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Effingham Magazine

Tina Browning: Looking to the Past to Improve the Future

Tina Browning: Looking to the  Past to Improve the Future

Story by Claire Sandow
Photography by Leidi Lester

You have to look at your past to know how your future can be better. Tina Browning gives this advice to the people she teaches about budgeting and financial literacy, but this same advice has guided her through life.

Tina has worked with Queensborough National Bank & Trust since 2015. In her role as Associate Vice President of Queensborough’s At Work program, she is a seasoned bank officer with many years of experience supporting coastal Georgia business owners with financial solutions. She also works with youth groups and nonprofit organizations to promote financial literacy.

“I enjoy helping people with their future goals and financial decisions,” Tina says. “Most importantly, I’m proud to say that I lead our region with educating and working with our businesses and their employees.”

With her motivating spirit and desire to help others, she has impacted many lives. Single parents who have changed the course for a new generation by purchasing their first homes, families who are striving to save for their children’s college education and people who are struggling to get out of debt. “Your credit is your future,” Tina tells people. “What you do now leads you to the next step.”

Tina connects the patterns of the past to help people take the steps to build credit and financial stability. She coaches adults to make budgets, cut unnecessary spending and save for the future through IQ University, a lesson that she carries to the next generation through IQ Junior.

“Financial literacy is not a prerequisite to graduate from high school. It’s a life skill that isn’t being taught,” Tina says.

Tina recalls one man who connected with her years after a workshop she had facilitated. Her words resonated with him, and he had held onto her business card for the past three years. Now he was ready to meet with her and take the next steps toward financial security.

“It just really blessed me to know that somebody you met three years ago said that you made a difference. You just never know what will influence that next person to do better,” Tina says. “And when they do, they spread it to the next person.”

The Importance of Community

Banking wasn’t Tina’s original career path. She first moved to Savannah from Kentucky in 1992 to operate a Kirby franchise, where she met the retiring owner, Walter Horne. It was he who encouraged her to get involved in the community.

“He showed me how important community was,” Tina says. “He took me to meetings and had me sit beside him to listen and learn what it means to be a community leader.”

Tina has taken his lessons to heart as a member of multiple boards and organizations over the years. The first organization she joined was Optimist International, where she embodies many tenets of the group’s creed, including forgetting the mistakes of the past and pressing on to the greater achievements of the future, giving every living creature you meet a smile and being just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.

“Once people know how much you care, that’s when they look to you for other things,” Tina says.

Through community involvement, Tina found that she had a gift for organizing events. She enjoyed bringing people together to collaborate and achieve their goals. As the treasurer of the Savannah Interagency Diversity Council, she helps organize large-scale events like the Effingham County Diversity and Inclusion Conference and the Savannah Traffick Jam.

“We have people from all over the world that live in Savannah and this coastal region. Diversity is important and our differences are what make us unique,” Tina says. “When you bring together different cultures, different faiths and different backgrounds, it brings out more creative ideas and produces more business because you’re bringing everybody in that can give you a different outlook and a different perspective.”

When You Give, They Give Back

All the relationships Tina built over the years culminated when she had a time of need. In 2016, when Tina needed a place to stay while evacuating for Hurricane Matthew, it was the president of Queensborough who invited her to stay at his family farm. When the hurricane made landfall in Savannah, Tina’s home was among those that were destroyed.

“My neighbor showed me pictures and all you could see was the red door of my home. The house was completely demolished by an oak tree,” Tina says.

Once she and her husband were able to return to Savannah, they had an hour and a half to get what they could from their home. The community that Tina had built over the years rallied for her, including the football team at Calvary Day School, members of Calvary Baptist Temple, members of Savannah Pride, the CFO of Calvary and people who Tina had helped to get real estate loans.

“That’s when community comes. When you give, they give back and that’s what they did. You couldn’t get another person or another vehicle in the yard,” Tina says. “There was no roof and everything had been completely rained on, but they were taking drawers out of my dressers and just putting them in tubs.”

Coworkers also took up a collection for Tina and her family, which funded her next move of relocating to Effingham County. Once she arrived, she remembered the advice that Walter Horne had given her and got involved with the Effingham County Chamber of Commerce. As an executive board member of the chamber, Tina has served as a liaison and connector of local businesses, helping them voice their issues at the local and state levels. She is also a frequent and welcoming presence at the chamber’s networking and social events.

 Letting Her Light Shine

Wherever Tina goes, she is motivated by a drive to help others. “I’m a proud woman of faith and my light will shine because I think it’s important to give people hope,” Tina says.

She is a member of Calvary Baptist Temple, where she and her friend Carol Boykin founded Hallelujah Hall Performing Arts—a children’s ministry that uses puppetry to spread the word of God. Tina also learned the art of making balloon animals to reach children, and as she makes the balloon animals, she tells children how special they are. She attends various events in town as the persona Ms. Tea and Stinger the Bee, sporting a personalized yellow vest and spreading joy to everyone around her.

“When you’re teaching children God’s nature by building these balloons, you just see the smile on their face and they leave with something tangible,” Tina says. “They might have accepted or brought in one part of the word that you said. But the main thing is that you spent time with them and you showed them love.”

Words of Business Wisdom

With her combination of experience as a business owner and as a banker, Tina is in a unique position to advise people who are thinking of blazing their own trails as entrepreneurs. 

“It’s important to get a business plan down. When I started my business, my husband and I had $500,” Tina says. “We had no money, but we had a big dream and we put 100% of the money we made back into the business.”

Tina also emphasizes the importance of setting up a good account structure to separate payroll, taxes and operating expenses. “You need a good banker, a good CPA and insurance,” she advises.

Even more importantly, Tina stresses getting your name out there and forging strong relationships with other businesses and community groups.

“Get involved philanthropically, because when people know that you care and that your business is truly there for the community, they will partner with you and they’ll want you to be a part of their company too,” Tina says.