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Sophia Amoruso’s career skyrocketed during her time at Nasty Gal, the fashion retailer she started in 2006 when she was only 22 years old. In 2016, the company reached $300 million in annual revenue, according to Forbes’ estimates and Amoruso was on the Forbes’ list of the Richest Self-Made Women with an estimated net worth of $280 million, her memoir “#Girlboss” was a New York Times bestseller and Netflix began to adapt the book into a series.
But by November 2016 her company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and she stepped down as executive chairwoman after previously stepping down as CEO in 2015. The U.K. fashion company Boohoo.com bought the rights to the company’s intellectual property for a reported $20 million later that year, according to Women’s Wear Daily reporting. Amoruso fell off the Forbes’ list, the company faced lawsuits including alleged copyright infringement and employee discrimination charges and the Netflix show would be canceled after one season.
Despite her very public stumbles, Amoruso offered optimistic advice when asked how she remained resilient. “The thing about resilience is that it requires setbacks,” she says, “If you have nothing to recover from you’re likely not taking enough risks. Failing is a form of moving forward because if you’re curious and self-aware, you get to learn . Failure is essentially a free education: How cool is that?”
Today Amoruso is the CEO of Girlboss Media, the lifestyle company she launched in 2014 to produce content and events for millennial women. We spoke about failure, success and starting over.
Elana Lyn Gross: What were the biggest entrepreneurship lessons you learned from your experience with Nasty Gal?
Sophia Amoruso: Oh man. I learned everything, but I still have so much to learn. It was the ride of a lifetime, and I’m so grateful for it. I also am so glad to be in a new phase of my life and career. These will sound like the most basic, basic responses but:
Have a plan. I thought it serendipity was everything when I was young, and yes, serendipity can get you pretty far. But once you’ve been catapulted the way I was, and the way we all hope we will be, you find yourself in a place where your gut and wit and street smarts begin to fail.
Hold people accountable. I thought that senior executives would write their own job descriptions as they went along and diagnose the company’s needs, filling all the holes as they went along. Respectable adults don’t need to babysat, do they? Boy was I wrong. No matter how naive you are, or how little you know, get organized, hold people to their goals and coach them, but protect the business when those goals aren’t met.
Find support. What we’re creating with Girlboss is what I wish I had when I built my first business. It was a lonely time in e-commerce. There were fewer women raising venture capital to build direct-to-consumer businesses, and most of the experts I knew worked for me. Having a lot of eyes on your business, having a network of others to share the highs and lows, the resources and the tools to get there is such an advantage, and so easy to do. Enter Girlboss.
Gross: Girlboss Media focuses on redefining success. What is your personal definition of success?
Amoruso: It’s so funny that no one ever asks me this. I’d better start thinking about it. First, success means that I’m always in a place to change my mind. To change my answer to this question. Success means doing all that you have with what you have, no matter how much or how little, to learn and grow personally, spiritually or professionally. At the same time, success requires throwing all of that growth mentality out of the window and just staring at a chirping bird and reveling in the mystery of life.
We often hear stories that make it seem like someone was an overnight success when really there were setbacks and stumbles along the way.
Gross: Why do you think it’s valuable to be candid about both failure and success?
Amoruso: Well, for me it’s not a choice! This is something we explore a lot at Girlboss. Talking about failure and success is important because it’s something we all experience, yet we do it privately and tell no one. I’ve done it on this grand stage and it now feels like that laid the foundation for a lot of women to go make their own failures, which feels like a high calling to me, even though I know how strange that sounds.
Gross: How do you define a Girlboss?
Amoruso: A Girlboss is any curious woman who’s a lifetime learner.
Gross: What is the biggest lesson you learned at work and how did you learn it?
Amoruso: I’ve learned that life is a marathon and not a race. When I was younger, I thought everything needed to happen at once. I’m still overcoming that and learning to focus, but I know that I have time in life to have many careers and many phases.
Gross: What is one thing you wish you had known when you were starting out your career?
Amoruso: That wearing SPF is really, really important.
Gross: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Amoruso: There’s a quote by Stephen Covey that I love: “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” It’s not obscure, but something that in business is essential. Focus, focus, focus.
Gross: What is your business advice for other young professional women?
Amoruso: Ask for more than you think you deserve, within reason. Be over-confident but not tone deaf. Read the room. Advocate for yourself. Negotiate always. Don’t underestimate your worth. Don’t tolerate abuse. Take time for yourself. Lean on friends. Drink water.
December 28, 2018 at 06:09PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs