01/25/2013 03:43 pm ET Updated Mar 27, 2013

Entrepreneurs, Born or Made?

By Brandy Bertram -- Executive Director of YouthBiz

I've been doing this work for a decent amount of time -- long enough to see my youngest participants graduate from college -- and throughout the years I am often asked the same question. Are entrepreneurs born or made?

The answer to this question is simultaneously complex and simple. My answer is always both. I believe that we humans are inherently tuned to the entrepreneurial process -- seeking out opportunities to innovate and improve our individual and collective lives, finding fulfillment in the process of adding value, and garnering validation, recognition and support of our efforts through trade. This is the human journey and as such, as a species, we're pretty good at it!

So, why is it that some folks seem to be more externally entrepreneurial than others -- more successful at completing entrepreneurial cycles, more quickly, than their peers? This is where the 'made' part of the conversation comes in.

As with any behavior, only those that we practice repeatedly, become habits. Ask yourself, does any current educational and employment system provide structure and incentive to practice the entrepreneurial process? Does it challenge young people, especially those growing up in our nation's inner city neighborhoods, to relentlessly seek opportunities, add value through the application of individual skills and abilities, and test their results through broad access to trade markets?

Let's just say that here at YouthBiz, we feel like there is room for improvement in our current educational and job development communities. That's why we've created a model that focuses on creating the next generation of job creators, small business owners and community leaders by practicing entrepreneurship in partnership with our communities.

Here's what that means in program terms. YouthBiz offers middle and high school youth a continuum of dedicated programming, both in and after school, and in partnership with a broad range of community partners that challenges them to build entrepreneurial skills and habits through actual business ownership. It's not about learning a set of terms in a text-book, it's not about an idea competition, it's not about a one-off guest speaker, and it's not about a well-researched but never tested business plan. It's all about the doing -- getting through the entire entrepreneurial process, repeatedly, and innovating and improving with each turn of the cycle. Educators call it experiential learning, workforce centers call it on-the-job training, the youth call it real.

That 'doing' mentality is what sets YouthBiz apart from our peers, and makes us a valued partner to educators and existing entrepreneurship education content providers throughout the country. At YouthBiz, we are 100 percent dedicated to delivering robust, rigorous, youth-centered entrepreneurship education as well as individualized business start-up support. We go way beyond the business plan, incorporating real-world, dollar generating experience for all of our youth, year-round. Unlike our colleagues who offer limited entrepreneurship content or who have limited scopes of support, YouthBiz is in the full-time business of creating the next generation of entrepreneurial leaders -- from idea, through venture launch.

We also employ a range of key programmatic strategies like performance-based cash incentives, technology enriched education, individualized academic support and parent engagement to ensure that we provide our young leaders with every opportunity we can to fully participate in the development and launch of their enterprises.

Over the next four weeks you'll get to hear about our programs in detail from the voices that matter most -- our youth. You'll get to read about their experiences, hear their voices, and learn how each day they are overcoming obstacles with a powerful combination of personal ownership, practiced entrepreneurial mindsets, and a growing community of people who are quite literally invested in their success.

You'll also hear from a select group of adults who are each on their own path of entrepreneurial leadership and partnership with YouthBiz, and who represent some truly fascinating perspectives -- a recovering political fundraiser, a social justice activist, a YouthBiz alumna turned program coordinator, and a revolutionary school leader.

My hope is that through these stories you'll find yourself developing your own connection to youth entrepreneurship and start forming your own plan to advance this important platform in your community. If you feel compelled, please join the conversation. Fan the post, leave comments, and let me know your thoughts, ideas, and challenges as you are reading. Together, we can begin redefining the very nature of how we think about, and define employment for our nation's urban youth.

To support YouthBiz in The JobRaising Challenge, please click here.