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The Best Entrepreneurship Competitions for High School Students

Student pitching startup idea

Entrepreneurship is a cornerstone of what makes America great. Successful businesses are founded on interdisciplinary, communication, and critical thinking skills, many of which must be gained through experience. While raw knowledge can be obtained in the classroom, it can be difficult for a burgeoning young entrepreneur to experience the process of developing a business plan and executing it. That’s where entrepreneurship competitions can help play a huge role. These competitions give outlets to students who may have a great idea but lack the resources or mentorship for comprehensive follow-through.

It’s not uncommon for younger generations to be able to synthesize information in innovative ways. They are often raised on the technology older generations must adapt to. There is no dearth of imagination in students of any age. However, ideas alone aren’t enough to create a tangible product or service. Explore the competitions below to see how you can bring your ideas to life!

With economists predicting the jobs of tomorrow don’t even exist today, entrepreneurial skills are skills for life. Don’t feel intimidated by the term “entrepreneurship”. Even if you don’t consider yourself an entrepreneur in its traditional sense (i.e., start a company), think of entrepreneurial mindset broadly. Are you willing to challenge yourself and step out of your comfort zone? How often do you take initiative? Are you attracted to new ideas or concepts? Does working with a group of high-achieving peers sound exciting to you? These entrepreneurship competitions aim to equip students with core skill sets that are essential to college and career success, skills such as critical thinking, communication, teamwork, and time management.

Alaska Airlines Imagine Tomorrow

Alaska Airlines Imagine Tomorrow challenges 9th through 12th graders to seek new ways to support the transition to sustainability. Students research complex topics related to sustainability, then innovate technologies, designs, or plans to mobilize behavior. They forge connections in their communities and create positive change. In this competition, as in life, solutions are limited only by imagination.

  • Grades: 9th - 12th

  • Level: National

  • Registration Deadline: Check Website

  • Project Deadline: Check Website

Blue Ocean Entrepreneurship Competition

The Blue Ocean High School Entrepreneurship Competition is the largest virtual entrepreneurship competition in the world created and supported by high school students. Every year, individuals or teams pitch their innovative business concepts to experienced entrepreneurs and business professionals, receive feedback on their ideas, join a community of like-minded students, and compete for thousands in cash prizes.

  • Grades: 9th - 12th

  • Level: National, International

  • Pitch Deadline: January 17

  • Assessment Schedule: January to March

Conrad Challenge

The Conrad Challenge is an annual competition that brings science and technology studies to life through a student-driven, and project-based approach. Students, aged 13-18, compete in teams of 2 to 5. There are no theoretical tasks here! Students identify relevant real-world challenges that don’t necessarily have a clear answer and learn how to innovate by creating solutions.

  • Grades: Ages 13-18

  • Level: National

  • Event Schedule: The 2020-2021 Conrad Challenge will open in August 2020.

Cooper Hewitt National Design Competition

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum launched the National High School Design Competition in collaboration with Target in 2016. Every year, students around the U.S. are challenged to design a solution to a unique scenario, inspired by Cooper Hewitt’s rich collection and stimulating exhibitions.

  • Grades: 9th - 12th

  • Level: National

DECA Competitive Events

With nearly a 75-year history, DECA has impacted the lives of more than ten million students, educators, school administrators and business professionals since it was founded in 1946. DECA’s competitive events help aspiring students become college and career ready when they graduate from high school. There are an abundance of events and competitions a student can participate in. Explore the website and event schedule to see which ones appeal to you.

  • Grades: 9th - 12th

  • Level: National, International

Diamond Challenge

The Diamond Challenge, the world’s top-rated entrepreneurship competition for high school students, was created through Horn Entrepreneurship, a cornerstone for entrepreneurial activity based at the University of Delaware. This competition provides high school students around the world with opportunities to experience entrepreneurship first hand.

  • Grades: 9th - 12th

  • Level: National, International

  • Registration Deadline: January 8

Knowledge@Wharton Investment Competition

The KWHS Investment Competition is a free, online investment simulation for high school students and teachers. Participants compete with students from around the world and learn about finance, teamwork, strategy-building and communication. Over the course of 10 weeks, teams are responsible for managing a portfolio of $100,000 in virtual cash using Wharton’s Online Trading and Investment Simulator (OTIS).

  • Grades: 9th - 12th

  • Level: National

  • Registration Deadline: Early September

  • Final Strategy Deadline: Mid December

Knowledge@Wharton Comment and Win

The KWHS Comment and Win contest is an opportunity for high school students to dig into the hundreds of online KWHS articles, videos and podcasts about business, finance, entrepreneurship, leadership, economics, career and college prep and leave compelling comments about the topics that interest them the most. It’s a great way to read, reflect, and deepen the conversation around some fascinating issues – and get recognition for their ideas. The contest runs annually from June through August.

  • Grades: 9th - 12th

  • Level: National

  • Round 1: Late June

  • Round 2: Early July

  • Round 3: Late July

  • Round 4: Mid August

Junior Achievement Entrepreneurship Classes

JA programs help prepare young people for the real world by showing them how to generate wealth and effectively manage it, how to create jobs which make their communities more robust, and how to apply entrepreneurial thinking to the workplace. Students put these lessons into action and learn the value of contributing to their communities.

  • Grades: 9th - 12th

  • Levels: National

Junior Achievement National Student Leadership Summit

The National Student Leadership Summit (NSLS) is part of Junior Achievement’s annual celebration of the accomplishments of JA Company Program students, ages 15–19, from across the United States. Students, under the mentorship of a local business volunteer, develop and market a product or service with the goal of realizing a profit for their shareholders. This pinnacle summit brings together 15 JA student companies to Washington, D.C., USA, for three days of high-impact JA experiences. The Summit features the JA Company of the Year powered by The Hartford, the FedEx Access Award, the Delta Social Impact Award, and the ICE NYSE Foundation Best Financial Performance Award.

  • Grades: 9th - 12th

  • Levels: National, International

  • Leadership Summit: June

FCCLA Virtual Business Challenge

The FCCLA Virtual Business Challenge, the Personal Finance contest encourages FCCLA members to test their skills in personal finance. This competition is a free event for affiliated FCCLA members. Participating members utilize a competition version of the Virtual Business – Personal Finance classroom software.

  • Grades: 9th - 12th

  • Level: State, National

Genius Olympiad: Business

GENIUS Business raises awareness of environmental values in the business world, from bringing green products and services to market to developing a social responsibility plan for any business aiming to have a positive relationship to the society and the environment in which it operates.

Each GENIUS Business project can be prepared and presented by up to two students. Participants must prepare and present a business plan to judges as though they are making a pitch for funding for their business plan, also known as an investment proposal. Presentations will be made in formal business attire and should include a Powerpoint/Prezi (or similar) presentation of no more than 10 minutes before Q&A.

  • Grades: 9th - 12th

  • Level: National, International

  • Project Application Deadline: March 1st

  • Participation Application Deadline: May 1st

National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge

This competition is hosted by Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), which believes that teaching entrepreneurship changes mindsets, changes lives, and changes the world. NFTE aims to equip young people with an innovator’s eye and a founder’s grit–the skills to excel in an innovation economy. This challenge is a series of local, regional and national business plan and pitch competitions where students can put their entrepreneurship skills to the test.

  • Grades: 9th - 12th

  • Level: Local, Regional, National

World Series of Innovation

This is another competition hosted by Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE). NFTE's World Series of Innovation invites young people to get involved in solving the biggest challenges facing humanity today and help advance the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

  • Grades: Open to All

  • Level: National, International

Paradigm Challenge

The Paradigm Challenge is an ongoing competition that invites students aged 4 to 18 around the world to use kindness, creativity, and collaboration to help solve real-life problems and make a difference. There are a wide variety of projects to participate in: person health, food security, biodiversity, waste reduction, fire prevention, etc.

  • Grades: Ages 4 - 18

  • Level: National

  • Entry Deadline: May 1st, 2021


In today’s increasingly complex world, cross-cultural cooperation in entrepreneurial ventures can raise standards of living and generational history. The SAGE way to change the world is to focus on one key stakeholder—teenagers—for it is youth who have the most at stake.

  • Grades: 9th - 12th

  • Level: National, International

Technovation Challenge

Every year, Technovation invites teams of girls from all over the world to learn and apply the skills needed to solve real-world problems through technology.

  • Grades: 6th - 12th, Girls Only

  • Level: National, International

The Green Idea

The Green Idea is a green innovation competition where startups that strive to make a positive change are born. During a 24 hour green idea marathon, driven students with different backgrounds and perspectives will gather to develop concepts that can create a more sustainable society. By the end of the 24 hours all teams will pitch for an expert jury and the creators of the winning solution will be offered mentorship, 20,000 SEK (Swedish currency) and support to take their idea further.

  • Grades: Open to All

  • Level: National, International

Lemonade Day

Started in 2007, Lemonade Day is a strategic lesson-based program that aims to help prepare youth for life through fun, proactive and experiential programs infused with life skills, character education, and entrepreneurship. Students are given the opportunity to make their dream into a business plan while learning the same principles required to start any company. They are inspired to work hard and make a profit; they are also taught to spend some, save some and share some by giving back to their community. For students and families in Southern California, you can choose from three locations listed below.

INCubateredu and ACCELeratoredu

INCubatereud and ACCEleratoredu are year-long courses that teach students to build read businesses, a program offered and hosted by Unchartered Learning. In the first year INCubatoredu course, students develop their own product or service, gain investment funds, and participate in a final shark-tank style pitch event. Students will be coached and mentored by real entrepreneurs and industry experts to learn and go through the process of developing hypotheses about a business concept, testing those hypotheses, adapting, and continually learning and improving.

In the second year, students participate in ACCELeratoredu, where they take a business from startup to launched. This course fosters the transition of businesses founded in INCubatoredu into sustainable, functioning ventures. Students work through major areas of content: legal and banking, customer acquisition, business processes, and product development, and leave the course having gained traction in the marketplace to successfully launch their company.

  • Grades: 9th - 12th

  • Level: Local, National

Acton Children’s Business Fair

The Acton Children’s Business Fair is a free program offered to entrepreneurial families by the growing network of Acton Academy schools and the Acton MBA program. Students and families are supported with free resources to host a one-day Children’s Business Fair in the neighborhood.

  • Grades: Open to All

  • Level: Regional, International

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