Sophia Amoruso the Fashion Retail Entrepreneur

girl-bossHave you ever heard of #GirlBoss?

Well that #GirlBoss is Sophia Amoruso, the founder of Nasty Gal, an online women’s fashion retailer. Amoruso is the entrepreneur who built up a small eBay store into a multimillion-dollar company. More recently she has become an advocate for businesswomen with her highly regarded book, “#GirlBoss.”

Amoruso’s life path has not been the stereotypical businesswomen’s track of finish high school, go to business school, graduate and get an entry-level job. No, Amoruso took her own not so easy entrepreneurial route. As a teenager, she was diagnosed with ADD, dropped out of high school, shoplifted and then found herself working a boring job as a shoe salesperson in a department store in San Francisco, CA. With the low wage and high medical bills to pay, she left the shoe store job.

What was next? The very boring desk job spent rifling through the Internet for the most part was what lead to the start of Nasty Gal. This was the time of the early eBay market. Through MySpace, Amoruso came across this new world of setting up your own store online (eBay). Looking through the mediocre eBay stores with generic store names, Amoruso knew there was an opportunity. She was looking for a new way to make easy cash and what could be better than selling clothing online for someone with an interest in fashion. With her innate sense of style, she decided to sell vintage clothing and enter the eBay world. Amoruso collected pieces from Goodwill, warehouses, rag houses, the Salvation Army, and pretty much anywhere she could get her hands on items that would sell as “vintage.”

The eBay store really took off. She started to develop strong relationships with warehouses to score the best inventory for her site. She knew what would sell, which made it easy purging through the massive amount of clothing in these large warehouses. The margins were incredible since people were willing to pay premium prices for these popular items. Amoruso used the popular search terms to help her know what would sell. The models she found on MySpace were just average people; however, these models were people her customers could connect with, which made all the difference in the success of her store. The pictures on her eBay store featured models making vintage clothing look stylish and expensive. People really showed a true following for Nasty Gal, always seeking out when she had new inventory. There was limited quantity, but Amoruso created a demand.

The next step for Nasty Gal was branching out to its own website. Nasty Gal’s entire inventory sold out in the first day of the independent site launch. This success is much attributed to her proactive marketing efforts on her eBay store that forewarning her customers of the site’s launch date. However, this would not have been possible if she had not created the unique customer engagement and loyalty through social media and her eBay store.

As the website grew, Nasty Gal launch its own private clothing label. The site attracted many private investors. Amoruso gives the advice in her book #GirlBoss to go with the investor that believes in your vision and has an understanding of your passion–don’t pick the investor based on their portfolio. As a result, Index Ventures funded Nasty Gal with $49 million, which allowed the company to grow to $100 million in annual sales with a presence in over 150 countries.

She was an entrepreneur at heart with no direction or experience, just an idea that she was willing to pursue with her hard work and instinct. Last year, Amoruso stepped down as CEO of the company, but she still remains very involved as an owner and an executive chairman, overseeing its creative and brand marketing. Her book #GirlBoss targets young women who have yet to make it—encouraging them to make mistakes, try everything new, and learn from the experiences. She discusses her path thus far in life and how each part of her life has lead up to today’s success. Amoruso believes in taking high risks and at such a young age, there is little to lose.