Stylish Dreams

The ‘Nasty Gal’ Invasion: Sophia Amoruso Wants to Create an Army of #GIRLBOSSes

Theft. Hitchhiking. Bad grades. The Nasty Gal queen went from troublemaker to CEO of a million-dollar company in just a few years. Now, she wants to teach you how to be a #GIRLBOSS, too.

05.08.14 9:45 AM ET

Sophia Amoruso doesn’t want to be your role model, but if she is, it wouldn’t be a surprise. She’s a shining example of how you can, in a few short years, go from dumpster diving and minor theft to running a multimillion-dollar company—skipping a pricey college education along the way.

Since the beginning, Amoruso was something of a troublemaker—her lack of interest in school dumbfounded teachers and psychiatrists alike. Her youth was spent bouncing from job to job and trying on different personas, bringing home terrible grades and hitchhiking just for kicks. At 20 her reputation for petty theft came to a screeching halt when she was finally caught by the big-box store whose goods she happened to be helping herself to.

In 2006, Amoruso started an eBay store called Nasty Gal Vintage, selling pieces found at nearby thrift stores and utilizing MySpace for free promotion (which involved tiptoeing past site policy to add a whole mess of “friends.”) In the years since, she has grown Nasty Gal—which now deals in much more than secondhand clothing—into a company that boasts more than $100 million in sales.  Oh, and she only just turned 30 this past April.

Amoruso details her rise to glory—and the lessons she’s learned along the way—in #GIRLBOSS, a new book that wears so many hats it almost defies categorization. At times it’s a memoir, as when the author is detailing how she learned that credit cards can be the devil (hint: it involves mall lingerie), at times it’s a business book, and at other times it’s a kind of a hip, finance-focused self-help tome. “It’s a lot of things, and that’s what life is,” she told The Daily Beast.

And that hashtag in the title? It could be annoying, but Amoruso explains, “I think it’s just kind of a nod to what made Nasty Gal successful, and at the same time it’s a little bit more of doing what I’ve been pretty good at all along, which is getting free marketing by putting a hashtag in front of the title.”

“A #GIRLBOSS is someone who’s in charge of her own life,” Amoruso writes. “She gets what she wants because she works for it.” It’s OK if you’re not quite there yet—or you’re male or aged slightly out of the perceived audience for this book. While it’s designed in a way that will no doubt attract Nasty Gal’s core market, the advice inside can benefit anyone who is trying to make it in the working world. “For the girls who have never bought a business book, I think this can be the gateway drug,” Amoruso says.

#GIRLBOSS covers a lot of ground, but the grand self-help scheme seems to be for readers to learn from Amoruso’s mistakes and her victories—and also her outlook on life. She is as comfortable deducing sharable lessons from her brief time as a Subway sandwich artist as she is explaining how to use positive thoughts to inspire positive actions (to ultimately achieve your wildest dreams, of course). And she has no problem switching from discussions of the metaphysical to the practical, all in a straightforward, but conversational, style. Best of all, she’s funny, and there are enough fart jokes to last you a few weeks, easily. 

With a cool, youthful vibe, Amoruso isn’t afraid to come clean about not knowing it all, thus confirming that you don’t need to know it all, either. “I felt like a fraud for a long time, as if there were no way in hell I was qualified,” she writes about her experience as a CEO. “Who gave this freak the keys? I thought to myself, wondering if, and when, I’d ever be found out.” She talks about not knowing how to use PowerPoint, about not quite grasping what venture capitalists might be able to do for her business until she basically was knee-deep in them.

For such a young and newly successful CEO, Amoruso’s self-awareness is striking. She’s able to “call bullshit” on her younger self, who was busy making flimsy excuses for theft. She’s also able to resolve the dichotomy between the politics of her youth (“I wanted to live outside the capitalist structure, to live free and travel free, and to exist outside a nine-to-five lifestyle,” she writes) and her current situation, in which paying cash for a Porsche is a reality. She is, in a word, genuine.

Some of #GIRLBOSS’s basic career tips—think cover letters and interviews—might not be groundbreaking. But the advice Amoruso gives from her personal experience, like how to bounce back after getting fired, is fresh and widely useful. Plus, she doesn’t waver when it comes to personal finance (inside is surprisingly welcome advice from a newly minted one percenter.) Most people realize that they should be giving thought to boring stuff like saving money, but when that decree comes from someone young, hip, and perhaps most importantly, stylish, the advice takes on a new, more-pressing life. 

And she’s not at all snobby about her success. Amoruso is careful to address her readers as “#GIRLBOSS” throughout the book, suggesting that you, too, have the potential to achieve your dreams, just like the author.

Of all #GIRLBOSS’s lessons, though, there’s one that Amoruso hopes readers remember most: “I want people to feel the freedom to be themselves,” she tells The Daily Beast. And it’s clear, for her, that’s not an empty platitude—she lives it.