Sophia Amoruso is the 30-year-old founder and CEO of Nasty Gal, a clothing company that’s been one of the Cinderella stories of this Internet age, starting as a vintage store on eBay in 2006 and growing to a $130-million online business by 2013. #GIRLBOSS, a memoir-cum-business guide is the first step in Amoruso’s probable future as a mainstream business mogul, and she’s on the media blitz to match it (today there are free bagels from “dumpster diving” and copies of #GIRLBOSS being given out in Manhattan’s Union Square).
Besides pioneering the use of a hashtag as a title — is that going to age well? — #GIRLBOSS is simultaneously a little bit useful, perhaps if you’re younger and want to follow your entrepreneurial dream, and a little bit of an American fairytale, a combination of grit, drive, and luck turning into something formidable.
Which is to say: sure, it could be a good book to give to a young woman, particularly if she’s new to the world and applying to jobs. If you are an adult, working and in the world, it may not be the book for you, but keep an eye on Amoruso. She’s certainly interesting.
Amoruso’s story is already hardening into a Horatio Alger tale of rebirth — she is the rare super-successful CEO to, well, at the least, be honest-ish about her lost teen years. She had trouble with school and was a community college dropout. She spent time in her life shoplifting, dumpster diving, and living the on-the-edge lifestyle of an anarchist, even though she was a good suburban girl: “I once believed that participating in a capitalist economy would be the death of me,” she writes, “but now realize that agonizing over the political implications of every move I make isn’t exactly living.”
There’s an admirable frankness to Amoruso’s perspective on the world, and working in particular. She has solid advice on how to make your cover letter and resume stand out from the pack, and how to make resume doubletalk into real, quantifiable achievements. She writes “You Are Not a Special Snowflake,” which hits with real feeling after the amount of work she’s recounted throughout the book, whether it’s for Nasty Gal or the many shit jobs that led to her business.
Some of the keys to her business turned out to be obsessive eBaying — which sounds a bit sketchy and Machiavellian — and making sure to pay for everything with cash, partially because her credit was horrible. Nasty Gal’s timing with social media (2006) was impeccable as well, emerging at the exact moment when users could build a culture and secret community around fun clothes.
#GIRLBOSS may not be a life-changing book unless you are 23 and searching for your place in life, but it’s nice to see a heartwarming story about a young woman who built something out of nothing, due largely to her passions and drive. Whether it leads to a #GIRLBOSS movement, I don’t know. Amoruso is starting the #GIRLBOSS foundation which will offer “grants to female entrepreneurs.” Nasty Gal has been a company on a fast rise — the statistics from this New York Times article mention that its profit has quadrupled from 2011 to 2013 and that the company is possibly in talks with Urban Outfitters — and Amoruso’s smarts have been a big part of it. Young women could do worse than learn from her no-bullshit style and tireless work ethic.