: "White House Economic Director Had Unusual Upbringing That Fostered Entrepreneurial Spirit,Drive to Learn"November 2004: austinwoman Magazine
Not many political careers originate from a backyard replicate of Yosemite National Park or with a burgeoning bread business, conceptualized at the tender age of six.But for Heidi Cruz, President Bush's Economic Director for the Western Hemisphere, these early signs of entrepreneurialism and forward thinking were where it all began.Cruz
, 31, a San Luis Obispo, California, native, has maintained a well-planned track to her
current position at the White House
journey has required much discipline, dedication and, of course, a bit of serendipity."I grew up in what other people would label as 'unusual'," Cruz
"Scott and I were very self-reliant and one summer decided to re-create our favorite family vacation spot - Yosemite National Park," said Cruz
."We spent the entire three months building 'mountains' and creating our own backyard fantasy world.Our family was always outdoors, hiking, biking, windsurfing, water and snow and skiing.My dad is a mountain climber, who climbed Mount Everest in 1990.We learned at an early age the value of a strong physical self."
During their childhoods, Cruz
brother also started a bread-making business.Their father always encouraged capitalism and when they started asking for money at ages six and eight, he
suggested that they be creative."We started out on a very small scale," said Cruz
."Our mother bought the ingredients and we sold about 30 loaves a week for $1.00 each.Eventually, the sibling rivalry got to us and we split the partnership up.I named my company 'Heidi's Bakery' and Scott named his
'Kneads Bread.'" That capitalism experiment lasted for ten years and eventually the pair sold over 200 loaves a week and grossed over $15k.
The Nelsons sent their children to Christian schools and often took them on missionary trips, to teach them about other cultures."When I was four years old we lived in Nigeria," said Cruz
Not drawn to medicine, Cruz
began seeing her
career in business and politics and a challenging road ahead.While at boarding school in Monterrey, California, Cruz decided that she would study economics at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California.
"My parents were disappointed that I decided not to attend an Adventist college, but it was vital for me to find my own niche," said Cruz
."They had raised me to be self-reliant and to pursue my own dreams."Cruz
horizons and her
interest in foreign policy and economics increased."I realized that Claremont didn't have a College Republicans chapter, so I started one," she
said."I attended the 1992 Republican National Convention
in Houston and I also interned for a congressman.Those decisions really set the wheels in motion."
During college, Cruz
discovered that her
previous schooling had focused primarily on science and music and so she
played catch-up on other subjects."That experience just made me work harder and I suppose doubt myself at times," she
said."I thought I had to work just a little bit more than everyone else and I still rely on that thought process today."
From there, Cruz
received a Rotary Scholarship to attend the University Libre de Bruxelles, Solvay School
, where she
gained a Masters of European Business.She
gained important knowledge regarding Europe's economic future, its trade theories and its financial markets and also found time to run in the Paris marathon.Her
next step landed her
in New York City at J.P. Morgan
and Co. - a far cry from her
14-acre Californian bubble."I was thrilled to be in New York City," said Cruz
."At J.P.Morgan, investment banking captured my work ethic, energies and optimism that women can have it all.During those years, I worked 100-hour weeks in the structured debt group as well as in Latin America mergers and acquisitions.I participated in advising companies on expansion and privatization strategies and became deeply entrenched in Latin American finance and business.I didn't speak any Spanish, so I caught up by studying Berlitz Spanish until 3am every night after work. "Cruz
explained that she
loved the New York experience, but she
missed being involved in her
community."I decided to volunteer one day a week to tutor a Harlem youth and that experience made such an impact on my life.Only in New York City can you go from the high-powered streets of Wall Street and in five minutes be sitting in a cramped apartment in Harlem.There was a huge gap and it made me want to be able to help create more economic opportunities for those in need. "Cruz was accepted into Harvard Business School, where she obtained her M.B.A. During that time she became the assistant economic advisor for then-Senator John Ashcroft.
...During the 2000 Bush presidential campaign, Cruz met her future husband, Ted Cruz, the now-appointed Solicitor's General of Texas.