The Nasdaq Lens in Action: Shining a Light on Entrepreneurship with Ray’Chel Wilson, CEO and Founder of Raise the Bar Investments

AAs part of Nasdaq’s second annual Purpose Week, dedicated to showcasing how we advance inclusive economic progress, Nicola Corzine, CEO of the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center, spoke with Ray’Chel Wilson, CEO and Founder of Raise the Bar Investments, and a graduate of the center’s Milestone Circles program. Wilson and Corzine discussed the journey of entrepreneurship as a young black female founder, acknowledged the continuing disparity that female founders of color face, and offered advice for organizations seeking to support them.

The Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center’s Milestone Circles program helps women entrepreneurs revitalize their vision for their business, setting critical business milestones and building a support network to help them now and in the future.

The program reflects Nasdaq’s goal of advancing inclusive economic progress by supporting Black, minority, and women entrepreneurs to help them build, scale, and commercialize their businesses.

The 12-week Milestone Circles program brings together a group of peers and a facilitator coach to:

  • Gain focus and confidence for their vision
  • Strategize and plan business priorities for the next quarter
  • Benefit from the support of peers and mentors through working groups and courses

In its first year, 525 founders graduated from the program. In 2022, class sizes have almost doubled to 1,000 participants. As one of the program’s first graduates, Wilson laid milestones for Raise the Bar Investments (RTB), a platform that provides young people of color with the relevant, timely and holistic skills needed to build generational wealth and collectively reduce the racial wealth gap. .

“Coming into this program I was trying to build the strategy for my long term plan. But I also wanted to build relationships and connect with other amazing women. I would say [that] my expectations were met and exceeded,” Wilson said.

RTB was founded to meet a real need with concrete solutions. As a young student, Wilson was discouraged by the amount of debt she had to take on to graduate. She taught herself personal finance, creating a budget that allowed her to pay off her student loans in two years.

But when she began her teaching career, she saw how widespread the issue of financial literacy was: “When I started teaching in the classroom, I realized it wasn’t just a problem for me, not just for the neighborhood in which I grew up. , but for a lot of people. And the problem has only been exacerbated for minorities,” Wilson said.

She decided to bring financial literacy into her own classroom, get certified in financial education, and write a curriculum for her high school students. In the first year she introduced the program, 93% of her seniors graduated, a 10% increase from the regional average.

This same program evolved into one of the products of RTB, a crash course in personal finance. Subsequently, she decided to expand RTB with the vision of educating young people of color about personal finance.

Wilson chose the Nasdaq Milestone Circles program to build relationships and find community with other female entrepreneurs while getting advice on how to grow her business.

She recalls a session taught by Stanford University professor Jack Fuchs on purposeful entrepreneurship, in which Wilson translated his company’s values ​​into marketable principles for attracting customers.

“Nowadays you need something simple that people can understand… Something that business leaders can say, ‘Okay, I can work with this, I can understand this is playing a role in my business,'” Wilson said.

She decided that the tenet of RTB would be stewardship education, educating young people of color to take care of their own personal finances and the next generation.

“Having sessions and guest speakers like Jack have been very important to my business,” Wilson said.

Although Wilson is enjoying success in her business with the help of the Entrepreneurship Center, there is still a valuation disparity among women entrepreneurs, especially women of color.

Research from the Center for Entrepreneurship found that wage ownership among female founders—the salary that female founders pay themselves after all other expenses—represents a living wage only after eight years, on average. This has increased over the past five years, according to Corzine. The same study found that female founders continue to suffer from 70% lower valuations for their companies compared to their male colleagues.

As the panel continued, Wilson and Corzine discussed systemic solutions to these issues.

On a systemic level, Wilson recognized the incredible efforts of organizations to provide social capital to young entrepreneurs of color. But she paired her recognition with a call for more tax funding.

“I think the biggest supporters can step up their offer of support beyond social capital to also offer tax capital,” Wilson said.

Tax capital helps bridge the gap between female founders of color and their white male counterparts and gives these founders more space to grow and experiment with their businesses.

Beyond more capital, Wilson stressed the need for mentorship among entrepreneurs to guide them to successful growth.

At the end of the panel, Wilson and Corzine discussed the future of RTB and whether the company had achieved the milestones it set for itself when entering the Milestone program. Wilson excitedly claimed that RTB had indeed reached its milestone of publishing its third book, “The Money Moves Workbook: Achieving Your Wealth Goals in 12 Months or Less.” Additionally, Wilson shared the company’s milestone for 2023, to branch out into the fintech space with an RTB app.

“I have to be low key for now, but check us out online and stay tuned so you can stay up to date!” said Wilson.

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