About ConnectUP!

ConnectUP! Institute - Powered by Social Impact Now

About ConnectUP!

Our Mission

We curate connections among entrepreneurs, investors, and the business ecosystem to advance equitable access to capital, resources and networks (for underinvested communities) with an emphasis on Black and Brown women and their lived experiences.

Our Vision

We know that when Black/Brown women do well, we all do well. To that end, our vision is for Black/Brown women entrepreneurs to have intergenerational wealth through equitable access and culturally responsive resources, capital, & networks.

Our Values

Our value pillars have been shaped by our experiences, community, and vision for the future. 


...with the work we do, the communities we serve and the relationships we build.


..who people are, where they are and the identities they hold.


...to foster equitable and economically vibrant communities.


...that Communities hold wisdom that works.


...about who we are, where we’re from and who we serve with courage and passion.

Our Team

Y. Elaine Rasmussen- Founder and CEO

Y. Elaine Rasmussen

Founder and CEO

Driven by the mission to mainstream impact investing and democratizing access to capital Y. Elaine Rasmussen founded ConnectUP! Institute. Grounded in her work as a mediator, a communications and finance professional, Rasmussen has extensive experience in building transformational relationships in a wide range of sectors: for-profit, philanthropy, government, education and finance. 

Y. Elaine Rasmussen has been recognized for her innovation in driving impact & organizational effectiveness. She is a Cordes, Boston Impact Initiative and RSF Social Finance Integrated Capital Fellow where her Integrated Capital Fund project was named a MetLife Foundation Inclusion Competition semi-finalist. Rasmussen was featured in Fearless Commerce Magazine and received the NAWBO Achieve! Innovation Award for her work on inclusive economic development. Rasmussen was named Finance and Commerce’s Top Women in Finance, AARP/Pollen’s 50 Over 50. Rasmussen’s board service includes Minnesota Diversified Industries (MDI) and serves on the investment committees of Opus Group, Nexus Community Partners and Swift Foundation. Her overarching goal? To move billions of investment dollars in Black/Brown and rural communities. #MovingBillions #MoneyMoves

Elaine has worked for large and small organizations such as Shearson/Lehman Bros., Native Americans in Philanthropy, Warner Bros!, Dreamworks and the US State Department, and social enterprise ventures. She has a bachelor’s degree in marketing and international business from Woodbury University, as well as a masters degree in conflict analysis and resolution from Nova Southeastern University.

Elaine is an avid traveler. From her hometown of Los Angeles, California to the seas of Bosporus in Turkey and the Native American tribes across Turtle Island (United States). Elaine always seeks the strength of people, place, and culture—always making sure to break bread and foster connections. In her free time, you can find Elaine unwinding by crocheting, or with a glass of wine in hand, as a fire serenades a symphony of crackles at her feet.

Ixchel McKinnie - Enterprise Development

Ixchel McKinnie

Enterprise Development

Ixchel joined Social Impact Strategies Group (SISG) in December 2020, bringing her operational and financial experience to SISG. In her role, she leads enterprise development for SISG’s Integrated Capital Fund. She is also the Cooperative Development Manager for an exciting project to convert a restaurant into a community owned/worker run cooperative just blocks away from George Floyd Square. This will give members of the Powderhorn neighborhood an opportunity to have ownership of their food ecosystem and community.

With over a decade of experience in banking and training respectively, Ixchel has worked for Rivertown Trading Company, Wells Fargo, and founded her own successful consulting firm. During her time in the Twin Cities working in social impact, she has consulted with The Coven, was part of the Lunar Startups team, and served as the Interim CEO for the joint venture between Impact Hub and FinnovationLab.

When she is not doing social impact work with SISG, Ixchel is active in the rowing community as a certified coach, referee, engaging Black, Indigenous, and People of Color in the sport. She has two Yorkies, Sammy and Dexter.

Tavia Cummings - Program Lead

Tavia Cummings

Program Lead

Tavia Cummings is from Maryland but now splits her time between New York and Georgia. She holds a dual degree in Creative Writing and Film production. Her poetry has been published twice in 2020 and 2021 in the Carson Review. In 2021, Tavia won the best screenplay award for her Senior thesis film “Peep Show” at the Fifth Floor Film Festival. Tavia is looking forward to being a creative force in all spaces she enters.

Bethany Bobo

Communications Lead

Bethany is a digital communications content and strategy specialist from Mississippi and holds a degree in English (and minor in Music Performance) from Carleton College. With a passion for organically connecting local communities with local resources and cultivating digital communities to create lasting change, she has marketing and communications management experience in both non- and for-profit settings.

Bethany firmly believes that we have everything we need in our own communities and can foster fulfilling lives when our communities are connected, supported, and collaborative. She centers her vision in her work and clientele. Bethany’s professional goal is to provide Black, queer and women-owned businesses and nonprofits with holistic design and communications in a way that centers autonomy and community.

In her free time, she enjoys finding new restaurants, Facetiming her dogs back home and finding new parks and podcasts to indulge in.

Joanna Drew Headshot

Joanna Drew

Fundraising Lead

Joanna Drew is an independent fundraising consultant with ten years of experience. Working to increase the fundraising capacity of US-based nonprofits, international NGOs, and community-led projects, she manages all facets of the fundraising process. Her fundraising work includes individual giving, sponsorship and membership management, grant writing, event planning, and database administration. Joanna’s broad experience uniquely positions her to adapt her strategic thinking to a variety of contexts, build strong cross-cultural relationships, and thrive in dynamic, goal-driven professional environments.

Joanna holds a BSc in Business Administration from Boston University and an MA in International Development from the University of Kent Brussels School of International Studies. She is fluent in Spanish, a certified grant writer, and a member of the Association of Consultants to Nonprofits.

Joanna uncompromisingly partners with organizations that align with her values of inclusion and empowerment, striving to uplift the marginalized to ensure their seat at the table.

Kateri Ruiz

Kateri Ruiz worked in a corporate environment for almost 20 years before launching the MAIA Experiment and writing, One Bull, (publishing in 2023). MAIA tested out the systemic barriers for women entrepreneurs in the Minneapolis St Paul ecosystem and tested the collaborative nature of women to help foster a more women-centric economy.

She has had P&L ownership up to $42M with multiple operating units across domestic geographies. She has toured over 5K facilities designing workforce solutions and onboarding programs, the majority in Finance, Trade, Manufacturing, Healthcare, and Oil & Gas. Kateri is a certified Executive Presentation Skills trainer and it was her time in this industry that brought her the most professional joy. Kateri’s first love for operating systems stemmed from being the youngest of 12 children on a family farm in the Midwest, the beauty of interdependence and interconnectedness to achieve a common goal still drives her today. LinkedIn


Our Board

Elaine Rasmussen

Jon D. Rasmussen

Leigh Lester

Sustainable Development Goals
5 - Gender Equality
8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
10 - Reduced Inequalities
11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
17 - Partnerships for the Goals