Serial franchise owner and former Kentucky Governor John Brown advised a packed ballroom of fellow entrepreneurs this morning that now is the perfect time to find an opportunity in the world of small business.

"While corporate America is busy making excuses and not getting anything done, that is when you'll find opportunity for yourself," said Brown, who kicked off Entrepreneur's 2011 Growth Conference here in Atlanta. 

The corporate business mentality, Brown said, is "about holding onto jobs, meetings, conferences, forming committees, having more meetings -- they don't do much of anything." The exact opposite is true for small-business owners, who "are always working, and never give up.

"Don't be fearful about competing with big companies," he said. "The most important asset is your own inner confidence."

Brown knows a thing or two about entrepreneurial spirit and confidence. During his career, Brown has helped develop more than half a dozen food and restaurant businesses and has opened over 4,000 national and international franchise companies. At age 29, he and a partner purchased the Kentucky Fried Chicken Corporation from its founder, Colonel Harland Sanders.

When it comes to launching a startup, Brown offered three bits of advice:

• Look for an unfair advantage. "You wouldn't be in business if you didn't have an edge." 

• Learn from competitors. Find out what others are doing that works.

• Go with your gut. "When you know the opportunity is right, go for it."

Brown also reminded attendees that while it's great to have a big dream, at the end of the day, running a business is about making a profit. "If you don't make a profit, you won't be in business very long, right?"

It's also about maintaining credibility. "If you don't have any [credibility], find someone who does," Brown said. "That's what people are going to believe in."