How Erika De La Cruz Went From Homeless to Hollywood and #1 Bestselling Author
You know you’ve made it when your fans create a Wikipedia page about you like Erika De La Cruz’ fans did for her.
Erika De La Cruz is an American TV host, media personality, and founder of Passion to Paycheck. Oh, she’s also a #1 bestselling author, entrepreneur, as well as an inspirational coach and speaker too. Naturally because… #BossBabe. But Erika’s life wasn’t always glitz and glam. In fact, it included homelessness before Hollywood. I caught up with this soul sister to share her epic story with you.
Erika grew up in a small town in northern California and, growing up, wished she could just talk, be herself and wear pretty dresses “as a job.” Her parents said no early on. “Being myself for a living wasn’t really a thing that I knew,” says De La Cruz.
The 2009 economic crash completely rocked Erika’s world. Her parents’ 30-year restaurant business closed that year, their home was foreclosed and they lost everything. Erika’s father was defeated by the loss of their business at the time and after single-handled holding the family together, her mother became homeless. An 18-year old Erika was left with nothing but a few of her belongings packed into her 93 Honda Accord.
“Most of our belongings were sold to the state, swap meets and flea markets,” recalls Erika. “But instead of going on a crazy carved out societal path, I had this ‘oh I’ve got nothing to lose’ mentality which compelled me to take risks, challenge myself and do things I wanted to do like entertainment.”
“Our belongings were sold to the state, swap meets and flea markets,” recalls Erika.
Kay Makishi: How did you overcome those tough times and what happened afterward?
Erika de la Cruz: Distant family and friends really showed up then and they were my rock. My father bounced back, re-starting his own like in a way that was inspiring to me. My mother actually chose to embrace the homeless community… something that I had to accept and that I’m open about today, but is naturally very odd to most people. All of this made me so much stronger. After college, I got a job with Entercom Broadcasting that was looking for a marketing director. I was 23 years old then and 10 people quit within my first week because they didn’t want a 23-year-old bossing them around.
Kay Makishi: Can you tell us how you made the transition from a corporate job to becoming an entrepreneur?
Erika de la Cruz: Some people look at their corporate job as a prison, but for two years, I saw my company as my investor! I leveraged the broadcasting job to do red carpets and cover lifestyle content for an online audience. I gave myself 6 months and used that time to build up my personal brand. I secured myself a position at Fashion Week and the Late Night Show using my contacts while I was working full-time so when I left I’d have those teed up.
Kay Makishi: Ok, walk us through the beginning of your entrepreneurial journey. What were your first few steps like?
Erika de la Cruz: A lot of people in entertainment get service jobs like waitressing at restaurants to sustain themselves. And even though I did put myself through college that way, I’m like no no no I’m an exec now. Let me go in as a consultant. So I started coaching entertainers and leaders on how to be on camera. I also developed media partnerships and pitched my services to bigger companies I knew needed it. I charged a flat fee and sold media sponsorships leveraging my media and marketing contacts.
My biggest takeaway was that anything you’re good at, anyone you have access to or people you know, you can generate revenue from that because there is a need in the marketplace for your special talents. There’s always someone out there who can get such value from them and has a budget for it as a bonus. You can create win-win situations all around you.
Kay Makishi: What were your next steps like and how did you get from pitching media partnerships to becoming a TV host of Passion to Paycheck, #1 Bestselling Author, Coach and Speaker?
Erika De La Cruz: I was in a position to receive whatever the Universe was sending me. I was invited to speak at the SUE Talks in LA. I just REALLY shared my true story vulnerably. About losing everything, not giving up on my dreams and eventually, getting my family back in new, different, ways. Kyle Wilson, my book publisher, saw my talk and came to me with a book idea.
I was in a position to receive whatever the Universe was sending me.
I had always known I wanted to do some published work in the future, but I don’t think I had cultivated enough self-worth then, to put out a book. It took someone to believe in me, to see me into my future. So that’s why I’m so into “holding space” for others now. I want to see other people as bigger than they are so they have no choice but to live into that.
I did a book tour all of 2017 which led to hosting Passion to Paycheck on Focus TV network. I wasn’t coaching at the time, but because people were asking me to coach them, I created the supply for it and started generating revenue from teaching what I knew.
Coaching only lasted 6 months for me though. I was generating a lot of money but I was so unhappy. I reevaluated what I was doing and realized 1-on-1 coaching was draining for me. But I gained energy at the end of coaching and speaking at group events. I could show up and deliver to one group versus one person at a time. I was doing TV which made me happy so decided to launch Passion to Paycheck annual events which is a conference combining the personal development and TV personality worlds.
Kay Makishi: What does your schedule look like now?
Erika De La Cruz: Passion to Paycheck is full-time, year-round. So is Television. I spend half the year planning content with my 5-person team and the other half of my year still working on pitching media contracts and sponsorships. I monetize my social platforms weekly through sponsorships and spend 2 months of my summer only referring coaching clients to my former business coach.
Kay Makishi: What dreams will you be stepping into next?
Erika De La Cruz: My overarching theme is to be my best self for a living and reach millions. To expand Passion to Paycheck so we’re in three different markets, de-stigmatising mental health. The VLOG we added, featuring my personal life week-to- week (the real “passion to paycheck” haha) is going to be a huge component of our 10-year goal online. And obviously, while building the epire and speaking show to show…. continue to wear really pretty dresses thanks to my parters. That’s numero uno.
Kay Makishi: What’s one piece of advice for Boss Babes out there looking to break into the entertainment industry and do what you do?
Erika De La Cruz: Things really started to shift for me when I started sharing vulnerably, publicly. You have a duty to share yourself to create an authentic relationship with your audience. That’s the theme of my show and live events. Vulnerability and transparent sharing are a few keys I think to access your truest self.
In the end, this small town girl is indeed fulfilling her childhood dreams of “talking for a living,” being her best self and wearing really pretty dresses as her career. From homelessness to Hollywood, you never know what the Universe has in store for you.
Erika’s hosting her next Passion to Paycheck (presented by Bumble Bizz, Forward Female & many more) event in LA on April 27th. If you’re the area, don’t miss out to catch her live. Tickets are limited and can be purchased here.