Unemployed people could be given £1,000 to kick-start their own business if Eluned Morgan becomes first minister.
She wants to create "economic superheroes" and make Wales the best place in the UK to be self-employed.
Ms Morgan is competing with Mark Drakeford and Vaughan Gething to take over from Carwyn Jones.
Ballot papers are set to be returned by 3 December, with the next first minister and leader of Welsh Labour announced three days later.
The three contenders are making their final pitches to party members after the contest was triggered in April when Carwyn Jones announced his intention to stand down.
"I've met some really dedicated individuals for whom self-employment is a life-changing, modern-Wales marvel and we really must be investing in more of these up-and-coming economic superheroes," she said.
The Welsh language minister said self-employed workers now account for about 14% of Welsh jobs and she wants to see that figure rise further.
"In the US, estimates position 40% of workers self-employed in some way in two years' time or less," she added.
"We have the chance to pump-prime a young, new, optimistic economy that all too often has to slog away in isolation under the radar."
Ms Morgan wants her scheme to offer new prospects, with the once-mighty manufacturing sector now only employing 9% of the workforce.
She said: "I would like to make Wales the best place in the UK to be self-employed."
Under Ms Morgan's plan, under-25s would be offered a one-off £1,000 payment after presenting a sound business plan for starting their own company.