By Michele Graham
Photos By ChiChi Ubiña
There are those who excel at sports, men who are genius with technology, and guys for whom languages come as second nature. And then there is Shahryar Oveissi, known to friends across the globe as a great connector. In addition to his role as COO of Work Well Win, the growing co-working space with a health and wellness focus, Shahryar also holds three very active board positions and is the father to three young children. It appears, that in addition to being an astonishing people connector, he’s also mastered the art of fitting more into 24 hours than most of us.
Shahryar has a unique story to tell. Born to parents of Persian descent, Shahryar’s parents left Iran in 1979 and sought political asylum in the United States. His mother Shari was pregnant with Shahryar at the time, and the family stayed briefly in Greenwich before moving to Paris where his father, General Gholam Ali Oveissi, led the counter revolutionary movement. Tragically, in 1984 when Shahryar was just four years old, his father was assassinated. With children in tow, his mother returned to Greenwich and their extended family.
In the fall of 1985, Shahryar started Kindergarten at Greenwich Country Day School and his world became a kaleidoscope of new experiences. Speaking little English, Shahryar benefited from teachers who, as he says, “make it their life mission to bring out the best in their students.” Just as critical, GCDS has a student development department for children with challenges. Shahryar blossomed under his dedicated teachers and intensive hours of tutoring.
Today, Shahryar’s 6-year old daughter Olympia attends the school and he sits on the board. “GCDS has changed but also remains the same,” says Shahryar. “It’s about family, community, and school. There’s heart in the faculty and the school’s traditions.”
Shahryar was part of the committee that spearheaded the school’s merger with the Stanwich School and the development of the GCDS High School, which opens in Fall 2019. “The new high school is a significant change. It’s a great new chapter in the school’s history and a blank slate to build a high school of the future,” notes Shahryar.
After GCDS, Shahryar attended high school at Brunswick, and is still very involved via the school’s alumni council.
Shahryar’s affection for Greenwich is readily apparent. “I have a love for this town. I built a lot of great relationships and that’s what drives me – it’s being a connector and putting people together.” Among those who still live locally, Shahryar counts his mom, numerous members of his family, and many of his closest friends.
Part of his love for Greenwich includes his work on the area’s American Red Cross board. “The Red Cross does tremendous work locally, but I also wanted to be a part of an organization that has a larger global presence. Ninety-one cents of every dollar goes directly into supporting causes. It’s run incredibly efficiently and is fiscally responsible.” Shahryar sees the organization’s work at its most personal level. The ability to mobilize during natural disasters, and to provide living measures on a day-to-day basis with CPR training and blood donations. Shahryar points out that you can save three lives with every blood donation.
It is the Greenwich YMCA that takes up most of Shahryar’s philanthropic time these days. Having grown up in town, Shahryar learned to swim at the YM and it is where he played basketball. Seven years ago, he was asked to be one of the founding members of the Junior Board. Today, he is the Board Chair. “The YMCA reflects on the sense of community that I learned at GCDS, it reflects the diversity of our community. The current board is shepherding the YM to a good place.” This active transition includes broadening family memberships and, in his role as connector, bringing in young new board members.
In his professional life, Shahryar is most happy setting up new ventures. He’s been in the private equity space for the last 12 years with a focus on the Middle East. Shahryar says, “I wanted to be closer to Iran as I did my work. On a daily basis, I try to bring people together.”
In October, Shahryar shifted gears to accept the COO position at Work Well Win. The company is rapidly raising capital and launching co-working spaces across the country. In Connecticut, the amenity-rich Greenwich location opened to strong office demand and will soon be joined by a Stamford facility. “It’s very unique. I love watching members networking, and the cross pollination that is taking place,” observes Shahryar.
Shahryar’s parents have played a pivotal role in who he is and who he continues aspires to be. “After losing my dad, my number one focus and priority is my family. I didn’t have my dad growing up. I have an amazing mom and I want to see my kids grow up. I still need to travel, but don’t want to spend 200 days each year away. I will drive home to see them during their dinner– it’s the highlight of my day. It’s what I love and work for.”
When it comes to talking about his mom, Shahryar is no less eloquent. “My mom is about love. She made us her centerpiece and focus. Her mission was to make sure we weren’t affected by the crazy events in our life. I have a strong tight knit family and was surrounded by commitment and moral grounding. With that, it’s hard to fail.”
In his wife Erin, Shahryar found a partner who is as passionate as he about family and community. “She is very understanding about the importance of giving back and has a strong moral compass. She’s always positive.”
“I had hard shoes to fill, and a legacy left by my dad. I don’t know how my mom did it – losing her home, her husband. All that she did, it didn’t break her spirit. We are truly blessed.” It’s a feeling mirrored by all those who come into contact with this great connector.
Photographed on location at Work Well Win in Greenwich