Dr. Rashae Barnes is a former classroom teacher and celebrity publicist who has taken her purpose of teaching to another industry.

After earning her doctorate in education and teaching for 10 years, Barnes ventured into funding with the launch of Evals Equity — a 501(c)3-structured investment fund.

The lack of people who looked like her in the space was a main motivator for Barnes to take on the new challenge. As someone who describes herself as the “dot connector,” she got right to work during the pandemic to research how to jumpstart her fund.

Under the motto “Where opposition meets opportunity,” Evals Equity’s mission is to support Black women and women of color to gain access to funding through grants.

“Almost every Black woman and minority woman that I’ve spoken to about funding for their companies, they all are almost 99.9 percent self-funded from their own pockets,” Barnes told AfroTech. “But why are we self-funding ourselves when there’s money out there? So, our job is to try to create resources to help people get funding in the form of grants.”

“There’s funding [out there where] you try to loan it to us, then you have these high-interest rates — 16, 20 percent — and now I gotta pay you back money that I didn’t even have in the first place,” she emphasized.

Barnes shared with AfroTech that she knows firsthand what it looks and feels like to not be able to secure funding.

“I was one of those people who couldn’t get funding. So, all my businesses were self-funded. One thing about me is I want to help women who look like me, who are going through the same exact thing that I’m going through. I’m so passionate about [Evals Equity] because I know that there’s somebody out there that doesn’t even know that I exist that is praying for me to see this through.”

In addition to helping women with funding, the donor and sponsor-based fund gives them access to a community of like-minded entrepreneurs, where monthly sessions that cover various topics are held.

“They’re put into a community with Evals that can help them scale the funds that they have,” Barnes said. “Then, they are also part of a community of women that are doing the same thing that they’re doing. Sometimes this journey, it’s lonely. Sometimes the friends, the family, the boyfriend, the husband don’t understand the grind.”