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

Sophia Amoruso, to many of those of her loyal fanbase, is a millenial superhero of style and susbstance. 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 framework, from a 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 their own girl power, and their icon is one that translates as being just like them.

Insiders of finance and business ventures and news have long admired and been curious to how Amoruso built Nasty Gal into a empire. She is part of a kind of new DIY cabal of young businesses that recalls the independent film(maker) era of the early ’90s that consisted of now iconic artists Kevin Smith, Richard Linklater, Allison Andres, Julie Dash, Quentin Tarantino, and Gregg Araki. The previous names 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 but the respect of those same domineering bigwigs that soon afterward craved the insight of those once deemed “the little guy”.

Regarding Amoruso’s peers, her impressive and yet relatable journey in entrepreneurship and stands alongside resturanteur Miki Agrawai (“Do Cool Shit”), Pete Cashmore of Mashable.com, even YouTube makeup sensation Michelle Phan, and the most provocative of them all, the creators of Facebook. Similar to the indie filmmakers, whether university-trained or not, these leaders of the new way to eat, dress-up, shop, and interact all have a number of things in common be it their many stages of trial and error and in return, their proactive approaches to when fans, likes, and users leads to more content, anticipating concerns, and talent in executing plans.

Nasty Gal was originally Nasty Gal Vintage in 2006 and sold pieces from YSL and Chanel that Amoruso scoured thrift stores and online for. Today her shop is NastyGal.com, a full-fledged apparel line and now shoe line, Shoe Cult. Amoruso has been candid about her journey from a twenty-something troublemaker to a influential business maverick. Even through her conduct and presentation, she is representative of the same audience that devour her product. This has all led to her memoir/self-help book #GIRLBOSS. In creating a new term in homage to her beloved passion project, her fans, and the struggle, Amoruso is spilling the tea on anybody who’s interested can develop themselves into trusted and individual moguls as well.

Title-wise, she embraces the term “boss”, which was almost 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 in their abilities. In placing “girl” in front of it, yes, it gives the larger than life a word a dab of feminism, it also re-broadens 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 could be whatever they wanted (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.

She scribes her days of reckless behavior and past “a-ha” moments that would be the foundation of Nasty Gal in #GIRLBOSS, and prior to the book being released this month on May 6th, she’s been making the promotional rounds, sharing her mantra. Including excerpts featured in the May issue of GLAMOUR, Amoruso made a week-long 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 on May 7. In front of mainly her fans and wondering observers, in tan, wedged heels, a sundress, and a hairdo that resembled a baby Anna Wintour, live and in action, the girl boss 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 encourages the same loyal market that “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 etiquette 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”. 
SN: 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 millenial’. 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 millenial 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 o 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 experienceda little bit of the dark side. Taking a fried to fashion week and someone telling her she has 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 particulary confident. There’s a fine line between confidence and cockiness.

There are certain social norms that I think are worthy paying attention to. It doens’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 opprtunity to improve my life…when I was a teeanger 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 wasnt like I suddenly understood my place as an adult in the world. I would tell myself back then, to be more patient.

For most business, 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-ware 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 ti’ you make it. You’ll make it.

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