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Book Review: #Girlboss

Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amoruso's business book is for millennials who donít go to Ivy League schools but dare to dream big.
BY Uttara Choudhury |   02-02-2018
Charismatic Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amoruso with her New York Times bestseller #Girlboss.
Charismatic Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amoruso with her New York Times bestseller #Girlboss.

#Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso, published by Penguin.

In #Girlboss, Nasty Girl founder Sophia Amoruso shares her rags-to-riches true-life story with surprising candour. Amoruso’s New York Times bestseller has struck a chord with millennial women and budding entrepreneurs alike as Amoruso talks with great humor and honesty about the struggles of developing our dreams and our work ethic. It’s a colorful memoir that college students can relate to whether they are chipping away at a Ph.D. or dreaming of one day launching their own start-up. 

In 2006, then 22-year-old Amoruso, turned selling vintage clothes on eBay with a few hundred dollars into the cult online fashion label Nasty Gal. Amorusostarted out by raiding estate sales and charity shops for vintage clothes, which she then marked-up and sold on eBay. One Chanel jacket that she picked up for $8 at a Goodwill store ended up being re-sold for $1,000. You’ve probably guessed by now that Amoruso had a knack and a photographer’s eye for fashion, styling and buying. In just nine years, she harnessed the power of the Internet to create a brand that grew into an online retail haven with a progressive following of fashion risk takers.

As a result, Amorusohas been dubbed “the Cinderella of tech,” because she knew how to exploit technology and social media when the Internet itself was new. Her story is also outsized: She literally went from rags to riches — in her case, from petty theft and dumpster- scrounging for food to overseeing a nascent but growing e-commerce site, selling edgy clothes to a loyal fan base.

The daughter of middle class parents in Sacramento, Amoruso learned to fend for herself when both her parents lost their jobs, instilling in her a before-her-years work ethic, she read books about start-ups as a young girl, and worked ten different jobs by the time she was 22.

In 2015, Nasty Gal surpassed $300 million in revenues,putting Amoruso then only 32, on Forbes' annual list of America's Richest Self-Made Women. Amoruso is no longer CEO of Nasty Gal, which hasn’t fared as well recently; it filed for bankruptcy and was bought in February last year by British retail giant Boohoo.

However, Amoruso is still a multimillionaire and has now shifted focus to the enviable brand she built on the back of Nasty Gal's early success: Girlboss Media, which she founded in 2017. As the CEO of Girlboss Media, Amoruso runs an all-encompassing media companywhich dabbles with websites, newsletters, books, and a popular podcast.

Amoruso’sbestseller has practical advice for young people wanting to build a brand or start their own business. The charismatic entrepreneur’s voice is charmingly self-deprecating without losing the effortless cool that characterized her clothes. Here are some of the insights from her book.

Don’t ever grow up– “Adulthood is where dreams go to die,” writes Amoruso. “Don’t ever grow up. Don’t become a bore.”  

Follow your gut— It’s about trusting your instincts and following your gut; knowing which rules to follow and which to break; when to button up and when to let your freak flag fly, says Amoruso.

Networking is not just for creeps— It sounds weird, but just cold-calling someone because you admire their work or want to connect with them is a normal and good thing. Amoruso points out that she hired senior executives off of Facebook, LinkedIn and even Craigslist. In fact, Amoruso famously hired her first employee off of Craigslist — Christina Ferrucci, whom Amoruso brought on in 2008, shortly after launching the Nasty Gal website. Ferrucci wound up staying at Nasty Gal for over six years, eventually becoming the company’s buying director.

Remember where you are during an interview —Amoruso reminds college graduates that even when they are enjoying being interviewed at a laid-back, funky company, they need to remember they are at a formal job interview. One of her biggest interview tips? Always write a thank-you note. She says she especially loves a handwritten one.

Create a work/life balance — Amoruso learned the hard way that balance doesn’t always favor your social life. “Don’t get too caught up in partying,” says Amoruso. She lists the things she actually schedules time for, which include her love life, and social networking. “Create boundaries and structure […] be your own parent!” she says. As an entrepreneur, I’ve been accused of working too much. Usually, that kind of criticism is coming from people who don’t know me — or my circumstances — very well. No one else can tell you what balance should look like (but they try to)! I know super successful people who pound out four hours of high-quality work and then call it a day, only to be accused of not working enough. But that’s what works for them. I feel balanced and happy when I’m working a lot, even though that means I’m much more selective about who I spend my free time with, and how I spend it. Decide what balance means to you.

Amoruso was never a typical CEO so #Girlboss is for unconventional millennials: outsiders seeking a unique path to success, even when that path is “windy as all hell and lined with naysayers.”

What is a Girlboss? Amoruso has a startlingly different take on it from what you would have imagined. “It's the idea of giving yourself permission to do great things, and giving yourself permission to stumble, as well. You're living your life for yourself, and you hope that the people that you love will come along with you and understand that,” writes Amoruso. “A #Girlboss is someone who’s in charge of her own life. She gets what she wants because she works for it. As a #Girlboss, you take control and accept responsibility. You’re a fighter — you know when to throw punches and when to roll with them. You take your life seriously, but you don’t take yourself too seriously. You are going to take over the world, and change it in the process.” 

Now you know why this bestseller is both the life story of a beatnik fashion entrepreneur and a guide to female empowerment. Ultimately, the book is about how you can follow your nose and be open to different possibilities to your future. It's the business book for the millennial who didn't go to an Ivy League school, and is somewhat of a life bible for every girl.
 

Uttara Choudhury is a writer for Forbes India and The Wire. In 1997, she went on the British Chevening Scholarship to study Journalism in the University of Westminster, in London.


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