How beauty mogul Bobbi Brown used the Yellow Pages to launch her career

Makeup artist Bobbi Brown (L) attends the Jenny Packham fashion show during September 2016 New York Fashion Week.
Michael Stewart | WireImage | Getty Images

If you go shopping, chances are you'll see Bobbi Brown — well, her name at least. Her eponymous makeup brand, which counted some $30 million in net sales last year, is in beauty stores across the country.

And though Brown recently left the company she built after 25 years, she's still very much a businesswoman. Her next venture, lifestyle and wellness shop justBOBBI, just launched in Lord & Taylor department stores. She also recently published her ninth book, "Beauty From the Inside Out."

After graduating from Emory University, Brown moved to New York to find success, and encountered many of the same challenges of young professionals who head to the city after graduation seeking to make a name for themselves.

In the following excerpted Q&A with CNBC, Brown reveals how she got started and set herself apart:

Q: How did you get your start?

Brown: I just started thinking about what it meant to be a freelance makeup artist … I had no clue. So I opened up the Yellow Pages, I looked up 'makeup,' I looked up 'models,' and I just started making calls and asking a lot of questions.

Q: So the [old-school] version of searching things on Google, essentially?

Brown: Yes, exactly.

I called up the makeup artist union and said, 'Hi, I want to come and sign up.' And the guy replied, 'That's not how it works. You have to either be born in or you have to apprentice for 10 years.

I said, 'OK, I don't want to do that.'

Q: That must have been discouraging.

I'm not someone who gets discouraged. I just know how to change direction.
Bobbi Brown
founder of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics and justBobbi

Brown: No ... I'm not someone who gets discouraged. I just know how to change direction. So I said, 'That's not going to work.'

I contacted a modeling company, and they agreed to send me to these free gigs where you go do makeup and they take pictures, and you start making contacts.

Then I got my first editorial job at Glamour. That was kind of the start. A month later, I got another one.

Q: When did you know you had become successful?

Brown: It took me basically seven years of doing freelance makeup artistry to get a Vogue cover. So it was seven years of pounding the pavement.

Q: So you worked around your obstacles, instead of getting discouraged by them. What else did you do differently over those seven years?

Brown: It's funny you say 'work around obstacles.' I'm someone who has done that my whole life, and I don't even realize it.

I am full-on creative; I am basically ADD. And so if I don't sit and focus on something, I could go in many different directions. But what focuses me is exercise and doing my work on cars, trains and planes. I never sit at a desk at work; I always have to be on the go. And so that's another way I worked around the norm that I felt I wasn't able to do.

Bobbi Brown, founder of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics and wellness company justBOBBI.
Bennett Raglin/WireImage

Q: What's one specific business strategy that you used that helped you get ahead?

Brown: Just honestly being an intrapreneur.

When people told me, 'We can't do this,' or 'We don't have money for this,' I wasn't interested in what we couldn't do. I was only interested in what we could do.

I think that's probably what has made me an entrepreneur at the beginning, constantly thinking 'Wouldn't it be cool if ...' or 'We should try this.'

Those are the things that excite me, not what is the norm.

Check out why Brown says freelancers are the best hires

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