By Diana Garcia

Meet Shelly, a 3rd  generation Austinite. Shelly has firsthand experience of breaking the cycle of generational poverty as she lived in affordable housing projects as a child and became the first college graduate in her family. She attended Texas State University’s McCoy College of Business where she received her BBA in Economics. Shelly’s work experience has included a diverse mix of industries and roles. She has worked in nonprofit economic development, banking, and HUD affordable housing compliance. She has a passion for community engagement and is heavily involved in community service and volunteerism with local nonprofit organizations. She currently serves as the Engagement and Giving Coordinator with the Tito’s Handmade Vodka philanthropy team.

Shelly shares her experience as a volunteer with EGBI and how you can get involved too.

Hi Shelly! To get started, would you mind telling us a fun fact about yourself?
A fave hobby of mine is exploring trails around Austin. Although I grew up here, I still have not explored every one. There’s so many! I have two children and this is a go-to weekend morning outing for us. Also, it is not uncommon for me to utilize a walk through a trail as a meeting option with friends and colleagues. I love theexperience of seeing, hearing, and feeling all that nature has to offer.

How have you volunteered for EGBI?
I have been involved with EGBI over the years in various capacities. I have had the opportunity to volunteer my time with EGBI by serving on the Marketing Committee and also by assisting with the annual Celebrating Success fundraiser. In my previous role with the Housing Authority for the City of Austin, an organization that helped found EGBI, I was able to deepen my knowledge and relationship with the mission EGBI serves by working with residents who were able to start their entrepreneurial journey because of EGBI. It was amazing to witness these stories unfold and see residents thrive in ways they never thought was possible.

Why do you think it is important to volunteer?
Community impact is driven by community members banding together and creating solutions. Volunteerism is the element that puts this concept into action. Every individual has overcome unique challenges and struggles and each of these perspectives brings value to create viable solutions that can benefit the overall good. I can speak firsthand to the benefits volunteerism can have as I was a child of poverty myself who oftentimes found myself on the receiving end of goodwill. I would not have been able to accomplish the goals I have had it not
been for organizations and their volunteers who provided tools and resources needed to succeed. This is the power of community impact and exemplifies how volunteerism is essential to empowering individual successes and results in stronger communities.

“EGBI provides tools and resources for the most vulnerable entrepreneurs and supporting this organization provides the necessary assistance to
widen the reach and capacity of the organization in order to provide greater economic development in our communities.” – Shelly Cruz

Why do you think it is important to volunteer at EGBI?
EGBI provides support to the entrepreneurs that need it the most. Starting a business is one of the most vulnerable challenges an individual can take on and the need for resources to mitigate the barriers involved is essential. Volunteering with and supporting EGBI provides the necessary assistance to widen the reach and capacity of the organization in order to provide greater economic development.

Last question, do you have a favorite experience about volunteering with EGBI?
My favorite experiences with EGBI involve working with Monica Peña on the marketing committee and witnessing her passion and expertise. Her excitement for the mission of EGBI is contagious and makes our projects fun and exciting. I also love the annual ice cream socials because I am able to see various supporters and clients of EGBI come together and unite.


In 2020, EGBI volunteers put in more than 130 hours to help EGBI support and serve over 400 small businesses. Volunteers like Shelly make this possible and continue to help EGBI pursue their mission of training, coaching, and supporting aspiring and existing business owners who face barriers to growing a successful business.
Want to get involved too? Contact us to find out how you can get involved.