Author: Sophia Amoruso
As human beings who are constantly interacting with one another, we learn a lot from someone else’s opinion or worldview. That’s why I’ve been asked as a fellow book lover (and girlfriend) to write a guest review this week. I, for one, have read a handful of books that were recommended to me that I would never have picked up otherwise. I even read “The 5 Love Languages“ because Kyle thought I would benefit greatly from the contents of its pages. And guess what? He was absolutely right…I gained so much from that book! So that’s why I, Carly, am here: to write a review on a book that he probably would have skimmed over in the bookstore without a second glance.
I’ll admit it: I haven’t been nearly as interested in starting my own business and being an entrepreneur as Kyle. I’m graduating in May with a bachelor’s degree in a field not even remotely related to business. Don’t get me wrong, I love self-improvement and I read all kinds of books. I just didn’t ever see myself getting so excited to learn about the world of entrepreneurship. I am, however, fashion obsessed and many pieces from the online clothing store Nasty Gal are currently hanging in my closet…so when Sophia Amoruso, the company’s founder, and CEO, wrote a book about her path to success, I knew I had to read it. #GIRLBOSS is filled with both insight and humor. Amoruso takes the reader on a journey through some of her most shameless adventures as an angsty teen as well as her most critical moments that defined her success in the apparel industry. I know what many of you are thinking: this sounds like a book that would only be interesting if you’re a girl with a passion for fashion. If you happen to be one of these people, you could not be more wrong. This book takes you inside the mind of someone who built a $28 million-dollar company without borrowing a single penny along the way. Clearly, she has a lot of wisdom to pass along.
The Red String Theory
Towards the beginning of the book, Amoruso tells a story that her mother once told her about her childhood. When Amoruso was 5 years old, she used to run around on the playground dragging a red string behind her. When her classmates and friends asked her what it was, she told them it was a kite. Soon after, all the kids on the playground were dragging around red strings too. She takes this story with her and believes it goes to show that when you believe in yourself, others will believe in you too.
“Shitty Jobs, Shoplifting, and Hitchhiking Saved My Life”
Amoruso is quick to admit that she has made a lot of mistakes growing up. Throughout the book, she tells stories of how she used to steal anything and everything. Her business started as an eBay shop, and the first thing she ever sold was stolen. She goes on to talk about how she ended up getting arrested and how humiliating the entire experience was. She talks about running away from home and hitchhiking with some sketchy types of people. In the moment, she thought these decisions were wonderful ones, but in hindsight, she realizes the mistakes she made. What she stresses during these moments is how to learn from your mistakes, as she talks about what she got from her past and how she has applied these things to her future. Amoruso also has an extensive resume of “shitty jobs,” including at multiple retail shops, a bookstore, fast food places, as a desk clerk, and more. She found herself getting bored after a few months and leaving for something new. It helped her understand that she would never get anywhere doing something she didn’t like, and those moments waiting on customers taught her invaluable lessons in customer service. According to Amoruso, “you have to be willing to tolerate some shit you don’t like (at least for a little while.)”
Be Your Own Idol
Especially for women, it is easy to get lost in the success of others. Often times people focus so much energy on both idolizing others as well as trying to tear someone else down. Amoruso draws attention to the importance of being your own idol, stating that constantly looking up at others can very easily keep you down. All that energy pointed at someone else’s life can be much better spent focusing on your own. She also boldly states the opposite of what many of us hear on a regular basis: it is not shallow to put effort into your looks. In fact, it helps you look and feel more confident and put together. Nobody has to choose between smart and sexy; we can be both. Also, during the height of her eBay years, Amoruso found herself and her store in the center of endless drama. Her competitors trolled the eBay forums to trash her name, and the owners of similar shops gathered online to obsess about what others in their industry were doing. She didn’t give into that culture that engulfed the competition and spent that energy to make her store as unique and genuine as possible. That’s what set her apart. Focus on you; be your own idol.
4 Words You Should Never Utter
There’s one phrase that shouldn’t even be a part of your vocabulary: “That’s not my job.” Even as CEO, there’s nothing Amoruso wouldn’t do for her company. When she first started her eBay store, she was selling mostly vintage and there wasn’t anywhere she refused to go to find good clothes to sell. Nothing was beneath her, including literally dumpster diving. She would go to estate sales scouring for designer pieces, answer craigslist ads for theater companies going out of business and selling their costumes, and basically stalk thrift shops, waiting for customers to leave so she could be the first one to snag their unwanted merchandise. She haggled hard, even for already discounted items. Something had a hole? She asked for $10 off. According to Amoruso, you don’t get what you don’t ask for. You can’t be frustrated you don’t have something or be complaining about where you’re at in your career if you haven’t flat out asked for what you want. Sometimes you just have to be shameless about it. She would also spend hours searching Myspace (yeah, I know) for girls in their 20’s and 30’s, adding over 16 thousand girls and marketing like crazy. That was who she wanted to sell to, so she got her name out there and talked to anyone who would listen. Once she decided to leave eBay and couldn’t take her customer information with her, she still had thousands of women she networked with whom she could market her new store. Nothing was too tedious. Nothing was beneath her. It was all “her job.”
Traditional Success is Overrated
There are obvious benefits to going to college; I for one am about to graduate from a university myself. But the traditional route of a 4-year degree isn’t the only option anymore, and it’s certainly no longer the best option for each individual. Entrepreneurs don’t mesh well with traditional college and 9-5 jobs, and Amoruso provides a great example of this. As you read the book and learn more details about who she is, you can see that this was really her only realistic option not only for success but also happiness. She writes about how entrepreneurs can take advantage of the “traditional” world the way that it is. Amoruso also notes that you need to find more inspiration than just wanting to make money. You need to know what you want to help or change in order to be successful. In other words, why are you doing what you’re doing? Why does it make you happy? Don’t just look for a way to make money. When you begin with the finish line in mind, you miss all the fun stuff along the way. “There’s no finish line—fortune favors action.”
Introverts vs. Extroverts
Historically, the business world favors extroverts. Networking is singlehandedly the most important tool to building a business, and this is where extroverts thrive. Amoruso, an introvert, really struggled to put herself out there in order to do what she had to for success. However, through her trials and tribulations, she learned how to use her introvert tendencies to her advantage in a world that favors her counterpart. I’ll let you read the details for yourself, but it’s brilliant the way she plays into her strengths and borrows tips from her extrovert friends.
Money Looks Better in the Bank Than on Your Feet
I’m a person who loves things. I will openly be the first to admit I have a shopping problem. It’s not just clothing; I will buy virtually anything that’s appealing to me. This book has really helped me rethink some of my spending tendencies. Amoruso’s money habits are a big reason for her prosperity. She contributes a lot of Nasty Gal’s success to choosing company goals that weren’t related to finance. She didn’t have a set number she wanted to see in her bank account and she didn’t worry too much about spending in order to grow. When she finally hired her first employee, Amoruso paid her more than she was paying herself for the first year she worked there, and that woman is still with the company all these years later. As mentioned, one of the rare things about the company’s success is their complete lack of debt. That’s because Amoruso wholeheartedly believes in not spending more money than you have. She also says that you shouldn’t increase your spending as soon as your income increases. If you were able to live comfortably off what you were making, why choose to spend more? You don’t need the new car or the bigger home. Her suggestion is to treat your savings account like another bill you have each month. Pay it, or there will be consequences. I’m not quite where I want to be with my savings account yet, but I have been questioning purchases more often than I was, and I’m trying my best not to use my credit card for little things. If I can’t afford to eat out until I get paid next, I’m not using my credit card and then paying it off when I get my money. I don’t have enough in my checking account? I’m not eating out that night. It’s the small things that get me the most and that I’ve seen the biggest change in.
Chaos magic is this idea that our beliefs serve as an active force in the world. We not only choose what we believe, but we also choose how we believe, and then we use these beliefs as tools to make things happen…or choose to stay stagnant. An important part of chaos magic is the use of what are called “sigils,” which are abstract words or symbols you create and embed with your wishes. It’s all about sending out good intentions into the world and ties in really nicely with Amoruso’s Red String Theory. She gives some good examples on how to create your own sigils and explains how she uses them in her own life. I’ll let you read and explore that for yourself.
Know Your Limits
Amoruso didn’t know how big Nasty Gal would get when she first started her business. She had no more than a high school diploma under her belt, so when her website blew up and the company grew, she had a lot of learning to do. She implores that if you don’t understand something well enough to successfully and expertly do yourself, it should be outsourced, even if that means losing money. As the CEO of her company, Amoruso has sat in business meetings with investors, financial advisors, and many, many people with advanced degrees and extensive knowledge. She made the realization that she could either pretend to know everything as the big boss or she could actually take the time to learn. It wasn’t always easy for her to admit to a room full of investors that she had no idea what they were talking about and has asked many people underneath her to explain or “dumb down” words and phrases she didn’t understand. She couldn’t afford to pretend she knew what was going on and risk the company. Being humble about what you don’t know will take you farther than faking it ‘til you make it. Even if you’re an expert in your field, you don’t know everything. Clarifying, asking questions, and constantly learning is the most immeasurably wonderful thing I’ve gotten from this book. I have always had this “know-it-all” tendency and hate to be corrected, and this is something I’m now actively working on. Amoruso’s anecdotes and pieces of advice have really helped open my eyes to know (and recognize) my limits. It’s not easy being wrong, but admitting my gaps in knowledge will help me grow, as long as I don’t get in my own way.
What Else You Can Expect
I just skimmed the surface of the wisdom and insight this book has. Amoruso explains so much, like why she started with eBay, how she grew her business, her eye for detail, and even why she chose the name “Nasty Gal.” Throughout the book are one- to three-page excerpts written by other successful entrepreneurs giving their own pieces of advice and describing what worked for them. Amoruso also reminds her readers that the unique things about you are what will help you to succeed, so don’t alter your “inner freak.” There’s an entire chapter on hiring, staying employed, and firing where she gives pointers on how to succeed in an interview, how to hire and fire employees, what to put on your resume, and so much more. There are many “no-no’s” she goes over for cover letters and interviews. I really enjoy that she takes the perspective of both employer and employee, giving advice for both roles. She believes there are 2 keys to running a successful business: knowing your customer and knowing how to get free marketing. The tail end of the book talks about her philosophy at Nasty Gal, turn-ons and turn-offs when dealing with investors, and talks about how staying creative has helped her business thrive. Amoruso wants her readers to have their own style and know how to really be “cool” under the pressures of the business world. Like I said before, there is so much important information and wisdom I didn’t even begin to cover that will carry you so far, whether or not you have any interest in being a true entrepreneur. If you want to be successful in what you do, listen to Sophia Amoruso.
As a woman, something she said resonated with me strongly: “You don’t get taken seriously by asking someone to take you seriously.” There’s a reason this book is called #GIRLBOSS. Although this truly is beneficial to read no matter your gender, it is beyond empowering for women. A #GIRLBOSS doesn’t let a single cell in her body feel oppressed or looked down on. She doesn’t dwell on or make time for any inequalities. A #GIRLBOSS climbs the ladder in stilettos without even looking down. No matter who you are or what privileges you lack, you can and will succeed if you demand the respect you deserve. I’m beyond impressed by Sophia Amoruso’s strength and wisdom, and I know you will be too.
Have you read this book? Which of Amoruso’s suggestions have you applied in your life? Feel free to start the conversation on my Instagram or my Twitter (@ineed_coffee.) I can’t wait to hear from any #GIRLBOSSES and #GUYBOSSES as well!