A CEO with a Creative Flair: Toms River Chamber of Commerce’s Noelle Lotano Spills Her Secrets for Success

Olivia Garrison

Noelle LotanoFor our latest installment of Creative Corner we interviewed Noelle Lotano, CEO of the Greater Toms River Chamber of Commerce.  The daughter of 30+ year Chamber member and a small business owner herself, Noelle proved to be a natural fit when she took on the CEO position a year and a half ago.  With family life serving as a huge influence in her career, Noelle uses her people skills and entrepreneurial spirit to help create a community that will benefit both families and businesses alike.  We chatted with Noelle about her role as CEO, how she inspires her three-person team to get creative, and how motherhood has shaped her career.

What can you tell me about your job?

I can tell you that I love my job!  I am fortunate enough to be able to work with people I admire while supporting our local economy.  I am able to spend my day working toward designing a community that my children will want to raise their children in – how lucky am I?!

How did you get involved with the Greater Toms River Chamber of Commerce?

After owning and operating small businesses for 15+ years, the opportunity to work with the Chamber presented itself to me at an ideal time in my career.  As the daughter of a 30+ year member, this Chamber was the perfect fit for me as I aimed to broadened my scope from running one small business at a time to supporting a membership of small businesses simultaneously.

What did you not expect when you first accepted the CEO position?

I hadn’t expected how much I would come to love the organization.  My only adult prior work experience was in my own companies – of which, I was very attached because I had built them from the ground up.  I never imagined that I could, or would, become equally as passionate about an established organization.  I grew-up watching Lucy Greene run the Chamber with grace and determination for many years.  She made this place her own.  I had not envisioned myself doing the same, but I’m always willing to admit when I am wrong!

Noelle Lotano

How do you encourage your colleagues to think creatively?

With a team of three, there is a lot of work to go around!  Getting creative is something that we aim to do every day.  One of the ways that I encourage creativity is having an open work environment.  We work collaboratively, at one workstation, in-person, and virtually via team-based platforms.  We openly share resources that are working for us.  We constantly ask ourselves the question, “What could we have done better?” – and we ask for other’s to tell us the same.  We also belong to Facebook groups and other membership-based groups where we can work in partnership with people from Chambers around the country to find the brightest ideas out there.  Over the last year, we have built a culture of trust in our office, which I believe organically allows for creativity.  We only have one rule:  It is forbidden to say that we already tried that and it didn’t work and/or this is how we’ve always done it.  That’s simply not good enough for us!

What are some of the most challenging obstacles you’ve had to overcome professionally?

I have had a wonderful professional career, but obstacles are inevitable.  Early on in my first business, we were the victims of a fraudulent vendor.  My partner and I did not agree about the trustworthiness of this particular individual, but we went forward with the deal nevertheless.  It cost us ten of thousands of dollars – but in the long haul, it was a mistake that we never made again.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?

If I could have any superpower, it would be to absorb the knowledge of books through osmosis in an instant!

What is your leadership style?

I have an interest in the field of Emotional Intelligence.  One of the EI experts that I like to follow is Daniel Goleman.  While I don’t believe that any one style is the magic bullet for success, as it pertains to my team, I believe that I lead authoritatively.  When I arrived at the Chamber, it was important to me that, as a group, we took a good look at our mission.  What I found was that it didn’t excite us!  We held sessions with staffers, Board members, and people from our general membership to design a mission and vision that we wanted to get behind.  Once we accomplished that, it became easy for the team to adopt an entrepreneurial spirit as we created goals with our mission, and the end, in mind at all times.  I like to encourage the people around me to be passionate and enthusiastic about our work – I believe that I do that by example.

How has motherhood influenced your career?

My sons are 19, 10, and 10.  As we’ve all gotten older, having them in my life has influenced my propensity to shift toward a community-inspired career.  I loved being a full-time entrepreneur, but my children didn’t necessarily benefit from what I was doing.  Once I realized that I could be an entrepreneur, but at the same time offer my time and talents to an organization that supports our local community economy, I found the best of both worlds!

 

Noelle Lotano

L to R : Alex, Sam, Colin, Noelle, and Domenick

If someone wrote a biography about you, what should the title be?

Noelle Lotano:  Girl on Fire – with a Dragon Tattoo.

What is something you learned about yourself-for better or for worse-at your very first job?

When I was 13, I got my first “real” job as an Office Assistant at a local podiatrist’s office.    I learned that I loved being around people – making them feel valued and comfortable – and that I didn’t have the stomach to be a nurse.

What is #1 on your Bucket List?

Right now, traveling to Iceland is on the tip-top of my bucket list.  I have been talking about it for years, but I have yet to pull the trigger and book it.  It’s coming though!

The Titanic has “My Heart Will Go On” and The Lion King has “The Circle of Life” – what song would you include on the soundtrack to a movie about your life?

“Alabama” by my sweetheart, Domenick Carino – at it’s core, it reminds me of deep love, unabashed adventure, and the purest faith.

Do you have any hidden talents?

I am a closet photographer.  {I don’t photograph closets, I just secretly love to photograph.}

What is the most rewarding aspect of being involved with the Toms River community?

Following in my dad’s footsteps as I work in partnership with some really amazing people to create a Toms River that my kids will love is the most rewarding aspect of being involved in this community.

What is one piece of advice that has followed you throughout your career?

Never stop learning – or smiling.

For more information about the Greater Toms River Chamber of Commerce, please visit tomsriverchamber.com.

About
Olivia is Director of Communications for Creative Click Media, Communications degree holder from Rutgers University, and lifelong lover of words, syntax and grammar.
Showing 3 comments
  • Kat Falcey
    Reply

    From the very first moment I met Noelle, I felt that her SMILE and warmth was contagious so I can just imagine how much her presence shines!

    I miss her~ Kat~

  • Don Randazzo
    Reply

    Noelle is a very positive person. Intelligent, courageous and is a gift from God to all she comes in contact with. Her emotional I.Q. Is an element of leadership we all can learn from. Pass it on to others.

    Don Randazzo
    Toms River NJ

pingbacks / trackbacks

Leave a Comment

Start typing and press Enter to search