A note about coronavirus (COVID-19)

We know the COVID-19 situation is evolving quickly. We’re as concerned as you are about keeping our staff and our community safe, and we’re tracking the situation closely with the guidance of public health experts. All RISE Up materials continue to be available online so you can use the RISE Up program remotely with your students.  View our RISE Up Online Delivery – FAQs here and access NRF’s COVID-19 resources here.

Student Challenge

2019 Student Challenge Finalists on stage at the NRF Foundation Gala

Student Challenge

The NRF Foundation Student Challenge isn’t your average business case competition. It puts you and your team in a boardroom in New York City, pitching your business ideas for an iconic brand to a room full of the biggest names in the retail business. Since its launch, the NRF Foundation Student Challenge has provided more than $100,000 in scholarship funds to students across the country, and priceless career opportunities.

The Student Challenge is sponsored by KPMG. In addition to hosting the final presentations in New York City, KPMG provides industry mentors that guide and support the teams throughout the Challenge, creating a unique opportunity for students to develop relationships and advance their professional development with top executives in the industry.

The 2019-2020 Student Challenge is now closed. Stay tuned for more information on this year's Challenge in the coming months.

The 2019 Challenge:

Akola is a growing, innovative jewelry brand employing women in crisis in Uganda and Dallas, Texas. Operating a vertical manufacturing model, each jewelry piece is handmade by a woman working to redesign her story, the future of her family and her community. Today, Akola offers employment and dependable, living wage work opportunities in raw material production, jewelry assembly and supply chain management roles. Akola’s ability to create a product consumers love, while simultaneously creating social good, has unlocked tremendous potential for distribution. The key to Akola’s success is creating the right product assortment for each retailer and their unique customers.  

In the 2019 challenge, students acted as members of the product development team at Akola and were tasked to select a retailer, develop a jewelry line and create a pitch deck to present to buyers at their selected retailer. Teams of 2-4 students each created a maximum 30-slide pitch presentation deck and 90-second video presentation to convince the company of why and how their Akola product line should be brought to market.

Members only

The NRF Foundation Student Challenge is exclusively open to student members of the NRF Student Association through the NRF University Member program. Each member school can submit two teams of 2-4 students each; interested applicants must check with their school’s NRF Student Association Advisor to see how they are selecting teams to enter.

To join the NRF Student Association as a student member, your school must be a member of NRF. We currently partner with dozens of colleges and universities across the United States to promote careers in retail and provide students with exclusive access to educational, networking and scholarship opportunities. All students at member schools are eligible to join the NRF Student Association for free.

To find your advisor, or for more information, email scholarships@nrf.com.

Student Challenge 2019 top team

“This competition has inspired me to think beyond the status quo. STORY has shown me how innovative retail can be and I’m excited to take what I’ve learned during the Student Challenge and come up with my own inventive ideas.” 
- Kendall McDermott, Columbia College Chicago

  The Student Challenge enforced our idea that that retail industry is consistently evolving, especially as it relates to technology. The challenge also showed how important data is for a growing business and how said data informs retail strategists.”
University of Pennsylvania Team

Winning Student Challenge team shines on HSN
The University of North Texas team honored in the NRF Foundation’s 2016 Student Challenge Competition share their experience selling their winning product – a custom women’s handbag – on the television shopping network, HSN.
SC students on HSN

Other opportunities

Next Generation Scholarship
2019 Next Generation scholarship finalists at the NRF Foundation Student Program
The Next Generation Scholarship is the pinnacle achievement for students at NRF University Member schools.
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Student Program
Students at the Student Program
See how a career in retail puts you on the front lines solving complex business problems.
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NRF Foundation Student Ambassadors
Students ask questions during the Friday morning opening keynote session at NRFs Student Big Show 2017
NRF Foundation Student Ambassadors serve as the liaison between the NRF Foundation and their school.
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