At the Invitation of Ahmad Alyasin, Chairman and CEO of Optima Global Financial, IF Magazine attended the 3rd Annual Christmas Dinner held December 13th, 2019 at the Arab American Cultural Center (ACC). The evening was in Honor of Police Chief Art Acevedo and the Houston Police Department and was co-Hosted by The Jordanian American Association of Houston (JAAH), The Arab American Community, and The Muslim Community in Houston. Mr. Ahmad Alyasin was a fabulous host to over 400 guests from all over Houston. Mayor Sylvester Turner and Congressman Al Green were also in attendance. The event was a feast of traditional food followed by cultural dances and performances. It lasted late into the evening ending with everyone including the police chief on the dancefloor. A week after the event, I stopped by the Optima office on Richmond to find out more about our host, Ahmad Alyasin.
Heidi PP: I know you to be a well known and respected member of Houston’s International Community but I do not know much about your background. Where are you originally from?
Ahmad Alyasin: I am originally from Jordan.
Heidi PP: When did you first come to the US.?
Ahmad Alyasin: I came to the United States in 1977. I came to Houston, it was December 5, 1977. I came to Houston to study. I did not know anyone in Houston at the time.
Heid PP: How did you come about picking Houston?
Ahmad Alyasin: They asked me, “Where are you going to?” I said America, they said, “Where?” And I said, I don’t know. They said, “What about Texas?” I said, fine. Then they asked me, “Where in Texas?’ I said, “ I don’t know,” They said, “How about Houston?” I said, “fine.”. When I came to Houston, I had no relatives, and I did not know anyone. I stood in the street waiting. I had no idea where to go except I kept walking and walking until I found a gas station, and at that gas station, there was a guy who started to speak in Arabic; and then that’s when I knew they were Arabic. I showed them my school acceptance, my I20 for the English Language Center, so they took me there. When they took me there, I thought the school would have living quarters, but they did not. Later the school closed, and I did not know where to go again. Then this guy comes to pick up his brother at 6 or 6:30, and at that time in December you know it’s cold, windy, rainy; and it was dark. So this guy comes in, and he is speaking to me in English, and I am speaking to him in Arabic, and he happens to be from Aman, Jordan. He asks me what are you doing here; you don’t have any friends or relatives here at all? I said no, so he said ok and put me in his car and took me to a friend of his who let me stay in his apartment. So I stayed there. I had no money, nothing. I came with 40 Jordanian Dinar which we had borrowed. When you exchanged it, it equaled $340. The school took $320 of that for their fees plus the Taxi, etc. leaving me with nothing. I stayed on the couch at that guy’s apartment for a month.
Heidi PP: That was such a wonderful thing to do for a young man, and it was because you were all from the same place sharing a similar journey?
Ahmad Alyasin: Yes exactly. This guy was a Christian from Jordan, and he took me to a Christian from Lebanon who had lived in Kuwait. We spoke the same language from the same countries. They accepted me. It was very nice. After a month or so, I found my first job. It was at Church’s Chicken. I was there for 7 days. From there, I was a busboy in a restaurant, then a waiter. I knew I had to get an education. I went to U. of H. for my first classes and then to San Jacinto College, because I had to take flight engineering as a pilot. Then I became a waiter, about 7 to 8 months later I met my wife who is Cajun from Louisiana. We got married. Then about 8-9 months after that, I got a partnership with someone in a restaurant. I paid a little money in. Six months later, I sold with a big profit. Since 1978-79, I’ve had my own businesses while I’m working. In 1981 I was an owner of a limousine company and many different businesses along the way. So now I travel to check on different investments and businesses I have and enjoy my family.
Heidi PP: What would you say is different for an Immigrant from Jordan coming into Houston today from when you first came here?
Ahmad Alyasin: I would say it is much different as I said last Friday in my speech, Houston is one of the most diversified cities in the U.S.; and secondly, it has become so big. It’s a lot more diverse than before. Before we used to feel so isolated. Secondly it’s not as easy as it was before, because there is simply more competition, but it is still one of the best cities especially for business.
Heidi PP: How did you get involved in the Vitamin Industry?
Ahmad Alyasin: My main business is financial. I got in the vitamin business about three years ago. I am doing my own formula and my own manufacturing. I did the formulas with pharmacists and doctors creating a special formulation to really fit the human body’s needs with every product we create. It’s an amazing line of vitamins that I am very proud of. I did it actually for my son. He passed away, but it was his dream to create this line. I named it Optima. So I did it for him. We provide a great service, and we also do a lot of humanitarian work giving vitamins to refugee camps and more. We also have a compound pharmacy where we can compound anything a doctor feels his patient needs. We work with some of the best doctors in the area. One evening I went to have dinner with a doctor I know, and she said to me you look tired. So she took my pulse and she said why don’t you let me send you a prescription for some vitamins. I already had the compound pharmacy, and she had an account with us. She sent all her patients to us with their own special formula for their bones, heart, skin, diabetes, etc.. So I took the vitamins, they felt very good. I asked her why can’t we do this for everyone. She said it would be very expensive. I said I wanted to do it for myself. She just needed to provide me with the formulas. I gave her a small percentage, had her meet with my pharmacist, and we started the line. I manufacture the vitamins in California, but I will be moving the manufacturing to Stafford, TX. I am taking 100,000 square feet and building a factory there and will be manufacturing the Optima vitamins, Optima CBD products and skin care. I also have a factory in Dubai that produces soaps, detergents,and products that have been there for many years. I bought it established.
Heidi PP: What are you planning for 2020?
Ahmad Alyasin: In 2020 I would like to find a volunteer from the community, someone to collect all the arab and muslim votes, someone that can gather all the Arab Americans in Houston and in Texas who are voters and show the collective power that we as a group hold in the community. As a leader in the community, I can then take that information to higher level offices to show them that they should listen to our concerns as an Arab and Muslim community. I would offer someone the office space with phone and internet to start gathering that information and working on the initiative. I would offer that space for free to the right person. If we can show 50,000 or 100,000 voters, that is powerful. Then we can expand from there. Because many people in America including the politicians really misunderstand what it is Islam, what is Arab, and what it is to be muslim. However, many know that collectively as a community we are known to be made up of professionals and business owners who are very family and community oriented. When we come to the U.S., it is for education or business opportunities.
We come with a purpose and we are rarely found needing assistance from government agencies. I say Arabs and Muslims because I mean anyone who speaks Arabic including Christian Arabs.
Heidi PP: So your business is mostly Financial?
Ahmad Alyasin: Yes I own a holding company. Optima Global Financial specializes in IPOs and Venture Capital. I am not a broker or financial consultant. I am simply a creditor investor in Houston, the U/S., and Globally. I invest in the market. I underwrite companies that are going to the stock market. I have many interests worldwide.