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Yes to YEP Allison K. Sampite | Sat, Aug 27 2011 12:00 PM

For individuals not prone to working 9 to 5 jobs and who instead want to start their own business, Southwestern College's Small Business Development Center has just the thing.

And it's free.

The Youth Entrepreneurship Project was created in 2009 to increase the awareness of people ages 14 through 27 who are looking for legitimate ways of self-employment as a lifetime career.

The program is offered once a year and incorporates a self-paced online course with eight business-training modules to help participants create a business plan.

Victor Castillo is the director for small business development and the International Trade Center at Southwestern College and facilitates the program.

The program came about through an initiative from the California Community Colleges Economic and Workforce Development Program and gives participants the ability to complete a professional business plan while offering a competition for the best one.

"It was something that we didn't really offer to support young entrepreneurship and they needed to look for alternative ways for self careers," Castillo said.

The program has grown to some 80 participants who are looking to either start or market their own business and provides technical assistance and access to financing.

Ryan Poortinga is the co-founder and director of sales and operations for San Diego Sky Tours.

In 2009, he participated in the first young entrepreneurs program after graduating from San Diego State University with a bachelor's in finance.

Poortinga, 30, moved here eight years ago from Chicago thinking that after finishing school he'd get a job with a large corporation and work in corporate development.

After graduation, Poortinga was in the middle of a financial meltdown.

But when he discovered the entrepreneurs program he said everything just fell into place.

After writing out a business plan he realized his idea could make a viable business.

Poortinga and his business partner have been in business since June 2009, providing aerial sight seeing tours for private parties within the county of San Diego.

Poortinga's partner, who he met in school, is the pilot. The two developed the idea for the business from the experiences and reviews of their friends and family.

Poortinga said his business is still growing and he hopes to ultimately expand the services to include an aerobatic plane for thrill seekers.

Gabriel Reyes is the business advisor for the center but serves as a counselor and coordinator for the program.

A former entrepreneur himself, Reyes owned an Internet service provider after graduating from SDSU and started an internship with the small business center.

In his role, Reyes ensures the online training system works properly, adds new material to the site, helps promote the program through outreach and interacts with participants.

"The main goal is to promote entrepreneurship as a viable career path," Reyes said.

"Participants get training on how to start businesses as well as problem solve and receive the skills applicable to the job market."

Poortinga said he learned about how an abstract idea becomes more concrete.

"It's all about persistence and understanding that there's a lot of failure in success."

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