As Rebeca Olavarrieta (BBA ’09) headed into her final undergraduate year in 2008, the strain on the U.S. economy began to impact her outlook on a potential career in finance. Then her brother came to her for help with his own business.
The financial and managerial components were outside his territory, so she took over Roco 4x4, a distributor of aftermarket automotive parts for off-road vehicles.
Although she was a gear head who loved racing cars on the track, getting her start as a Hispanic woman in the industry came with a few bumps in the road as she recalled placing a call for one of her first orders from a manufacturer. The response: “Call me back when somebody in the office speaks English,” Olavarrieta said.
“That was the first time I realized that business is a contact sport, and that you have to set your boundaries and that you have to really understand that you can’t control people's actions or reactions to you being there,” she said.
Using the experience to fuel her success, Olavarrieta has continued to grow Roco 4x4, deciding to open a second warehouse in Spain where she had learned the market while studying abroad.
Olavarrieta’s role at Roco 4x4 has evolved over the years. Early on she wanted to learn all the positions to familiarize herself with the workflows and optimize as much as possible. She even obtained mechanical certifications for suspension and drivetrain. Nowadays she spends 90% of her time managing sales and operations.
Olavarrieta noted that her biggest accomplishment while she studied at FIU was the relationships she developed with advisors and faculty.
“I had so many intriguing and thought-provoking conversations with a lot of my professors,” said Olavarrieta. “Even after I graduated, I had that point of contact with them and just having an almost personal relationship with FIU.”
In 2018 Olavarrieta, was approached by a client to expand Roco 4x4 further in Europe by using her warehouse in Spain to distribute to a wider market. Wanting to grasp the full scope of scaling her business, she turned to the Florida Small Business Development Center (FSBDC) at FIU Business for guidance.
“I really feel that the support the FSBDC gives us is invaluable,” said Olavarrieta. “I do understand that there are a lot of business owners that say they can't find the time and I tell them we all know time is money. You have to put in the time, because this is a service that is given to you for free and you're going reap the benefits.”