Cornerstone of the NFTE Experience

Experiential learning, the key to our education model, culminates in competitive events that are the heart of the NFTE experience. Students polish ideas, business plans, and presentation skills to compete for cash prizes—seed capital for business launch or educational goals.

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In 2006, Abigail Lewis of Derby, Kansas, became NFTE’s first National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge champion. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in prizes have been awarded to diverse young entrepreneurs, many from under-resourced communities, since then.

Each year, our Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge Series starts with pitch competitions at the local classroom or camp level, which begins the student journey on the #RoadtoNationals.


Local winners may advance to the regional and then national competitions. National qualifiers vie for bigger prize awards as they go up against the best young entrepreneurs from across the country in the final rounds.

Finalists at all levels have a chance to win seed capital they can use to grow an existing business, launch a new business, or pursue educational goals. The #NFTEChampion goes on to compete in the world challenge.


Each competition round is judged by expert panels that include business leaders and successful entrepreneurs who volunteer their time to support NFTE entrepreneurs.

It’s a natural start to developing a professional network and connecting with mentors. NFTE’s continuum of services for students who become NFTE alumni includes an annual Founders Forum to support alumni with launch-ready or operational businesses.

Mark Your Calendar

NFTE programs give young people a chance to compete in three flagship competitions, the National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge, the World Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge and the World Series of Innovation, as well as a variety of brainstorming and design-thinking challenges and showcases offered throughout the year. Even our teacher corps learns how to pitch.

Competitions & Pitches

Every year, learners compete for cash prizes — in program-driven design thinking challenges, innovation challenges, and NFTE business plan and pitch competitions at the local, regional and national level. Through the process of creating their own business idea, NFTE students build entrepreneurial skills and are introduced to new career paths.

National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge

Our Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge series is eight months of local, regional and national business plan and pitch competitions. Thousands of students go on to compete in a high-stakes national championship in New York City. Each round is judged by a panel of experts that includes business leaders and successful entrepreneurs who volunteer their time. Since NFTE’s National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge launched in 2006, millions of dollars in seed capital have been awarded.

World Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge

In 2022, NFTE hosted its inaugural World Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge to give distinguished young entrepreneurs from all over the world an opportunity to meet and exchange ideas. Student teams representing NFTE global partner organizations join the winner of the U.S. National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge in a pitch-off that includes semifinal and final rounds of competition. Winners are determined by a panel of judges and recognized at a gala celebration.  

World Series of Innovation

Each year, young people ages 11-24 from around the globe compete in the World Series of Innovation (WSI) to solve some of the biggest challenges facing humanity. Thousands of competitors develop the entrepreneurial mindset and practice design-thinking skills. Prizes are awarded to top winners of sponsored challenges focused on advancing the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Innovation Days connect young people to volunteer coaches who mentor them on their WSI submissions. These design-thinking workshops are taught in a “day of learning” and link entrepreneurship fundamentals to the SDGs.

Founders Forum

The NFTE experience comes full circle with our annual Founders Forum Pitch Competition and Investment Panel. Since its inception in 2019-2020, the five-month forum has fostered powerful mentoring relationships between our alumni and a network of volunteer business advisors. Entrepreneurs with viable or operational businesses meet in weekly sessions to deepen their knowledge about investment readiness, raising capital, product sourcing, marketing, and team building. The annual finale is pitching investor briefs before an audience of potential investors to showcase progress. Contact us for details.

Upcoming Competitions

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NFTE National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge 2024

Watch the exciting final round of our signature business plan & pitch competition as finalists vie for the grand prize.

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