Start-ups for under-18s: From idea to reality

Are you a schoolpupil or apprentice with an exciting business idea and want to start your own business? There is useful information for parents and teachers here too. We provide an overview of contact partners, competitions, companies run by schoolpupils and the legal rules.

Contents of this page:

Who provides information and advice?

Competitions for schoolpupils

The family court procedure

Special academic achievement for Abitur

Useful information for teachers

Projects in your region

How do young people become entrepreneurs? If you are in school developing bright ideas and need input or support, or want to participate in competitions, you are in the right place.

Who provides information and advice?

The Startercenter NRW of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Chambers of Crafts and business development agencies across North Rhine-Westphalia can help you with any questions regarding your start-up project. If you require an individual consultation on business questions and legal procedures, of if you require general information on starting a business, then experienced start-up consultants are on hand to help you. You will also have access to information material. The Startercenter NRW also hold events and workshops which can help you prepare for launching your start-up. You can find further information on the Startercenter NRW website. There you will find an overview map with locations and contacts.

Dr. Nikolaus Paffenholz

Dr. Nikolaus Paffenholz

My three practical tips for your launch: go online and research what’s available from one of the Startercenter NRW in your region – i.e. the IHK (Chamber of Industry and Commerce), HWK (Chamber of Crafts) or local business development organisation. Visit one of the ‘Business start-up information afternoons’ they organise. Access Gründungswerkstatt NRW, a start-up platform that supports you with planning and putting your idea into practice. It’s digital, personal, free, safe and reliable.


© Image: Hans-Juergen Bauer

Have you heard of Startup Teens (website in German)? If you are aged between 14 and 19 and want to (further) develop or launch a business idea, you will also have access to support here too. Mentors will assist you on the path to having your own business. Alongside its free mentor programme, Start-up Teens also offers a YouTube channel with videos on the topic of start-ups and programming. With live events and hands-on activities, you can get tips for ideas, network with like-minded people and meet business role models in every region – even outside large cities.

Philippa Köhnk

Rubin Lind

Rubin Lind

“If young people want to solve problems and think they have the required staying power and ambition then I would be delighted to help them where I can!”



Samuel Pemsel

Samuel Pemsel


“Any idea and business model is only good when it is turned into reality and solves a problem of a target group. Do not let your age deter you. Every serious market player will take you seriously if you can bring added value, no matter how old you are.”


IW JUNIOR gGmbH will help you get the skills you need for the world of work. With Project Junior, you can launch a school start-up and learn how to think and act like a businessperson.

Dr. Kerstin Vorberg

Dr. Kerstin Vorberg





    Stories of founders

    Competitions for schoolpupils

    Do you want to rise to the challenge and test your ideas in competition against other entrepreneurs? You can find some competitions below.

    • The biggest simulation for school start-ups is the German School Start-up Prize (in German). Along with practical experience, there are exciting, educational prizes to be won every year.
    • JUNIOR competitions (website in German) are held at the local, national and European level. Launch your start-up in school and learn about what it is like to run a business.
    • With seven prizes of 10,000 euros, the STARTUP TEENS Challenge (info in German) is the most highly endowed business plan competition for school students in Germany. The participants pitch for victory in front of a top-class jury, receive well-founded feedback and access to the Startup Teens network. As a preliminary stage to the national competition, students from Westphalia can take part in a regional competition (infos in German).
    • With its educational initiative business@school, the consultancy firm Boston Consulting Group (BCG) has set itself the goal of giving schoolpupils practical experience of business themes. The first task involves analysing a small business and a large business. Other tasks in the project include developing a business idea and creating a business plan; the best ideas are awarded prizes by an expert panel. Pupils are supported by their teachers and also by supervisors from BCG and more than 20 partner companies such as NRW.BANK.
    • The Changes Award (website in German) highlights the issue on sustainability. Personal coaches help create business plans which take aspects of mega trends such as demographics or digitalisation into account.
    • Jugend gründet (German for "Young people start up", website in German) is a national competition and free learning platform in Germany which places just as much emphasis on sustainability as it does on innovation. Participating schoolpupils and apprentices develop innovative business ideas with a business plan and run through a business situation in a simulation. There are many benefits of taking part: along with the chance to win prizes such as trips to Silicon Valley and learn about business, schoolpupils in North Rhine-Westphalia have the chance to obtain a special academic achievement for Abitur by participating. “Jugend gründet” was created and is run by the Steinbeis Innovation Centre at the Pforzheim University of Applied Sciences and has been funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research since 2003.
    • The programme Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE, website in German) trains teachers to teach schoolpupils about business issues to help them think beyond life in the classroom. In a simulation, teachers and pupils simulate launching a start-up and, if they become federal state champions, can participate in the national competition.

    The family court procedure

    Are you interested in launching a start-up? Maybe you have an idea for a start-up, but are not yet old enough? Then you are in the right place. In the following document, we provide an overview of the legal regulations and how a family court procedure works. The best course of action is to visit your nearest Startercenter NRW for a consultation.

    Starting a business under the age of 18 – a guide

    Special academic achievement for Abitur

    Dear future Abitur students,

    did you know that you can make use of your passion for enterprise in your Abitur studies? The federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia offers you the opportunity to obtain a special academic achievement as an examination component.

    You can find further information here on the Ministry of Schools website (in German).

    Useful information for teachers

    The “Business and School” web portal (in German) helps teachers prepare lessons related to economics and gives them the opportunity to access sound information on current events and the background to them. The following overview provides information on many other exciting initiatives in North Rhine-Westphalia and contact details of all representatives.

    Projects in your region


    Contact: André Berude
    Telephone: 02931 / 878-142

    The project “We do business@school – business management for schoolkids” aims to introduce the concept of entrepreneurial autonomy to teachers and pupils.

    Target group: Pupils aged 15 and over at grammar schools in the region of Arnsberg, Hellweg-Sauerland

    Lectures and discussion sessions

    Contact: Eugenia Dottai
    Telephone: 0201 1892-238

    Project RUDI (Business Juniors)

    Contact: Sebastian Holze

    This project by Essen Business Juniors brings the digital future to schools. It allows teachers and pupils to learn about and experience technology, start-up culture and entrepreneurship. The workshops and project weeks conducted by digital experts and practitioners are anything but boring.

      Chamber of Industry and Commerce School Prize (annual)


      Laura Göddert
      Telephone: 0203 2821 283

      Sarah Thomas
      Telephone: 02821 97699 165

      The Chamber of Industry and Commerce School Prize sees school teams compete against each other with business-related projects. The Chamber of Industry and Commerce supports the teams during the project lifespan and supports them with start-up financing of 500 euros. The projects are presented before a Chamber panel. The winners of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce School Prize receive up to 1,500 euros in prize money. Groups of pupils from all secondary schools in Duisburg and the districts of Wesel and Kleve are eligible to participate.

      Economic Knowledge Competition (annual)

      Contact: Business Juniors in Kleve District, Steffen Hasenohr

      The “Economic Knowledge Competition” project teaches economics at school level in different classes and school types. Classes answer a questionnaire developed by Business Juniors Germany. The best class and the top three pupils are given prizes. The pupil ranked first will go through to the national finals in Berlin.

      Start-up seminar for professional and vocational colleges

      Heike Möbius
      Telephone: 0203 2821-388

      Mariann Ludewig
      Telephone: 0203 2821-209

      The start-up seminar for professional and vocational colleges is aimed at students which want to learn about becoming an entrepreneur. The compact seminar shows the landscape, opportunities and risks involved in starting a business and provides information on relevant aspects on starting a business. Bookings for classes on request.

      Alongside the projects mentioned, projects which originate in schools are also supported, such as “Go to School”. In a project week, teams develop their own business idea, develop a business plan and present their ideas to a panel. Prizes are given for the best ideas. Our start-up advisers assist in the creation of business plans; some are also on the panel.

        Business Juniors – Chamber of Industry and Commerce Düsseldorf

        Jugend forscht Coaching / School of Lions

        Contact: Luisa Steinhäuser
        Telephone: 0170 3208673

        Jugend forscht Coaching

        Success in Jugend forscht Coaching strongly depends on soft skills such as presentation techniques, stand design and rhetoric. This applies even more to federal state and national competitions. Business Juniors offer one-day coaching sessions for regional winners on these skills. Under the guidance of Business Juniors, participants develop their stand and their presentation for the federal state competition. We run the event together with Business Juniors Niederberg.

        School of Lions

        School of Lions is a project in which attendees can pitch their ideas before a panel of Business Juniors. In addition to winning prizes, they can inspire mentors to support them in further developing their idea and putting it into action. The project aims to acquaint attendees with the world of business and encourage interest and enthusiasm for entrepreneurship.

        Jugend forscht

        Contact: Ulla Backes
        Telephone: 0211 3557 254
        E-mail: (in German)
        Webcode 2596866

        Youth Research offers schoolpupils who are interested and talented in science and technology the chance to present their projects to a specialist panel, file a patent, get feedback from experts and make contacts in science and business. Many start-ups have been launched as a result of this project.

        IHK goes to school

        A permanent offer to lecture on the subject of start-ups on schools and to mentor schoolpupil companies

        Network For Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE)

        Contact: Mathias Härchen
        Telephone: 0221 1640-1571

        • National initiative with headquarters in Berlin
        • Focus: Training for schoolpupils AND teachers (!)
        • Training workshops for teachers
        • Learning materials with a school focus
        • Schoolpupil pitch competition (at the federal state and national level)
        • Cooperation by the Chamber of Industry and Commerce (rooms, events, lecturer)

        JUGEND GRÜNDET || Pitch Event

        Implementation and conceptualisation:
        Steinbeis Innovation Centre
        Business Development at the Pforzheim University of Applied Sciences

        Contact: Christian Seega
        Telephone: 0251 707246

        JUGEND GRÜNDET is a national competition for schoolpupils and apprentices with an associated free learning platform for entrepreneurship education. JUGEND GRÜNDEThas been funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research since 2003 and is on the German Federal State Education Minister Conference (KMK) list of recommended school competitions. The Steinbeis Innovation Centre in Pforzheim is responsible for organising and running the competition. A range of sponsors help spread awareness of the competition, fund prizes and run events. The main sponsor is Porsche AG.

          Your Idea Your Future / Startup Teens

          Contact: Peter Kampmeier
          Telephone: 0241 4460361

          Teamwork, creativity and strategic project planning – whoever takes part in the competition learns skills for life!
          In the game phase from January to May 2021, the school teams develop an imaginary business idea: By working through nine tasks, the entrepreneurs of tomorrow create a business plan including a sales and marketing strategy. With the website building kit from cooperation partner Jimdo, they can also create a website according to their ideas. During the entire game phase, the participants are individually supported by a Sparkasse supervisor, the virtual game advisor “Mister S”, a teacher and a corporate sponsor. A panel of business experts then evaluates the business ideas in May. The competition is fully digital - a password-protected game platform is the basis for participation. This enables all participants to work flexibly, independently of time and location. The format therefore not only offers a supplementary method to regular teaching but can also form a bridge to digital education in times of social distancing.

          Further information on Your Idea - Your Future / Startup Teens (in German)

            Trade Juniors (website in German) also welcome teacher requests and are happy to visit schools to teach about their experience in topics such as company takeovers.

            With the Getting Entrepreneurial Spirit into our Schools initiative, the German Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy wants to inspire schoolpupils to think and act in a business manner. The portal helps teachers prepare lessons and supports them in the teaching of economic issues.

            In North Rhine-Westphalia, pupils are primarily taught about economic issues in the subjects Economics, Economics & Politics (Sec. I) and Social Sciences (Sec. II). The Ministry for Schools and Training provides information on external services and regular competitions via the Quality and Support Agency - State Institute for Schools (QUA-Lis, in German). You can also review current timetables here.