Frisco resident Nelson Olavarrieta was recently named to the Refugee Services of Texas Board of Directors. Olavarrieta is a former Mexican diplomat, former general director of bid protests at the federal government of Mexico and a former liaison at the Embassy of Mexico in Washington D.C. He is now a business owner in Frisco.
Where did you grow up and go to school?
I was born in Caracas, Venezuela and grew up in neighboring Chihuahua, Mexico. I went from elementary school to college in Chihuahua City, graduate school in Mexico City, and in New York City I attended Columbia University’ School of International and International Affairs for a master’s degree.
When did you move to Frisco?
My then family of three and I moved to Frisco in the summer of 2011. My son was born in Frisco in 2012. This is our home now, and it should be said that we have been treated by the community and everybody as welcoming and open as can be. We are happy to call Frisco our home.
What will your role be on the Refugee Services of Texas Board of Directors?
I was invited to join as a board member. We have significant challenges ahead of us to help the refugees that are relocated to Texas to start a new life where they can be part of the community and give back to it as they used to do in their places of origin.
What does the agency do?
Refugee Services of Texas (RST) is a social service agency dedicated to assisting refugees and other displaced persons fleeing persecution based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group, as well as to the communities that welcome them. RST provides services to hundreds of refugees, asylees, survivors of human trafficking, and related vulnerable populations from over 30 different countries of origin each year.
How did you get involved with Refugee Services of Texas?
When the Syrian crisis reached its worst moments in 2015, I started a campaign that gathered over 200,000 signatures to ask the government of Mexico to give refugee to 10,000 Syrians. Sadly, there was no response, so I moved to act locally, in the place I live and found RST and offer to volunteer. In a few days I was matched with a family of Iraqi refugees. We went to Mavs games, did the local and American stuff so they get used to it. The first time Ali tried pancakes was terrific to witness. All because America opened its doors to someone who needed a hand and it gave it back, as usual.
What are some challenges you expect to face?
We have significant challenges ahead of us; the social and political climate is now interpreting that what made America great, its openness to new people, is something to fear. RST is here to remind us how big we are with open hearts and welcoming hands to help the people in need.
What did you do as general director of bid protests at the federal government of Mexico?
At a young age, I was in charge to review and make sure of the legality of hundreds of public biddings made by the federal government and the state’s energy industry. It gave me a global vision of both Mexico’s government needs but also of the oil, gas and electricity industries.
What did you do as a liaison at the Embassy of Mexico in Washington D.C.?
As a diplomat, I worked on immigration matters between Mexico and the United States. I was a liaison between agencies in both countries working on these matters. In those years, the Merida Initiative was approved between our countries and at the moment was a significant sign of cooperation.
Tell us about CelebratePlus.com.
Well, I had a crazy idea, and I went to the place where crazy ideas take form: America. I was admitted as an investor to the U.S. with only the business plan of CelebratePlus.com and the promise of investment, and we made it happen all here in Frisco.
It seems a long time ago, but in 2010-11 crowdfunding was only waking up, and CelebratePlus was launched as a site to plan, organize and fund personal events. Think Evite+Kickstarter.
We developed everything here, with local developers and at launch we were voted as The Hottest Startup in Dallas. In 2017 I sold the company to another immigrant, an Indian investor here in the Dallas area. He intends the keep the company growing.
After that exit, we bought Outdoor Lighting Perspectives of Dallas, a company with 20 years in the Dallas area serving commercial and residential lighting needs.
What types of advice do you give for companies entering the American and/or Mexican markets?
I have helped small- to medium-sized companies from Spain and from Mexico, to understand the local, state and national markets for their business. From there we tailor their needs to help them to open shop here and start doing business. We have helped companies as diverse as publishing, banking and engineering to expand here, especially in Frisco.
What do you like to do in your free time?
We are big Cowboys fans, obviously, so now that the Jones family moved the headquarters to Frisco we spend a significant amount of time at the Cowboys Fit gym or at the Cowboys Club when we are not cheering at the games. We also love to walk the trails at Frisco Commons all the family together.