Updated: Nov 16, 2018
I’m a bit late to the party but I only just found out about Sophia Amaruso and her brilliant book, #Girlboss. The book is a memoir of the Nasty Gal CEO’s meteoric rise to success. Broke and jobless at 22, Amaruso started an eBay store selling vintage clothes from the comfort of her bedroom, and within ten years managed to turn it into a business with an annual turnover of $100m. Amaruso achieved this incredible feat with no loans, no well-connected family or powerful mentor, instead, she reached a staggering level of success down to one thing: herself.
I immediately had to read Amaruso’s story; it sounded genuinely inspiring. #Girlboss is written in a chatty informal way that instantly draws you in. Amaruso’s direct and funny tone makes you feel like you're getting practical advice from a friend. I loved how open and honest Amaruso is about her life and her path to success. Having left home at 17, she led a pretty nomadic, alternative existence, hitchhiking from place to place and surrounding herself with people who wanted to escape the capitalist grind. She listened to metal music, identified as Marxist and shoplifted to get by. However, after nearly getting arrested for theft, she soon realised that her lifestyle was unsustainable. She began to see that craving financial security doesn’t necessarily make you a soulless capitalist, but instead frees up your time and energy, which can help feed creative pursuits. Drawn to fashion and photography, this security began to appeal to Amaruso.
However, it wasn’t until she developed a hernia in her groin and needed to access employee healthcare that she decided to get a full-time job, checking IDs at a university reception. The job was incredibly dull and Amaruso would end up spending her time surfing the net. She wound up on eBay perusing vintage clothes shops and figured starting an eBay shop was something she could do. Once she got her hernia treated, Amaruso quit her job, bought a book on running eBay shops for dummies and began building her empire, although at the time, she had no idea how successful she’d become.
Amaruso would find estate sales on Craigslist and go along, buying up all the good vintage clothes. She’d trawl through the racks of thrift stores and even haggle items down. She sold all the stuff on eBay and made huge returns, like a Chanel jacket she paid $9 for and sold for more than a thousand. She'd then drive into town and celebrate with a soya chai! I loved reading about this part of Amaruso’s journey. The drive and passion she had during this time is so infectious. From getting her friends to model clothes and having amateur photoshoots, to writing product descriptions in her dressing gown and adding potential buyers as friends on Myspace, Amaruso was owning every aspect of her fledgling business and she comes across as completely relatable in one sense (we’ve all uploaded stuff to eBay from time to time and most readers will have an entrepreneurial spirit) to utterly inspiring (her strong sense of focus and unflappable positive spirit are what set her apart).
I could relate to Amaruso in a sense. I’m no CEO, but when I was writing my debut novel, Perfect Match, it was just me in my bedroom, typing away, armed with nothing but determination and hope. I worked really hard too, reading books on creative writing and doing online courses, and in some ways, I guess I am also a #Girlboss as I’ve freelanced as well and worked for myself in the past. But while I’m prone to self-doubt and the occasional bout of negativity, Amaruso comes across as so strong-minded, upbeat and resilient. She describes some bullying she endured from rival sellers within the eBay community and even though it sounded really catty and mean, Amaruso seemed to be able just brush it off and stay focused on her own goals. I found this really inspiring as I could definitely benefit from being a bit less sensitive and maintaining a more consistent sense of positivity and self-belief.
As well as that takeaway, my favourite tip from the entire book is a simple but absolutely genius life hack. Amaruso stays focused on her goals by using her login passwords as an ‘intention-setting tools’. She ‘embeds them with wishes or promises to me or even financial goals for the company’. The idea is that by doing this, she stays focused on the bigger picture even when doing boring admin stuff. I loved this tip and will now be changing my password to 'filmdeal'!! Only joking (sort of!).
#Girlboss is both a totally candid memoir and an incredibly useful manual for success. Amaruso gives practical tips on everything from writing a good cover letter to choosing venture capitalist investors! The book is packed full of some absolutely brilliant quotes as well, which I will no doubt be instagramming very soon! The only issue I had with the book was its title. I can see why the publisher went for #Girlboss as it’s obviously really catchy, but it’s also a bit patronizing. After all, you’d never see the title #Boyboss about a male entrepreneur’s success story. I wanted to recommend the book to a male friend who shares my love of self-improvement books, and I found myself adding a caveat - 'I know it’s called that, but it’s actually really good and you’d still relate to it’, which is a bit of a shame. Everyone should read this book - male or female. You don't need to be a #Girlboss to lean from Amaruso.
Overall, #Girlboss is a brilliantly written, accessible and relatable book about a truly inspirational woman and I fully recommend it, whether you’re just starting out on your professional journey or you’re somewhere along the way and in need of a bit of a boost.
Click here to view it on Amazon.