March marks the celebration of Small Business Month, a time to celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit and the impact of small businesses on the economy and society. In this series, we spotlight some of the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center’s inspiring entrepreneurs who are making a difference in their communities.  We recently spoke with Ray’Chel Wilson, the founder and CEO of Raise the Bar Investments and her passion of helping minorities achieve financial empowerment.  


Tell us about Raise the Bar Investments. What is its core mission?

I never wanted to be a teacher, but being a teacher is what grew my interest in entrepreneurship and ultimately led to my first business Raise the Bar Investments. While I was a teacher, I was able to pay off my student loans from my investment profits – literally raising the bar for my mind & money. At Raise the Bar Investments, we provide easy-to-understand and easy-to-apply financial literacy education & empowerment to improve minorities’ quality of life. We do this because we believe all people deserve financial wellness. Because of this, we help others prioritize a healthy mindset, value-based budgeting, upskilling, and investing as key metrics to building wealth.

What drove you to entrepreneurship? What’s been your experience as a Black entrepreneur in and from Tulsa?

The entrepreneurial spirit has been in Black Wall Street Tulsa for centuries. It wasn’t until I was brought to Tulsa through Teach for America that my entrepreneurial spirit piqued its head in my classroom. Although I was assigned to teach a different topic, I saw a gap in the school – our soon-to-be first group of graduating seniors were going to graduate without personal finance, if no one did anything. I decided to do something to solve this problem. I became a Certified Financial Education Instructor and created the first personal finance curriculum for KIPP Tulsa University Prep High School. Seeing the need both in my classroom and in the larger community, I leveraged the classroom experience, and my experience as an investor to create my first entrepreneurial product, the 3-part Black Wealth Freedom series. My first book, Holistic Money Mindset: Mental Preparation for Abundance came from the financial traumas I saw my community struggle to overcome, even generations after the Tulsa Race Massacre. Now, the Black Wealth Freedom series has impacted over 2,000 readers in 7 countries, from Tulsa to the world.

Do you have any guiding principles that help you make business decisions?

Business core values are the North Star of business decisions. For example, the “raise” in Raise the Bar Investments is an antonym for our core values: Relationships, Action, Integrity, Scary Goals, and Excellence. If the business partnership, sale, or overall decision does not promote R.A.I.S.E., our mission, that guides me to say no to that decision. Business decisions are hard, but having pre-determined core values, as well as examples and non-examples of said core values, makes business decision making easier.

The Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center’s Milestone Circles program is designed to be a safe space for founders to take risks, share their wins, challenges and gain immediate support. Why is a space like that so important for entrepreneurs?

Recently, after facilitating a 2-part Financial Literacy Month workshop with Boston University’s Office of Career Education, I received a review that “Ray’Chel’s ability to curate a culture of safety and prosperity in the same space is admirable. Her attitude, ability to effectively deliver content that is fueled by experience and education, and overall warmth make her an excellent financial educator.” We cannot facilitate learning without first creating an environment that welcomes bravery. When we lead in brave vulnerability, we create the brave spaces that are often mislabeled as safe spaces. The facilitators and graduation speakers of the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center’s Milestone Circles program consistently created brave spaces for entrepreneurs to share the highs, lows, and ask for support. It is key for entrepreneurs, especially those of marginalized backgrounds, to have access to protected brave spaces, to practice vulnerable leadership, which can empower them in any space they enter. Because of the brave, safe spaces created, the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center’s Milestone Circles program was a transformational value add in my entrepreneurial journey.

Who are two of your small business role models and why?

The first small business role model would have to be my mom. She was a beauty consultant and even won the infamous MaryKay car. She allowed her values of femininity and self-care to radiate in her business practices – from going from beauty shops and barber shops every weekend to sell her body oils, to hosting parties within our apartment and friends’ homes to extend her brand’s reach. From her, I learned the importance of not only marketing yourself, but also the importance of taking pride in one’s product. Network marketing can sometimes get a bad name, but I’ve learned from my mom that the right system, the right product, and most importantly the right mindset are the foundations for a successful small business.

The second small business role model would be Madam C.J. Walker. Not only was she able to identify a trend (Eurocentric beauty standards), a target market (women with coarse hair), and create a solution (hair-straightening formula), but also, she was able to leverage her status as the first Black woman millionaire to become a philanthropist within her communities. During my first semester at Duke Divinity School, I learned an Africana Studies Framework, one of them being “how do it free us?”. I value the fact that Madame C.J. Walker was not only focused on freeing herself financially but leveraging her business finances to free us – the community. That’s communal liberation to me, which I believe to be the purpose of building a business.

What’s one tip for success you’d like to share with future entrepreneurs?

In the world of business, it must make dollars to make sense. Understanding one’s value without understanding the tangible value monetarily associated with one’s offering breeds redundancy. Entrepreneurs who only understand their value without understanding the profitability of their product may find themselves unable to transcend from “side-hustle” status. Entrepreneurs who only understand unit economics may find themselves burnt out, lacking a personal value alignment founder to product. Understand and communicate a healthy balance between pitching your values and vision, combined with planning for realistic profit margins, economic conditions, and customer segments.

What’s on the horizon for you in 2024?

I’m grateful for the thousands of lives my books and speaking have touched, but I’m always someone that leans into thinking bigger. Right now, that leads me to the upcoming ForOurLastNames app, to build generational wealth for our last names. launching later this year. Launching FOLN the latter half of this year. With a financial therapy approach, we aim to connect marginalized professionals who lack the education & empowerment with the vetted financial professionals needed for each financial milestone in their wealth journey. Because 60% of racial minorities own no assets to build wealth with, ForOurLastNames is on a mission to move first-generation wealth builders across their wealth journey in a sustainable way. I’m so very excited about what’s in store for me, my team, and all of our future users of the app. For those desiring to heal financial trauma & build generational wealth, our waitlist is open here. Let’s build wealth for our last names!



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