Many entrepreneurs spend years of hard work and dedication establishing themselves as legitimate businessmen. For Sophia Amoruso, becoming an entrepreneur was an accident.
In 2006, Amoruso launched her e-commerce store, Nasty Gal, which specialized in women’s vintage clothing. Within just a few years, Amoruso’s small business experienced unprecedented growth. Year after year, sales multiplied. In 2012, Inc. Magazine named Nasty Gal the “Fastest Growing Retailer.”
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Nasty Gal hit rock bottom. In 2016, the company filed for bankruptcy and handed itself over for $20 million. But that wasn’t the end of Amoruso.
Amidst the drama, Amoruso picked herself up and got right back to work. In 2014, she published her autobiography, #Girlboss, earning her the title of a New York Times bestselling author. The book received such high praise that it was adapted into a Netflix television series three years later.
Since then, Girlboss Media has gone on to be a smashing success. The company has accumulated a net worth of approximately $280 million and continues to sell-out crowds at their annual Girlboss Rally, inspiring women globally.
Amoruso’s path to success was quite the rollercoaster, but she stayed determined. Now, she’s established the largest job marketplace for ambitious young women in the world …
Here’s how she did it:
Nasty Gal’s Accidental (for real) Rise to Fame
The year was 2006, and Amoruso’s needed money to pay her bills. Her receptionist job for a San Francisco art school wasn’t cutting it, so she decided to open a tiny eBay shop specializing in vintage clothes, called “Nasty Gal Vintage.”
Amoruso’s business consisted of hopping around town, buying clothes from thrift stores and estate sales, and reselling them online. Then, out of nowhere, Amoruso’s little online store suddenly attracted a cult-like following.
As more and more people discovered her store, Amoruso decided to take the eBay shop and turn it into a legitimate business. She set up a website for her brand, and before long, Nasty Gal was a smashing success.
Between 2009 and 2012, Amoruso’s grungy retail fashion store gained 200 employees and over $100 million in annual sales. Her presence on social media platforms — Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter — helped draw new-comers to her site.
Consumers weren’t the only ones to take notice of Amoruso’s unprecedented growth. Forbes named Amoruso “fashion’s new phenom” on the cover of its magazine.
In an interview with Observer, Amoruso talks about her whirlwind success. “I did almost everything myself in the beginning…Before venture capital came in [in 2012], I owned 100 percent of the business, and we were profitable,” she says. “We had exploded: we went from $1.1 million in [annual sales] to $6.5 million to $28 million [in 2011] in three years with no digital marketing and no outside investors.”
For Amoruso, things looked perfect … or so it seemed.
All Good Things Must Come to an End …
On the outside, Nasty Gal was experiencing unequivocal growth in sales and fanbase. Business magazines and venture capitalists were taking notice of Amoruso’s increasing influence. But on the inside, things were starting to crumble.
Nasty Gal was a young business when it experienced its sudden rise to fame. Index Ventures, an international venture capital firm, invested $40 million into Amoruso’s e-commerce store. By funding such a large sum, the firm expected Nasty Gal to quadruple in annual sales.
Overwhelmed with the task ahead of her, Amoruso quickly hired 100 employees and created a hasty growth strategy. But things didn’t turn out the way she planned. “Things became too complex too fast,” says Amoruso.
The money and expectation mixed together made managing Nasty Gal difficult for such a young entrepreneur. “I think Index Ventures handing that $40 million to someone that naive who didn’t know how to build a deck … was possibly irresponsible on my behalf.”
In 2016, the mismanaged company filed for bankruptcy and sold for $20 million to Boohoo, a British online retailer.
A Modern-Day Cinderella Story
Even though Nasty Gal was no longer the smashing success it once was, Amoruso didn’t end her business career there. Four months after selling Nasty Gal, Amoruso got right back to work.
In 2014, Amoruso published her autobiography, #Girlboss, chronicling her early life and unintentional rise to fame with Nasty Gal. Her book earned her a New York Times bestselling author title. In 2017, the book was adapted into a Netflix Original TV series, “Girlboss,” a fictionalized spin on Amoruso’s experience as a founder of her fashion empire.
Then, that same year, Amoruso founded her new multimedia company, Girlboss Media. Amoruso’s new business venture aims to inspire women through content, videos, and podcasts. Since the launch, Amoruso hosts the annual Girlboss Rallies, which are weekend-long conferences for young female entrepreneurs looking to take charge of their life.
Over the past few years, Girlboss has grown its community of strong, curious, and passionate women from all walks of life. “Girlboss is all about listening and hearing what people’s motivations are,” says Amoruso.
On its About page, Girlboss’s mission perfectly encapsulates their overarching goal: “We exist to redefine success for millennial women by providing the tools and connections they need to own their futures.”
Taking Charge (And Inspiring Other Women to Do the Same)
What started as a simple side hustle to pay the bills turned into an online global fashion empire. The company’s sudden success became too much to manage for such a young entrepreneur. Even though Amoruso had to face the reality of her company’s failure, she didn’t let it stop her; instead, she learned from her mistakes and established herself as a legitimate businesswoman.
Today, she uses her story to inspire women to take charge of their future, no matter what the challenge may be. Through Girlboss, Amoruso captures the true values of what it takes to be a successful business woman: humor, resourcefulness, vulnerability, curiosity, and inclusivity.
Amoruso epitomizes the reality of taking risks, making mistakes, and learning from them.
“I want to use that experience to share with every woman that failure, or whatever you want to call it, is just an opportunity to do better and to learn, she says. “Ultimately, I want to build a global brand that people identify with, and that brings people together autonomously.”
- Featured Image, Pexels