Our History

One man’s passion for enterprise has inspired 7.2 million+ young people to discover and reach their potential over the past 60 years.


Sir Walter Salomon founded Young Enterprise in 1962. It was based on the successful Junior Achievement programme in America. He admired the US charity’s ability to foster work readiness, entrepreneurship, financial literacy skills, and its philosophy of “learning by doing” that encouraged tens of thousands of young people to reach their potential. The first UK Company Programme was launched in 1963 in Chatham, Kent and it attracted 113 teenagers who formed eight student firms.



In a great leap forward, twenty-two Young Enterprise Area Boards of volunteers started up across the UK in 1973. They created Young Enterprise Centres in disused warehouses and factories, a church building and a pub. The European Federation of Young Enterprise got going in 1977.


With backing from giants such as Mobil Oil, the Young Enterprise Company Competition had, by 1981, started taking the exciting format it has today.

Six regional winners attended national finals in London with the Best Company receiving £1,500 in cash. Sir Walter Salomon received a Knighthood from The Queen in 1982, recognising his achievement.


As student numbers hit a new peak of 24,000, the Department of Trade and Industry joined Midland Bank (now HSBC) in 1997 to support the UK finals of the Young Enterprise Company Competition. The Salomon family donated two Founder’s Awards in memory of Sir Walter: for leadership and personal progress. The national charity developed its website in 1998, piloted an international trading extension to the Company Programme, introduced the “Entrepreneurship Masterclass for 13-17 year olds and the Graduate Programme for university students.


We marked the millennium by mounting more than 1,000 stands at Young Enterprise trade fairs on the same weekend throughout the UK. In 2001 the number of businesses supporting Young Enterprise hit 2,000 and we launched the Primary Programme for 4 to 12 year olds. Young Enterprise reached more than 105,000 young people a year in 2002, an astonishing 40% annual growth. In 2005 the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, announced Young Enterprise would lead the Government’s new Pathfinder Enterprise Summer Schools.


In 2014-15, Young Enterprise delivered 338,340 learner experiences in 3,482 primary and secondary schools, FE Colleges and Universities with the help of 6,031 volunteers. Young Enterprise’s pioneering Start-Up programme to help university students launch their own business booms as the economic downturn triggers a surge towards graduate self- employment. In the Spring of 2013, Young Enterprise launches the Tenner Challenge, a competition that challenges secondary school students to take ten pounds, to do something enterprising, make a difference and give back. The following year, Young Enterprise launched the primary school version, the Fiver Challenge.

2020’s and into the future

Throughout 2023, we’re celebrating 60 years of transforming young people’s futures. A massive 7.2 million young people have engaged in our enterprise and financial education programmes and services since 1963. 1.1m young people have set up and run 84,000 Young Enterprise companies and 2600+ industry volunteers are supporting our programmes across the UK every year. Through our hands on programmes, resources and teacher training we have increased young people’s access to practical real-world learning. With the help of our partners, supporters, and volunteers we have equipped them with enterprising mindsets and key workplace skills. Looking ahead we are committed to unlocking the potential of young people who face the greatest barriers to social mobility, by providing increased opportunities for them to apply their learning and by supporting them with relatable role models and a diverse volunteer community.

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