I wouldn’t call myself a feminist. Don’t get me wrong, I actively appreciate and look up to powerful women. I’ve also learned a lot from the men in my life. I’m at a crucial point in my professional growth where I want to learn as much I can from whomever I can. I can’t afford to discriminate based solely on gender. When I heard about the book written by the founder of Nasty Gal I was intrigued, but it wasn’t until my sister sent it to me that I made the conscious decision to read it. When I finally did, Sophia Amoruso’s #GIRLBOSS had me proud to be a woman in business from cover to cover.
For the record, Sophia wouldn’t call herself a feminist either. Or rather, she maintains, “the best way to honor the past and future of women’s rights is by getting sh*t done.” Instead of talking about breaking down walls, Sophia lets her success speak for itself.
I intended to read this book over the course of an 8 day vacation and ended up finishing it on a three hour plane ride from 7:00-10:00 AM. (This may not sound like a great feat for a 250 page book, but I’m not what you’d call a morning person.) The first thing I did when I reached my layover destination? Emailed every girl at the office to tell her to read it ASAP.
Who is Sophia Amoruso?
From a young age, Sophia has been different. She refused to shop at the mall with her mom and insisted on only wearing clothes from local thrift shops. Throughout her teens, she took odd jobs that she hated, and despised regular schooling.
Until her early 20’s, Sophia had an animosity for most norms in society. She was expelled, home schooled, and she goes into epic detail about her shoplifting days. She recounts that Nasty Gal only exists because she had a hernia. Sophia was forced to get a job for the insurance, and while she was bored at work she started an eBay store called Nasty Gal Vintage.
She didn’t have the end goal in mind of running her own successful company one day. But she followed her gut and for this reason she ended up on top.
You don’t have to be “normal” and you don’t have to have it all figured out yet. You also don’t have to be born with the work ethic of a racehorse. All you need is passion.
The Evolution of Nasty Gal
I’ll never forget how uncomfortable it was to call the University of St. Thomas on-campus post office to correct the address on a shipping label I’d incorrectly filled out earlier in the day. I’d changed my mind about a dress from my new favorite online retailer, Nasty Gal. The store’s popularity hadn’t quite taken off and I had to repeat the name three times before giving up and spelling it out loud. I had no idea at the time that this business was just 5 years young and lead by the woman who would one day teach me how to be a #GIRLBOSS.
- In 1997, Sophia finds a vintage pair of red disco pants. It’s love.
- Five years later, she sells a stolen book online.
- In a bout of boredom at her job checking ID’s at an art school, she merges the above two interests and opens Nasty Gal Vintage on eBay. The year is 2006.
- As of 2014, Nasty Gal is valued at over $100 million.
Sure, there are a few details to fill in. Sophia spent some time scouring through thrift stores looking for the right pieces. She also had to put her products in front of customers which meant ensuring that they looked good in pictures. All in all, it’s a pretty simple journey, right?
I’d wager that when 22 year old Sophia was living in a suburban pool house house devoting every waking hour to her ebay store, while buried under a mountain of vintage clothes, styling and photographing all of her models, and making regular trips to the post office her life was anything but simple. With $500 a month due for rent, an inventory purchased from thrift stores and estate sales, and models that consented to being paid in burgers, her expenses were minimal. It all worked out okay for her, and she’s gracious enough to tell the world why.
Listen up, ladies. (#DUDEBOSSes too). These are the most memorable lessons I learned in Sophia’s guide to being a #GIRLBOSS.
Mistakes will save your life.
Sophia credits crappy jobs and shoplifting with saving her life. The jobs taught her what kind of work she didn’t want. Prior to some time in her 20’s she searched for positions that would allow her to make the most money for the least work. In a few short years of boring jobs, she came to the realization that hard work was a necessity of life, so you may as well find work you love while you’re here. At the very least, you’ll realize where you don’t belong. You’ll get pushed closer to your calling that much faster.
Years later, when she got caught shoplifting, Sophia thought to herself, “Is this really what I want to be known for?” This was Sophia’s low, and if she ever wanted to be successful she would have to make some changes.
Her story teaches the rest of us to use the consequences of our poor choices as motivation to become better people. How do you want to be remembered? We’re all going to make mistakes. As another one of my favorite #GIRLBOSSes, Lauren Conrad likes to say, “You can’t make the same mistake twice. The second time you make it, it’s a choice.” The key is to figure out what doesn’t work for you, learn what you can and move on.
Sophia knows her customer because has been her customer. She treats them how she would want to be treated. When she was starting out with an ebay store, she was upfront about her products. Selling vintage clothing means you’ll inevitably run into imperfections. When this happened, Sophia didn’t try to hide it from her buyers. She warned them if there was a hole or stain. She also provided an insert when shipping a package with styling suggestions. If a certain product didn’t sell, she’d be sure not to buy a similar one.
She recounts one story of a Chanel jacket that she purchased for $8 and sold for $1000. She took the jacket to the dry cleaner before it sold and in the process one of the buttons went missing. After scouring every nook and cranny of the cleaner’s with no luck, she could have given up. Her inner #GIRLBOSS may have been young, but she was no quitter. Sophia called Chanel in Beverly hills, they instructed her to send one of the remaining buttons to Chanel in New York, so they could match it in their vintage archives. That’s just what she did, and when that jacket made it to the customer just one week behind schedule, it was perfect.
Sophia knows that her customers are human, and so is she. Since day one, she has incorporated honesty and dignity into her business model. Providing this kind of experience with her customers is one of the reasons Nasty Gal has experienced exponential growth from day one.
Forge your own path.
What does it take to be a successful CEO? A Master’s degree? A business background? Sophia Amoruso, founder and former CEO of her own $100 million plus company, has neither. And she’s not the only one.
My best friend’s brother, Alec Whitters (#DUDEBOSS) dropped out of dental school against his parent’s wishes. With less than one year left in school, they encouraged him to finish what he started. But his passion was elsewhere. He and his closest friends developed an app they saw a need for that didn’t exist yet. It was a long, challenging process, but it was one they believed in. Today his company, Higher Learning Technologies, is valued at $25 million and continues to grow. His story has been chronicled in Forbes, and the app he created is the 2nd highest in the apple store’s “Education” category.
His and Sophia’s journey have in common that they threw the status quo out the window and followed their hearts instead. If you insist on rigidly following someone else’s recommended route to success, you run the risk of missing out on your true calling. If you have a gut instinct, go with it. Time is precious, don’t waste it. You won’t get it back.
Work hard. Love doing it.
We’re not wired to enjoy hard work. But no one successful, man or woman, will tell you they got to where they are today by shying away from it. The key is to like the work you’re doing.
Our recent blog post on how to stoke happiness at work touched on the concept of “flow.” When you’re good at something and take pleasure in doing it, you’ll be happier. You won’t mind working all day and all night because you’ll genuinely adore what you accomplish.
Nasty Gal didn’t always have a CEO. Sometimes Sophia was the head of customer service, marketing division and shipping department all in the same day. She paid attention to every detail. Her hands have touched all the different facets of her business, and they continue to. The more success she has the busier she gets. She’s working harder than ever before, but she’s happier for it.
Believe in magic.
She remembers an old boyfriend with a girl in his past whom Sophia couldn’t get out of her head. So naturally, she talked about his ex constantly. Lo and behold, the three of them all turned up at the same bar on Halloween. Call it coincidence, women’s intuition, fate, or what ever else you believe in. Sophia calls it magic. The time and energy she poured into worrying about such a scenario was responsible for making it happen. “I conjured that bitch.”
It’s happened to all of us. When we fixate on our biggest fears, the situations we absolutely don’t want to find ourselves in, they always seem to come true. Why can’t the same be true for the things we actually do want to happen? If I imagine myself as the CEO of a successful online retailer, this is the magic within that will eventually get me there.
“Focus on the positive things in your life and you’ll be shocked at how many more positive things start happening.” If you take one thing away from this guide, let it be this. Believe in the power of positive thinking. I’m not saying it can change your life, I am promising that it will.
Mistakes will save you. Passion will guide you. Magic will find you. Go forth, #GIRLBOSS. Your destiny awaits.