Can entrepreneurs be trained to save the world?

I recently had the honor of interviewing the Managing Director at one of the top entrepreneurship academic institutions in the world, and it inspired me to take a closer look at one of most controversial topics in entrepreneurial education: “Are entrepreneurs born or trained?”

Janet Strimaitis joined the Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship at Babson in 2003, and before that she was an entrepreneur herself. Her personal business experience and involvement in detailed global entrepreneurial research programs led her to the following perspective, “Babson believes that entrepreneurship is a method that can be taught”, but she cautions, “Entrepreneurship is not formulaic. It is an interactive process informed by action learning and subsequent modification. It is a rich experience, and the entire field is now recognized in academia as something worth pursuing. It has gained credibility in the top academic institutions.”

The list of successful entrepreneurs in Babson’s “Academy of Distinguished Entrepreneurs” certainly supports this premise.

In a Bloomberg article by Karen E. Klein, entrepreneurial consultant John J. Rooney, stated “In my experience working with hundreds of entrepreneurs and teaching on the faculty at the University of Southern California’s entrepreneur program, it is clear that much of entrepreneurship can be successfully learned. However, it is also clear that people who take positive action and are focused and committed and continue on despite some negative feedback or setbacks have skill sets and personality traits that can be inborn or learned.”

In a recent publication sent from the Kauffman Foundation Tim O’Reilly, Founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media said, “I think that self-motivated spirit is what drives entrepreneurs, and we need to have it drive everyone. Because if you do something useful, if you do something for love, some good percentage of those things will actually turn into a business. That’s really the heart of entrepreneurship; wanting to make something happen.”

These three entrepreneurial experts are really saying the same thing. Entrepreneurs have a very specific spirit. I believe that these quotes reveal two fundamentals I found after looking at hundreds of pages of opinions, studies and books on entrepreneurship training. If you combine the spirit of persistence and resourcefulness with powerful knowledge from exceptional educators the result is – more often than not – exquisitely beautiful innovation and societal problem solving in the form of successful business enterprises.

According to many experts, the best practices and methodologies of entrepreneurship can definitely be learned, but there is a significant advantage to an inherent attitude of resoluteness. The bottom line is that both ingredients matter.

My opinions are nothing new, but they represent something new to a world that is becoming more and more of a global marketplace. Entrepreneurship is a vehicle to raise up struggling economies with the goal of improving the quality of life for people on the planet.

If entrepreneurship is trainable then it has the power to join communities through creative thinking, and that type of impact is worth the study and practice.

When entrepreneurship education from the best-of-the-best at top academic institutions is layered with a spirit to succeed – it really doesn’t matter what the predominant factor is in the entrepreneur’s success. Give the credit to the training AND the courageous perseverance. In my opinion it takes both to get the most exemplary results.

So if both are needed, why worry about which is needed more? The ingenuity used in combining these entrepreneurial tools produces the most vibrant results. I would like to see more of that. More degrees in entrepreneurship. Imagine the possibilities.

I believe entrepreneurs are the next superheroes. In fact we should bring back the “Wonder Twins”. One would be “form of entrepreneurial education”. The other would be “form of never say quit”.

Amy P. Kelly is an entrepreneur that specializes in ways that businesses can support causes that improve communities and lives. She is Vice President of ClearPath where her team helps entrepreneurs achieve their goals. Amy started her first business at nine selling hair barrettes and is currently working on several new ventures while leading The Lemonhead Movement Some of her projects include: BodyRejoice, The MomVest, Strategies for Life and YipDeals Amy has a particular affinity for youth entrepreneurship and is a wife and mother of four. Contact her at