2019 Student Entrepreneur Program

Questions? Please contact wbencsep@wbenc.org 



The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council Student Entrepreneur Program (WBENC SEP) is a premier startup program that fosters growth for the next generation of women-owned businesses. Since its inception in 2008, nearly 200 students from 80+ colleges and universities across the country have graduated from SEP. WBENC is proud to invest in the next generation of Women's Business Enterprises through the support of WBENC Corporate and Government Members

Program Details

Aspiring collegiate female entrepreneurs studying in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) or Business receive mentoring from some of the most successful Women's Business Enterprises (WBEs) and America's largest Fortune 500 companies while also participating in a tailored entrepreneurial curriculum, a pitch competition awarding $20,000 in seed capital and experiential learning through off-site visits to WBEs, corporate campuses, and accelerators.

2018 SEP Students at Detroit Startup Week

Student Testimonials

“The student entrepreneur program was both empowering and inspirational. You are surrounded by so many amazing women going through the same journey as yourself. I was able to learn from their experiences in business and build a network that will last me for many years to come. Being in the SEP also allowed us special insight at the conference. People were very open to speaking with the student entrepreneurs and because of this I was able to really maximize on my industry learning experience. The lectures that we attended were tuned to help in personal and professional presentation. They promoted teamwork, communication, and perseverance. Finally, being mentored by previous SEP and corporate mentors really took this all the way. They really cared about me and my business and helped me to improve along the way.”

– Lauren Cornell, 2nd place Pitch Competition Winner & 2018 SEP Graduate from UT Health Science Center, Founder of NovoThelium

2018 SEP Mentors & Mentees

“WBENC SEP is perfect for any young entrepreneur. The keynote speakers, business fair and networking events were all invaluable. But the true value of the program lies on the connections you make-- connections with corporate executives, entrepreneurs that will allow you to grow your business in unimaginable ways. I feel inspired by all of these amazing women and ready for the next step in my career.”

– Nicole Birkner, 2018 SEP Graduate from Stanford University, Founder of Fresquiticos

Application Process

Applicant Eligibility

  • Student must be enrolled full time in an undergraduate or graduate program at a recognized College or University.

  • Student must be studying in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) or Business

  • Applicants must be physically located in the continental U.S. at time of the program. WBENC SEP does not cover international travel costs.

  • Applicant must be an owner, founder, or controlling shareholder of a company that has been operating for at least 3 months but does not have to be generating revenue.

Preferred Qualifications

  • Preference will be given to U.S. citizens

Application Criteria:

  • Written application, including an essay stating the desire to attend the program and how the program would enable them for future growth and success.

  • Resume

  • Letter of Recommendation from a faculty member or colleague.

Selection Criteria:

  • Applicants may be selected for a phone interview. Applicants are selected based on their comprehensive application, no one element is weighted more.

  • Students will be required to attend the entire program, inability to attend the entire program will result in not being accepted.

  • Students will be required to participate and complete activities with program staff and mentors prior to beginning the on-site element of the program in June.

Application Timeline

The 2019 Application Process:

  • November 2018: Applications open

  • Friday, February 22, 2019: Applications due

  • April 2019: Accepted students will be notified. (Only students accepted into the program will be notified.)

  • April – May 2019: Accepted students will be required to develop their pitches during this time. Students will also be paired with mentors for pre-programing during this time.

  • June 23-28, 2019: WBENC Student Entrepreneur Program during WBENC's National Conference & Business Fair in Baltimore, MD.

  • Travel, lodging, and expenses will be covered by WBENC


Contact us at wbencsep@wbenc.org

“FedEx is proud to support the WBENC Student Entrepreneur Program (SEP). This program has a proven track record of providing essential resources to help encourage the next generation of women business owners. Playing a role in the growth of small businesses is a major focus area for FedEx, and it’s even more exciting to play a role in the development of young women through the SEP program.”

— Sue Spence, VP, Sourcing and Procurement, FedEx
“WBENC SEP was an extremely growing week for my company! I loved meeting the fellow student entrepreneurs, networking and receiving feedback from with executives of large, established companies.”

— Danya Sherman, 1st place Pitch Competition Winner & 2018 SEP Graduate from George Washington University, Founder of Knonap

Danya Sherman, Founder of Knonap

Curriculum and Pitch Competition

View or download the 2018 Curriculum and Pitch Competition in PDF format.


+ Who is involved in the WBENC Student Entrepreneur Program?

SEP is led by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council with support from Corporate and Government Members and WBENC-Certified Women’s Business Enterprises (WBEs).

+ How do I become involved in WBENC SEP?


  • Aspiring collegiate female entrepreneurs studying STEAM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) or business with an entrepreneurial venture are encouraged to apply.

College or University

  • WBENC would like to include your University among the 80+ colleges and universities who have participated in WBENC SEP and ask for your assistance in identifying prospective students for this amazing program.

WBENC Corporate or Government Members

  • Corporate and Government Members are encouraged to not only offer monetary contributions, but to act as a SEP mentor for their sponsored student or students. For more information about serving as a mentor, click here or contact Andrew Gaeckle, Director, Strategic Planning at agaeckle@wbenc.org.

Certified Women Business Enterprises:

  • WBENC-Certified WBEs are encouraged to not only offer monetary contributions, but to act as a SEP mentor for their sponsored student or students. For more information about serving as a mentor click here.

+ What are the application requirements and time line ?

Please refer to the Application Timeline above.

+ What costs are associated with WBENC SEP?

Through the support of WBENC Corporate and Government Member and Certified WBEs, WBENC is able to provide SEP free of charge for all students accepted into the program. Travel, lodging, and expenses will be covered for the program.

+ What is the Pitch Competition?

The WBENC Pitch Competition is hosted at the WBENC National Conference and Business Fair. The competition promotes women entrepreneurship and small business development by focusing on student created, managed, and owned ventures. Accepted SEP students are provided with expert feedback and the opportunity to compete for $20,000 in seed capital.

The 2019 Pitch Competition is ramping up to be more high-powered and varied than ever, in part due to the increase in the prize offerings. This year, WBENC is proud to announce a prize of $10,000 in seed capital to the first place winner, followed by $6,000 and $4,000 to the second and third place winner.