Edrizio de la Cruz has a classic immigrant story. He moved from the Dominican Republic to New York City twenty-five years ago knowing no english and with nothing in his pocket. Today, he’s the CEO of his own up-and-coming startup. It’s the American Dream come true — but for de la Cruz, his journey is far from over.
Edrizio de la Cruz is a cool guy. Maybe a little too cool. He makes wearing suits with the top unbuttoned look effortless and his 1000-watt smile is highly infectious. If you ever meet him, he’ll tell you to call him Eddy.
Eddy is tall, handsome, and has shoulders so wide he worries about whether or not they can fit into a camera frame. Overall, Eddy looks like he has it made.
But de la Cruz is more then just Eddy, the name he picked up because the flare of Edrizio was too hard for too many everyday Americans to pronounce. De la Cruz is an entrepreneur, a once-upon-a-time standup comedian, an ex-airplane mechanic, a former college drop-out, and, perhaps most importantly, De la Cruz is an immigrant.
“Immigration is an activity as old as traveling,” de La Cruz says. “And the core reason behind why people do it is two-fold.”
As the founder of Regalli, a company which allows immigrants in the United States to pay bills for family back home, building better opportunities is exactly what de la Cruz does. But his own immigrant story started about twenty-five years ago when he set foot on a plane heading for a place called New York City.
“When I was a kid I was actually pretty chubby,” de la Cruz confesses. “So I really loved food a lot.”
In particular, Edri loved mangu, a traditional dish consisting of crushed plantains mixed with ground pork. The food, the weather, and how passionate people get about sports — these are things that de la Cruz loves about his home country.
As a child, Edri lived with his mother in the Dominican Republic — his father lived in New York City and Edri had never really seen too much of his dad before. That is, until he turned nine years old.
“Age nine comes, my mother puts me on a plane by myself and says, ‘You’re going to go live with your dad in this place called New York.’ I got on the plane, landed on the other side in the middle of winter,” de la Cruz says. “It was a culture shock.”
Whenever you mentioned New York City in the Dominican Republic, de la Cruz recalls, people would break out into a poetic soliloquy about how the streets were paved with gold and money grew on trees. Today, de la Cruz finds the sentiment amusing for many reasons.
“It’s funny” de la Cruz says, “because I didn’t live in the most lavish area of New York. I grew up in Harlem.”
De la Cruz was quick to discover that bring in New York City, the city of dreams, didn’t mean that dreams just come true. He would have to work for it.
“Due to economic circumstances, I decided to drop out of college to help out my parents,” de la Cruz says.
From age 18 to 21, de la Cruz was an airplane mechanic. During that time, his dream of becoming the person flying those same planes he worked on seemed far gone.
“But then it just dawned on me. This is not what I want to do,” de la Cruz says. “I was given this opportunity to cross the border into this country, I wanted to do something better.”
So de la Cruz went back to school. He went to classes at a community college during the day and worked nights. It was exhausting, but he made it.
After graduation, de la Cruz pursued a career that he believed would serve his needs best: investment banking.
“Apparently they weren’t hiring any former airplane mechanics who went to community college,” de la Cruz says. “But I didn’t care. I just knew I had to get it done.”
That determination would land de la Cruz an internship at a bank after a total of 33 interviews. He had made it.
But that was over ten years ago and de la Cruz’s appetite for more has driven him beyond monetary success and back to his roots.
Whether he was an airplane mechanic, a college student, a banker, or an entrepreneur, there has been one thing for Edrizio de la Cruz that has never changed: sending money back home.
De la Cruz made the shift from investment banking to co-founding his startup Regalli to improve how immigrants send monetary aid — called remittances — back home to their families.
For de la Cruz, it’s all about making better opportunities for those you love and making the most of the opportunities that have been given to you.
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