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Book Talk: NastyGal CEO Amoruso on dumpster-diving to ‘Girlboss’

Sophia Amoruso, founder and owner of fashion site NastyGal, poses at her offices in Los Angeles, California May 15, 2014. "#Girlboss," Amoruso's first foray into writing, has garnered attention since its release this month for the intimate details of the entrepreneur's turbulent past: from being a broke and shoplifting youngster to harnessing the power of the Internet to sell vintage clothing on eBay. Picture taken May 15. (REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni)

LOS ANGELES: A college dropout who has gone on to build a $100 million fashion business, NastyGal founder Sophia Amoruso has lifted the lid on her unlikely journey from thief to chief, rags to riches and anti-capitalist to CEO.

“#Girlboss,” Amoruso’s first foray into writing, has garnered attention since its release this month for the intimate details of the entrepreneur’s turbulent past: from being a broke and shoplifting youngster to harnessing the power of the Internet to sell vintage clothing on eBay.

Sitting in her 5,100-square-meter loft office in downtown Los Angeles, the Louis Vuitton-clad Amoruso oversees hundreds of employees at NastyGal headquarters, her eBay business now a flourishing online fashion brand.

In “#Girlboss,” part-memoir and part-business advice, the 30-year-old entrepreneur adopts a friendly, sassy voice to dole out the lessons she has learned along the way.

Q: How do you feel about being labeled in dichotomies?

A: I think the best things exist in real extremes like that. Past and present, I mean mine is really extreme, but I think I’m really happy for it. It’s like only through the low points that I appreciate the high points. And I think there’s a certain amount of naivete that came with my story, that has made me able to tackle things that I have tackled, because I don’t think I knew how hard it was to build a business this big.

If someone had told me, I probably would have been terrified ... it’s the people around me who have more experience than I do that really understand the gravity of what I’m achieving.

Q: You say you don’t like to use the word “luck” for your success, but was there a case of the stars aligning?

A: Yes, the stars definitely exist, and they align or they don’t align, and I think that following my gut – you can call it gut, you can call it stars aligning – there were decisions I was making along the way that made this happen for sure. But there’s also the serendipity of meeting the right person at the right time, and of having the idea at the right time that drives you to actually ask for something rather than have it fall in your lap.

A lot of it has been run on how I feel, which people don’t talk about. Maybe people haven’t written business books about that because it’s pretty esoteric and weird and you can’t quantify it, it’s not something they teach in business school.

Q: Some entrepreneurs like to say one must fail in order to succeed, but you haven’t really endured failure with NastyGal?

A: Failure is, it’s like those are the people who are going out in the world and saying, ‘This is what I want to do, and if this doesn’t work, I’ve failed,’ which I never did. I never wanted to be a CEO. ... I want to be one today but I never intended to be a CEO. I never intended to build a $100 million business. If that was what I was focused on, I think I would be missing all of these things along the way, all of the small things that got us here.

Q: You discuss book-smarts versus street-smarts and not going to college. What is your stance on college?

A: It just wasn’t for me. I think it’s amazing. I think if you know what value you can derive from college and are mature enough to do that and get what there is to get out of the college experience, it’s perfect ... If you’re unhappy like I was, and too impatient to complete four years of anything at that age, it’s not for you.

 

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