Latifah Chinnery: Traversing the equator with her stunning guided tours
Cyril Josh Barker | 4/12/2011, 4:40 p.m.
Latifah Chinnery is using her love for education and travel and fusing it with her love for the business world. Chinnery is a licensed tour guide and part owner of Equator3, LLC. The company, co-owned along with her business partner, Verl Thomas, is one of the few Black tour operators in the city. Originally from the Bronx, Chinnery's family roots are from the Virgin Islands.
She said that while growing up, she was surrounded by other Virgin Islanders and business owners, including her parents. "We lived in the Bronx, but we did everything that people did in the Virgin Islands," she said. "My father would never let me forget where our family came from. He would always point to the map and say, 'Here. This is your home.'"
Chinnery got her business lessons at an early age. Her father was a painting contractor while her mother sold lingerie. As early as age 8, Chinnery counted money for her father.
She went on to attend college at the historically Black Morgan State University in Baltimore, where she majored in business administration. While in college, she became a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Chinnery earned a master's degree in business marketing at the University of Illinois.
After college, she did a brief stint at the Jay Walter Thompson Adverting Agency. She soon enrolled at City College to take classes in education and became an elementary school teacher in Harlem. Chinnery earned a second master's degree in education and taught English at City College and the University of the Virgin Islands.
She got her first crack at having her own business in the Virgin Islands. She owned a bookstore for 13 years, where she sold books as well as educational materials.
"I wanted to start out doing the two things I know best," she said." I combined education and business."
However, due to the cost of living in the Virgin Islands, Chinnery began making trips back to New York. While visiting, she obtained her tour guide licenses and did tours of the city for groups while visiting the New York. Chinnery and her business partner started Equator3 Tours in 1999. She eventually moved back to New York in 2001.
She said, "I felt like I was starting to get good at it. We noticed that there weren't that many African-American tour guides or operators, so we decided to start our own business."
Equator3 does sub-contract work for tour operators and also does guided tours in the city, specializing in Harlem tours. Chinnery and her business partner also do international tours to Africa, South America, Europe and Asia.
But throughout her business career, Chinnery said that her best business lessons and models came from her father. Even though he is deceased, she still implements his ways today. "My father was a very independent person," she said. "He always stressed doing for yourself, and I've never known him to work for anyone. It's natural that I'm in business and it gives me pleasure to be able to give people what I know."