GIRLBOSS Book Review
Want to win my copy of #GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso? Shout me on social media & I’ll send it to you with a favourite passage marked for your enjoyment.
I picked up a copy of #GIRLBOSS during a routine perusal of the bookstore earlier this year. Much like a fashion buyer, such of “buying trips” end with a fresh batch of books added to an already tall stack of pending material in my apartment. Except something about this delicate devil compelled me to crack the spine – and I basically finished it that night.
Sophia Amoruso is the founder of Nasty Gal – the entity that started as an eBay store for vintage clothes and exploded into an ecommerce powerhouse citing sales in and around $100 million. And until fairly recently – all done online.
The book provides a candid view into her personal and professional origin stories; from shoplifting and teenage angst to bootstrapping and growing Nasty Gal. Full of salty charm and swearing, Amoruso’s laidback but direct style fills the pages with personality and I feel as if I’m reading my future self’s entrepreneurship memoir.
I’ve never been a big vintage shopper (I leave it to my sister to find the Dior blazers at Value Village while I wear the same white shirts and jeans). So the growth potential in vintage sales – online! – was really something quite fascinating to read about. Amoruso launched Nasty Gal in 2008, on the tail of MySpace and the surge of eBay. As the sole proprietor, she bootstrapped everything from buying trips, to drafting listing copy, to photographing her wares. Sharp as a tack and ambitious AF, she identified a key component to the listings that she tackled with full force: the thumbnail.
In an arena where the real estate to capture a shopper’s attention is limited to a tiny box, the thumbnail was a major success/fail factor for eBay stores. And Amoruso worked tirelessly to make hers stand out, leveraging her photography and styling sense to compose enticing images. Like A/B testing, she drilled down to do what worked and toss what didn’t. Most of the book covers the vintage-era of Nasty Gal’s roots but does touch upon its entry into selling new and designer goods. It’s a neat description of testing the market’s value and perception of fashion.
I was quite inspired by her candid recollections of starting her business as I work on my own entrepreneurial projects. It isn’t glamorous by any stretch (definitely not in the early stage), but I related very much to her drive and sense of higher purpose in creating her brand.
A big part of Nasty Gal is Sophia herself – the aesthetic, the style, the details. But there came a point where she had to grow and hire and evolve. My entrepreneurial ventures have me positioned more behind the scenes doing marketing, social media, and general business building. So her respect and appreciation for the operations people was something that made me smile with delight. She touches on hiring a CEO to come in and helm the company as her focus shifted to more of the “face and founder” of Nasty Gal (which was in the news last year with various lawsuits).
Whether you are in a start-up solo or with partners, or working at your career path on a more traditional route, her book offers a humorous and practical perspective on how she tested and refined her path. Undoubtedly, as you grow – so do your problems. And that’s why I lent this book to a friend of mine as she was dealing with hiring and firing employees at her own company. There’s no way to shortcut learning the hard stuff first-hand, but it sure does help to get some commentary from Amoruso.
Another transparent aspect to the book is Amoruso’s path to landing venture capital funding. I imagine her venture kinda sounded like a unicorn to potential investors (profitable, no debt, solid growth trajectory). Her experience in running it without debt is a blessing in disguise tied to her DNA (or rather, a bad credit record from her rebellion days). Little useful information about the VC experience is provided, mostly because it seems her interaction must have gone something like this:
VC: “Why should we invest in you?”
Sophia: “Successful track record, no debt, market has massive potential.”
VC: “Cha-ching. Here’s money.”
Sophia: “Ok, you’re cool. Let’s go.”
Either way, the book is an interesting view into the mind and management of this self-proclaimed eccentric with ADD (and exceptional fashion creativity).