Author Dispels Myth That Entrepreneurs Are Born, Not Made

COURTNEY PRICE says anyone can be an entrepreneur. The key is to teach people how.

``Entrepreneurship is a learned skill,'' says Ms. Price, director of the Institute of Entrepreneurship and Creativity of Metropolitan State College of Denver and a management professor at the college's business school. ``If you give people the good business planning skills, and you give them a toolbox of how to use those skills, then they can become entrepreneurs.''

A veteran entrepreneur herself, Price has owned and operated restaurants and hotels; she also has been involved in publishing and construction. In 1986, she developed Fast Trac, a concentrated program now operating in 18 Western states, which is designed to teach people how to start and expand their own business. Price will launch the program nationwide next month.

She is also a syndicated columnist who has written a handful of books for budding entrepreneurs. In her most recent one, titled ``Courtney Price Answers the Most Asked Questions From Entrepreneurs'' (McGraw-Hill), she answers such questions as: What kind of business should I start? Where do I get capital? What are the pros and cons of purchasing an existing business or launching a home-based business?

``I've heard the same thing: `You either have it, or you don't,' '' Price says in a Monitor interview. ``You were either selling Girl Scout cookies, and you had lemonade stands, but if you didn't do that then you'll never be [an entrepreneur].'' But Price contends: ``Entrepreneurship is a learning and information game, and that you can teach people.''

Much of the job creation in this country has been attributed to small businesses. New business start-ups, however, have a high failure rate. The key to this problem is education, she says. ``We can overcome this high failure rate of new start-ups by providing entrepreneurs with proven contemporary education and training programs that really help them,'' she says.

Women are starting businesses twice as fast as any other segment of the population, Price writes, and their entrepreneurial ventures are growing four to five times faster than any other business. Currently, 1 in 10 American workers is employed by women-owned businesses, and the Small Business Administration estimates that women-owned businesses will increase to 48 percent by 2000, she writes.

Corporate restructuring is one factor propelling women to go solo, Price says. Many also have hit a ``glass ceiling,'' where the likelihood of being promoted to management or executive levels is almost nonexistent. At the same time, women want more flexibility and are placing greater importance on lifestyle. For younger women starting businesses, ``family lifestyle is real important,'' Price says. ``Having control over when they go to work ... and when they can spend time with their family seem to be real critical.''

The hottest growth areas for women-owned businesses are retail, business financial services, information and computer services, and health care, Price says.

Despite the number of women launching companies, women-owned businesses have a higher failure rate than men-owned businesses, Price says, citing financial prejudice as the biggest obstacle. Lenders may be biased against women because of their gender or because they find their types of businesses less attractive, she says. Women often pay higher interest rates on loans, are required to put up more collateral, and are more likely to need a co-signer for a loan.

``The perception is that women have part-time businesses that don't have economic impact, that they are hobbies ... and we don't need to pay a lot of attention to them,'' she says. But 44 percent of women-owned businesses have gross annual sales of more than $250,000, Price adds. ``If we really want to be helpful to entrepreneurs ... they need very planned comprehensive training, they need mentors, they need a lot of support.''

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