rising or veteran business owners would be to devote time to revise their brand or company mission, surely diversity must be a part of it for your business to make sense; you must make time to learn your community, to study the world and the people living in it and to train & elevate a diverse set of people to work amongst you. Afterall, business is not all about the acquisition and production of goods/services in exchange for money, it’s a way to sustain a livelihood, sharing & developing innovative ideas, embracing cultures (especially in creative industries). It’s wiser to include people of color & diverse backgrounds to contribute to a bigger purpose and inspire the next generation of business owners.
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