Journey to the National Challenge

October 17, 2011  |  10 comments

Margaret Fox Photography

Written by Hayley Hoverter, NFTE Alum and CEO of Sweet (dis)SOLVE

For all of the participants, the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship’s 2011 National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge was all that it was hyped up to be—and much more. The event is perhaps a young entrepreneur’s dream: to be accompanied by a melting pot of the country’s best, most intelligent teenage business owners and to be able to get inspired by a plethora of passionate and esteemed judges . As intense as the competition was, with the stakes being so high, the environment remained positive, and everyone was encouraged every step of the way.

My journey with NFTE, as the first place winner of the national challenge, was hands-down the most fulfilling learning experience that I have ever had. I was lucky enough to be placed in NFTE’s social entrepreneurship pilot program in Downtown Magnets High School (in Los Angeles, CA) which was taught, in part, by the driven Brent Freeman, the CEO of (the for socially-conscious products). Brent taught us the importance of using innovation to add to the revolutionizing trend of using businesses to give back. This really hit home for me, and I went on to create Sweet (dis)SOLVE, paperless, soluble sugar packets.

From my first 30-second pitch, scribbled on a notebook, to winning my first classroom competition, all the way to the Los Angeles Regionals and Nationals, I have been consistently showered with uplifting feedback, support, and help by the wonderful coaches—most are business owners themselves; all are equally experienced. From a student’s point of view, NFTE’s success secret is derived from a simple equation. People who do what they love - and do it well - are able create a new generation of innovators, passionate and eager to change the world. For me, the real beauty of NFTE is how they manage to round up the most inspiring, motivating people I have ever met to dedicate countless hours to work with our businesses. Their advice is golden. And NFTE nails this.

In being with NFTE, just within the past six months, I have been able to speak at TEDx, won the Ernst & Young Youth Entrepreneur of the Year award, and was granted a scholarship to attend the University of Southern California’s Entrepreneurship Program. But most importantly, I was able to build business and mentorship connections for life. Like NFTE has taught me, my net worth is my network; and I couldn’t have asked for a more amazing network. The win at the nationals was just a bonus.

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