Real (Girl) Talk with the #GirlBoss, Sophia Amoruso (Founder of NastyGal.com)

Sophia Amoruso. To her loyal fanbase, she’s a millennial super-heroine of style and substance.

As the CEO and founder of the e-commerce giant NastyGal.com, through faith, a genuine interest in consumer trends, and, in the process adjusting her mind to operate within a business mindset; from an eBay page to an actual shopping site that in 2013 earned $100 million in revenue, Amoruso’s Nasty Gal has made her a self-made millionaire. She is an icon of American Dream proportions to a current generation of young women yearning to exhibit and thrive off of their own girl power. And through her conduct and presentation, Amoruso is representative of the same audience that devour her products.

Finance and business venture(s) insiders have long admired, and been curious to how Amoruso built Nasty Gal into an empire. She is part of a new DIY cabal of young businesses that recall the independent film(maker) era of the early 1990s that consisted of now iconic artists such as Kevin Smith, Richard Linklater, Allison Andres, Julie Dash, Quentin Tarantino, and Gregg Araki. For the aforementioned, when it came to developing their own creations or thoughts into final products, with little to no mainstream backing or exorbitant budgets, found not just a devoted audience once released, but the respect of domineering bigwigs that soon afterward craved the insight and wherewithal of “the little guy”.

Regarding Amoruso’s peers, her impressive and yet relatable journey in entrepreneurship stands alongside restaurateur Miki Agrawai, the author of Do Cool Shit, Pete Cashmore of Mashable.com, YouTube makeup sensation Michelle Phan, and the most provocative of them all, the creators of Facebook. And similar to those indie filmmakers, Amoruso and co. are the new leaders of the new way to eat, dress-up, shop, and interact.

Nasty Gal was originally Nasty Gal Vintage in 2006 and sold pieces from Yves Saint Laurent and Chanel that Amoruso scoured thrift stores and online for. Today, NastyGal.com is a full-fledged apparel line and now shoe line called Shoe Cult. Amoruso has been candid about her journey from a twenty-something troublemaker to an influential business maverick, and every twist and turn of a juncture inspired her memoir and self-help book #GIRLBOSS. In creating a new term in homage to her beloved passion project, fans, and the struggle, Amoruso is spilling the tea for anyone interested in developing themselves into moguls. Or at least, into more of a fearless woman.

Title-wise, she embraces the term “boss”, and said term was warped into some controversy earlier this year. Sheryl Sandberg launched the campaign #BanBossy as a way to stop using the word as means to downplay or belittle women and girls when in control or confident of their abilities. In placing “girl” in front of it, it gave “boss” a bold dab of feminism, while broadening the wider picture of women in power and somehow, even when said out loud, “Girlboss” is in tribute to when you were a little girl and adults would ask you, what you wanted to be when you grow up. For most American women, they can recall being told whether through the television or good-hearted mentors that women can be whatever they wanted to be. (Like how Barbie was an astronaut this week; a teacher the next; and then a doctor). In Amoruso coining “Girlboss”, we’re reminded that the sentiment is alive and well, no matter the field you work or aspire to be in.

Prior to the book being released this month on May 6th, she’s been making the promotional rounds, sharing her mantra in front of live audiences. Including excerpts featured in the May issue of GLAMOUR, Amoruso made a pit-stop in New York City, which second to her home of California, has likely been her second biggest marketplace.

With stops in DUMBO in Brooklyn for a meet and greet, and interviews with the media, the recently turned 30-year-old chief was at the Apple store in SoHo for a Q&A session with a staff member of Marie Claire. In front of fans and wondering observers, in tan, wedged heels, a sundress, and a hairdo that resembled a baby Anna Wintour, the girlboss herself was offering advice and tidbits of her triumphs and days of uncertainty.

Many fantastic quotes came out of her Apple Q&A, and as she interestingly advised her fanbase “money looks better in the bank than on your feet”, Amoruso was amiable, real, and open to sharing the mental wealth. Below are a list of #GIRLBOSS tips to get your own (business) party started.

[The following quotes are verbatim with a little bit of paraphrasing based on the original audio transcript of her Apple Q&A]:

“There are lots of ways to learn in the world that aren’t necessarily through the traditional educational system. [While in school], where you find a place to learn to do what you want to do, eventually you want to do those things your own way within that, and that’s what I did on eBay. I [discovered]: okay I’m good at this. I understand the technicalities of that, and all of that came from handling an online store and then a website, [which] soon [meant] the reality of sending items, items getting lost, dealing with PayPal, and these are things that eBay doesn’t provide you with once you’re off it.

“Nasty Gal was built on social media because I didn’t really have a budget. I wasn’t paying for Facebook ads. I also talk a lot [in the book #GIRLBOSS] about marketing for free, and social media is such a great platform for that and there’s more of them today than when I started. When I did, it was just MySpace. Free marketing is really important. 

SIDENOTE: This was has been especially true for the site ShopJeen.com, in which they’ve gained notoriety through their Instagram and in directly interacting with their customers on items and popular culture.

“I thought it would be poignant to Nasty Gal’s story to have the title be a hashtag”.

“Part of it is that I’m ‘like a millennial’. I didn’t want to do things the way my parents did, like I never really understood the traditional path, it was never for me. But I think building a business online is a interesting way to indulge your millennial impatience. Building a business in general is where you’re able to bounce what works for your customer so rapidly. [Like in the past], I’ll upload a thumbnail photo that I would assign to a [specific] product [and that thumbnail] would be responsible for whether [the item would then be] $9.99 or $300 and if it wasn’t getting the attention that I wanted…I mean I would have crazy customers that would stay up all night for auctions and I could see whether or not they were shopping or watching and I could see and think ‘Okay maybe the image of this silhouette isn’t working’. The ability to learn so quickly what worked and didn’t, and not using data–which is important–but it was really just training my eye on how to photograph items and [responding to customers] in real time.

I mean, I love vintage clothing, I love clothing and getting dressed and I love style and Nasty Gal is a fashion brand. We care about fashion. It’s a part of everyone’s lives. But putting your own personal spin on everything is so important. If you walk out the door in every trend, it’s not special. And what they don’t tell you in the fashion world is that no matter what you’re wearing, if you’re not confident in who you are, you might as well be invisible. Confidence is the most attractive thing. 

I’ve experienced a little bit of the dark side. Taking a fried to fashion week and someone telling her she had the wrong shoes on. Like literally! This was like two adults talking to each other at a fashion event and some girl [said that]. This total bitch. It certainly exists, but jerks exist in any world, it doesn’t matter what you’re doing. There’s always going be people that think they are special because they are a part of something. Those are the people that aren’t particularly confident. There’s a fine line between confidence and cockiness.

***

There are certain social norms that I think are worthy of paying attention to. It doesn’t hurt to pay attention and it’s like a generous thing to put others at ease. Like [me not wearing pajamas on stage] right now to something like this. I think that people that really go out of their way and in messing with things by being so extreme, like maybe their motivations are kind of wrong.

The real turning point…it was an opportunity to improve my life…when I was a teenager, I thought capitalism was the root of all evil, and there’s some evil everywhere. There’s evil in religion, bad people lurking in every corner, that’s just human nature. People that suck, but the greater thing can be good. 

What I learned from my mosh-pit days is standing akimbo. Don’t do it for too long that your muscles built up, but sometimes you just got to do that in real life as well.

***

There were definitely the small moments in which I thought to myself I don’t want to live like this anymore. It was more like, I’m going to see where this eBay thing goes because I didn’t even know what getting your shit together would look like. It was very much a gradual process. I was still very unhappy, and very impatient, even when I started eBay and it wan’t like “my life has began” and it wast like I suddenly understood my place as an adult in the world. I would tell myself back then, to be more patient.

***

For most businesses, in the beginning, you’re not going to very profitable and that’s fine. Just knowing that there is any amount of interest in what you’re doing is important and you can tweak along the way to see what works and doesn’t. Just that I sold a few things was so exciting and I just moved along and tried different things. You can also learn from what others are doing. I sometimes go on LinkedIn and see what my fellow companies are doing.

Play your strengths. Know what works and doesn’t work for you. My job for the last seven years has been to hire people that are better than me at what they are doing. No one is good at everything. Don’t expect yourself be good at everything. You have to be patient with yourself and be self-aware and self-critical and take advice from other people to learn, even with a grain of salt.

***

There is a little of fake it til you make it. If you look like your questioning yourself or doubting yourself, people will know that you are questioning yourself, and will treat you differently, so cultivating a certain amount of …I don’t know what it is, but an ability to say what you think and even for me, I could just ramble [during situations like this] and I have to just [sometimes] end my sentence [and be like, ‘I’m done’] and I don’t know if I’m done but I sound really confident and it is a really weird thing to learn to do. It’s weird! But so…it can be learned…fake it til you make it. You’ll make it.

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