History


An Empowering Dream …

The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) was founded in 1987 by Steve Mariotti, an entrepreneur and educator who recognized the natural capacity for success in students facing challenging circumstances. Steve pioneered a unique approach to teaching basic skills, motivation, and discipline through entrepreneurship—igniting the mindset that empowers young people, regardless of their circumstances, to own their futures. That principle still drives the global education nonprofit’s mission and is reflected in NFTE’s history of transforming lives.


1987

The Beginning

Steve Mariotti founded NFTE in 1987 after struggling to engage his students. He infused coursework with entrepreneurship principles and sought funding from people on the Forbes 400 list. Ray Chambers of Wesray Capital Corporation, the only initial donor from the list, provided $160,000 in startup capital to launch NFTE.

1988

Published Curriculum

In January 1988, Steve took his developing curriculum to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Newark. That March, the first edition of NFTE’s curriculum was published and covered elementary, junior high, and high school. NFTE served 200 students in the New York metro area and was featured on ABC’s “World News Tonight” with Peter Jennings.

1989

Summer Camps

NFTE determined that its nine-month, in-school program could be delivered effectively in two full weeks of daylong summer sessions. The first was held at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Business School. BizCamps® were subsequently held at the universities of Columbia, Georgetown, Stanford, and California, Berkeley. In a 2015 study of BizCamp, NYU found that NFTE’s summer programming provides students with an opportunity to develop critical thinking skills and a way to test out new ideas.​

1991

NFTE’s Expansion

NFTE’s reach beyond the New York metro area began with the founding of its first partner, Youth Entrepreneurs Kansas. NFTE opened an office in New England, which kickstarted explosive growth to 18 program sites within the United States.

1993

Proven Impact

Since 1993, NFTE has been engaged in thoughtful research to understand our impact. Early notable studies include:​ A five-year evaluation carried out by Brandeis University that found there was a significant impact in participants’ entrepreneurship knowledge and entrepreneurial self-efficacy (1993-1998); an alumni study that compared NFTE program graduates to a control group of adults who had not participated in NFTE, and found that NFTE alumni had a higher intent to start businesses, a higher rate of business start-up and a self-reported improvement in business skills and knowledge (Koch Foundation, 1998)​; and two studies by the Harvard Graduate School of Education that found NFTE students increased their college and career orientation and had higher measures of entrepreneurial behavior, especially in leadership (2003 and 2004).

2001

Outcomes Study

NFTE had been working with Project IF (Inventing the Future) and the Harvard Graduate School of Education since 2001 to evaluate the influence of NFTE’s youth entrepreneurship program on school engagement, life skills and other attitudes. In 2005, a longitudinal study of NFTE alumni from Boston schools and a comparison group of similar students found that NFTE students were more likely to take initiative and engage in a range of entrepreneurial leadership behaviors. Their locus of control (belief that attaining one’s goals is within one’s own control) increased, as did their scores in independent reading, occupational aspirations, and interest in attending college.

2002

Assessment Strategy

In 2002, NFTE sought to further develop a sound knowledge base on youth entrepreneurship. NFTE created its Theory of Change, a detailed logic model outlining possible program outcomes and steps to take for desired results. Using this framework in 2003-2004, NFTE formulated an evaluation and research agenda that included a universal, short-term outcomes assessment strategy, longitudinal and comparison studies, and a comprehensive documentation/management information system that was pilot tested in 2005.

2005

Pearson Distribution

The 10th revised edition of NFTE’s award-winning curriculum, How to Start & Operate a Small Business, was completed for the Fall 2005 school year. For the first time in NFTE’s history, the curriculum was published and distributed by Pearson Education—a global leader in educational publishing. Also that year, the three finalists for the national “Teenpreneur Award” at the 10th Annual Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs conference were NFTE graduates. Robert Reffkin, a 1995 NFTE alum, was chosen for a White House Fellowship.

2006

First Champion

NFTE hosted its first annual National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge in New York City on October 26, 2006. The top 28 middle and high school NFTE student qualifiers participated. The first-ever national champion was Abigail “Abby” Lewis of Kansas, who won $10,000 for The Scribbler nail polish pen. Thomas Dant, Jr. of Maryland took the second place prize of $5,000 for Fine Foto. Lawrence K. Yamoah of Chicago came in third, winning $2,500 for In Touch Customz shoe designs.

2009

Name Change

In 1986, NFTE was incorporated as the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship to Handicapped and Disadvantaged Youths, Inc. Its founding was completed by 1987. NFTE’s name was officially changed to the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship in 2009.

2011

White House

In 2011, the White House hosted winners of NFTE’s 5th annual National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge; the Beijing Civil Affairs Bureau and the Capital Philanthropy Foundation selected NFTE partner Bright China Foundation as the best charity project in China; Ernst & Young started recognizing NFTE students at its regional Entrepreneur of The Year award events; NBA legend and entrepreneur Earvin “Magic” Johnson appeared at the NFTE Dare to Dream Gala; E*TRADE presented NFTE’s inaugural online Elevator Pitch Challenge; NFTE President & CEO Amy Rosen served on the U.S. President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability; and the six-week NFTE Start Up Summer boot camp launches with 16 students, ages 16 and up, at Columbia University.

2013

Mindset Index

NFTE is a pioneer in measuring youth entrepreneurial mindset​. In 2013 alongside ETS®, NFTE began developing a formative assessment tool that measures entrepreneurial mindset using the Entrepreneurial Mindset Index (EMI).​ Students receive an EMI report and teachers receive reports for their classroom.​

2015

Alumni Fellowship

NFTE students Joschula Page and Karen Bonilla attend the 2015 White House Science Fair. Also that year, the nine-week NFTE Alumni Fellowship Program launched in partnership with the Citi Foundation. Over the course of the summer, 10 fellows worked in regional NFTE offices throughout the United States, helping to implement summer programming for current NFTE students.

2017

Teacher Corps

In 2017, NFTE launched the Entrepreneurship Pathway, which takes students through the journey of igniting the imagination, activating the entrepreneurial mindset and creating businesses. NFTE’s Teacher Corps also started with a robust community of support, professional development through NFTE U, resources and curriculum, and student performance reporting.

2019

Volunteer Impact

Impact of Volunteers in NFTE Programs was a research paper that applied learnings from NFTE’s volunteer experiences to understand the roles and functions of adult volunteers from the business and entrepreneurship community.

2022

World Champion

NFTE presented its inaugural World Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge in 2022. Student teams representing NFTE global partner organizations in Austria, India, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Mexico and Singapore joined the three winners of NFTE’s 2021 U.S. National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge in a virtual pitch-off on April 6 and 7. The first-ever world champions were Divya Sijwali and Parth Puri of India. The runners-up were Nana Sekimoto of Japan and Ava McLoughlin of Ireland. That same year, the Boston Red Sox chose NFTE educator Emmanuel “Manny” Brito of Collins Middle School in Massachusetts as the 2022 Most Valuable Educator. In addition, NFTE published its first-ever trends report, Entrepreneurship Education in 2022: Powering Inclusive Growth, offering insight on the state of entrepreneurship education. NFTE also launched a new Enterprise division dedicated to building vendor partnerships with community colleges, workforce development programs, and global programs.