“Opening a small business is scary,” Sophie Kallinis LaMontagne, one of the sisters who started the phenomenally successful Georgetown Cupcake bakery told a Washington Post Live forum. “Do it if you have passion, if you wake up and it’s the only thing you want to do.”

LaMontagne said she loves making luscious cupcakes.  But she told the entrepreneurs gathered at the Post May 23 that even if they have the drive to turn a passion into a business, don’t “expect any perfect days.” Her recipe for success:  listen to your customers, work hard and start small -- “You don't have to start your business in a big swanky space."

After a modest beginning in 2008, Georgetown Cupcake – now famous for the long lines waiting outside its doors – has a growing numbers of stores and ships all over the country its red velvet, peanut butter, caramel, and other decadent cupcakes.

LaMontange and her sister, Katherine Kallinis Berman, used their entire savings and maxed out their credit cards to get going.

Scott Case, the founding chief technology officer of Priceline and CEO of Startup America, said there is a certain amount of fear when it comes to launching a business. But smart risk-taking is what America is all about, he said, telling the crowd that this country if full of “natural athletes when it comes to entrepreneurship."

Karen Mills, the Small Business Administrator, said she see more optimism among business owners at she tours the country.  The SBA’s mission is to boost -- through loans, technical advice and other assistance -- small businesses, which are a backbone of the U.S. economy.   When small businesses are healthy and hiring, it lifts the whole economy, and both Congress and the Obama Administration have recently been focusing new tax credits and other incentives to encourage businesses to export, expand, and create new jobs.

Mills announced at the Post forum a new initiative to help older entrepreneurs get back in the game. It’s a new alliance with AARP for so called “encore entrepreneurs.” Retired men and women with expertise in business are a rich pool of people who can launch new ventures that put more Americans back to work.