If you, like many Latinos, send remittances back to your familia in Latin America then you are probably familiar with the process of dealing with Western Union (or a company similar to it). Say you want to send $50 to your aunt. First you have to stand in line, the fee is $4, but an additional $1 if you’re paying with a credit/debit card. It’s more expensive to send dollars than say pesos, but then you’ll have to include a mark-up fee for currency exchange. You only give the teller a name and city where you’d like to send the money and they give you a code that you pass on to your aunt. Once she gets the code, she’ll have to travel to a Western Union location to pick up the money. Sound like a hassle?
Edrizio de la Cruz, founder and CEO of Regalii.com, thinks so. Born and raised in the Dominican Republic until the age of 11, when he moved to New York, he is very familiar with both the sending and receiving of remittances. A recent MBA graduate from the University of Pennsylvania Wharton College of Business, de la Cruz has always known that he has wanted to be an entrepreneur, he told me over lunch at Landmark America on a mild winter day.
“But I didn’t just want to create any web application; I wanted to create something that contributes to the social good,” he says of his ultimate goal.
Noticing a rise in social gifting – for example through social gift – both in the U.S. and Latin America, he had the following idea: why not pair social gifting with the ability to send remittances, especially since Latinos are growing faster on Facebook and the Internet in general.
And thus, Regalii.com was born. Headquartered in Philadelphia, it is a site that allows you to send money and gifts (for groceries, clothing, electronics, toys and more) to your relatives in the form of store e-giftcards. By linking with your Facebook profile, it allows you to easily select a recipient and have multiple people contribute to the gift as well. Once you select the amount and the store, an electronic code is sent via text message to your relative’s phone that they can then redeem in the store.
An avid storyteller, comedian and salsa enthusiast, de la Cruz sees entrepreneurship as his way of telling stories in the moment. “People are very attached to their heritage, especially with money. We are the economic and social bridge between Latin America and the US,” he says.
At times, he feels the strain of an entrepreneur who stands out from the crowd and struggles to find other Latinos doing similar things; a common theme he has noticed throughout his time at school and previous work in the banking industry. De la Cruz overcomes these feelings of doubt with wild optimism and self-motivation.
While Regalii is still in the developing and testing phases of its launch, the plan is to go live early next year. Along with his partners, Franklin Yang, Joshua Stone and Iñigo Rumayor, de la Cruz is working to establish partnerships with major stores in Latin America. His first stops are in Mexico and Santo Domingo.
“Regalii is a way for me to put everything I’ve learned, that I am passionate about and desire to achieve into one project. That’s why I can get up and do it every day, he says”
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.