Courtney Newell graduated college during the 2008 recession. She sent out 200 resumes--and got only a few bites that led to nothing but a temp position. Even that didn't work out; when she tried to finesse it into a full-time position, she was denied.

"I remember going home crying, mascara running down my face, just so heartbroken and going home to my mom," she said on Inc.'s What I Know podcast. Newell's mother asked her if the job was really what she wanted to do. Newell admitted: "No."

"Well, then you should create your own business," she recalls her mother replied.

Short on cash to even do the basics (set up a website, hire a lawyer, and print business cards), Newell did what she'd done during college to help pay her tuition. She signed up for a Miss America scholarship pageant.

"I went in, I was focused. I was like, 'I have to win this money. This is going to be my legacy,'" she said.

Unlike in some of her earlier pageants, she didn't just take the title Miss Congeniality this time. She took the crown. Newell put the $500 toward hiring a lawyer to establish her scrappy social-media marketing firm, based in South Palm Beach, Florida, which she'd later call Crowned Marketing and Communications. She set her goals numerically at first, such as signing on 10 clients. She says she knew if she could get to 10, she could, someday, get to 100. Three years in, she hired her first employee.

Today, she employs 20 full-time staffers, and her firm has grown into advising large companies on marketing and advertising. Crowned specializes in multicultural and multigenerational marketing, as companies seek to target younger consumers with entirely different tastes and marketing preferences from Millennials.

Newell is also the author of FutureProof: The Blueprint for Building a Brand Gen Z and Millennials Love. For her full story on What I Know, listen to my interview with her in the player below, on  Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.