At 9:30 a.m. Oct. 2, hip hop artist and serial entrepreneur Russell Simmons rang The Opening Bell at the New York Stock Exchange. But beyond just signifying the start of another day of trading on Wall Street, it represented the official launch of the Race to BE., a national competition aimed to encourage America's youth to leverage their artistic abilities in film, music and fashion into entrepreneurial endeavors.

"We want to encourage young people across the country and around the globe to think about how their ideas can become a reality," said Carl Schramm, president and CEO of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, to a roomful of competitors, entrepreneurs and reporters at a press conference immediately following the ringing of the Bell. The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a national sponsor of the Race to BE. along with the Acton Foundation for Entrepreneurial Excellence.

From now through the end of this month, applicants ages 18 to 29 can apply through the Race to BE. websiteand submit a sample of their creative work. Five finalists will be selected from the three categories and will continue on to compete in the onsite challenges. The film competition will take place in Los Angeles on Nov. 17, the music portion will be held in Austin on Nov. 19 and the fashion segment will wrap up the competition on Nov. 21. The winners will take home $5,000 each and receive a mentoring opportunity, a possible internship and enjoy post-event PR exposure for their concepts.

Race to BE. is the key U.S. event for a much bigger initiative, Global Entrepreneurship Week, taking place Nov. 17-23. The goal of the initiative is to promote worldwide entrepreneurship and generate new ideas. Thousands of activities will be organized in more than 75 countries to promote creative, innovative thinking. Companies and organizations interested in getting involved can sign up to plan an activity for the week here.

There's no better time to promote entrepreneurship than now. "How do we get out of this economic fix?" Schramm asks. "The vast majority of Americans actually believe that entrepreneurs can do it. They don't believe Congress can do it, they believe that entrepreneurs can do it."