Unless you’re a fasionista, Sophia Amoruso is a less-known name than the preceding four executives. Nonetheless, her flair for business and the unexpected success of her online business, Nasty Gal, make her just as much an Amazona as Huffington, Sandberg, Nooyi, or Mayer.
Born in 1984 to a Greek-American family, Sophia Amoruso had no business education when she became a fashion titan. At the age of 22, the adventurous entrepreneur began the venture that would become Nasty Gal in 2006 in the basement of her aunt’s home. At the time, she had not only no business education, but no college degree at all. She worked as a security guard checking IDs at an art school. Success may have seemed unlikely given her complete lack of experience and initial disdain for capitalism. However, what began as a small eBay store morphed into an online clothing empire overnight and so between 2008 and 2011, sales increased by 10,160 percent and by 2012 the company was reporting annual revenues in excess of $100 million. In seven years, Nasty Gal went from a self-funded enterprise housed in a basement to a business backed by $49 million in venture capital and housed in a 500,000-square-foot distribution center.
What’s Amoruso’s advice to other up-and-coming would-be entrepreneurs? Her philosophy upends expectations of women; Amoruso says women should be bossy. In fact, she’s written a book all about it. The book, titled #GIRLBOSS, was released in the spring of 2014 to largely positive review. The New York Times called her “the Cinderella of tech,” while Forbes referred to her a “fashion’s newest phenom.” Although the book has also drawn criticism in some quarters, perhaps that’s inevitable when a woman becomes so successful so young.
So what does a “girlboss” entail in Amoruso’s mind? To put it in her words, “A #GIRLBOSS is someone who’s in charge of her own life. She gets what she wants because she works for it. As a #GIRLBOSS, you take control and accept responsibility. You’re a fighter – you know when to throw punches and when to roll with them. Sometimes you break the rules, sometimes you follow them, but always on your own terms. You know where you’re going, but can’t do it without having some fun along the way. You value honesty over perfection. You ask questions. You take life seriously, but you don’t take yourself too seriously. You’re going to take over the world, and change it in the process. You’re a badass.”
In a theme not so different from Sandberg’s advice about leaning in – but stated much more brashly – Amoruso tells women not to hold back when she writes, “Abandon anything about your life and habits that might be holding you back. Learn to create your own opportunities. Know that there is no finish line; fortune favors action. Race balls-out toward the extraordinary life that you’ve always dreamed of, or still haven’t had time to dream up. And prepare to have a hell of a lot of fun along the way.”
As the Washington Post described her philosophy, “It’s the Lean In for misfits.” And that’s about accurate. While Lean In faced some criticism for its implicitly elitist tenets, Amoruso’s business wisdom is able to speak to a different demographic. The takeaway message is simple: be bossy. Be bossy, ask for what you want, experiment, create your own space, and don’t play by the rules. But most of all, be bossy.