There’s something happening in the business world and it has to do with women. And it’s not just that (amazingly) women are just as capable as men at running companies or handling positions of power and leadership. It seems that the flavor of how that’s done is shifting – and we like it. The world is ready for a #GIRLBOSS and we at Selz are all for it.
If you haven’t yet heard of Sophia Amoruso or NastyGal, then get ye to the internet. Amoruso, who’s now worth a cool $250 million, built the fashion and lifestyle empire from the ground up, starting with a humble vintage clothing store on eBay. Now, it’s competing with the likes of ASOS and ModCloth as one of the world’s biggest online clothing retailers as well as expanding to brick and mortar stores for an end-to-end customer experience. And it doesn’t stop at clothing.
With a successful book, podcast, and business grant program underway, #GIRLBOSS has become much more than a very savvy book title (the best way for your book to go viral is to throw a hashtag in front). It’s become a movement and a symbol of the power of millennials, in particular women, to choose their own destiny, back themselves, and do it how they want to do it. No 80’s corporate Wall Street impressions required.
In #GIRLBOSS, Amoruso takes us along her journey, from dumpster diving and petty thievery to CEO and influencer. In my opinion, it’s more of a memoir than a business book but she does share a few gems along the way that are distinctly millennial and, therefore, deserve their spot in the sun. Let’s take a look at the top takeaways from #GIRLBOSS.
Get over yourself
Think you’re too smart or too cool to work hard to get what you want or that you need a beautiful office or funding to get started? Think again. Amoruso spent years driving a crappy car, renting a room in someone’s backyard to live and run her business from, and countless hours scouring dusty thrift stores for unique pieces.
Overnight success rarely happens overnight, so if you really want something you’re going to have to put your foot down and hustle. And don’t think that you can get away with not doing your taxes, maintaining your accounts, or checking out the legal requirements for your business. Bend the rules in business, but there are some you just need to stick to avoid getting into hot water later.
*Action point: Take yourself out of the equation and really size up what your business needs in order to thrive. Yes, you need to look after you, but a bit of common sense goes a long way. Make a list of the holes in your business and the things that you know you ignore (bookkeeping anyone?) because you think that you can get away with it, and then ways that you can tackle each of these.
Bootstrap as much as you can
If you’re making money from your business, then be smart with it. Take as little as you can for your living expenses and then funnel the rest back into your business to help it grow. Resourcefulness and frugality are key.
Amoruso would save as much as possible – paying models with burgers instead of cash, styling items that she found for $3 so they looked and sold for $500 and having a ‘no job too small’ attitude from the beginning. If you’re just starting out, it’s not the time for champagne and Aeron chairs for your entire team. Avoid debt, ignore credit cards, and watch your credit rating. If you do have the opportunity to spend, make sure you’re putting your money to work for you whether that be by investing in your own well-being or by hiring for a role that you know will help grow the business.
Money looks better in the bank than on your feet. – Sophia Amoruso
*Action point: Think about where your business spendings are going. Are you overlooking some expenses that you know could be reigned in because you find it easy to justify them as a business expense? Are there areas that you could pull back on in order to allow funds to flow for bigger picture things? Is everyone on your team in agreement on what’s reasonable spending behavior?
Learn like your life depends on it
Never be too proud to pick up a book or watch a Youtube video if you don’t know how to do something. Running a business means that you’re going to be wearing more hats than you ever imagined. There’s no way that you can know how to do everything and in the beginning, you won’t have the funds to outsource expertise.
Amoruso makes no secret of her love for business books and a total DIY approach to knowledge. She famously started out with “eBay for Dummies”, and when it came time to raise money, that was nothing a few Google searches for ‘How to talk to investors’ couldn’t fix. It must have worked – not long after she made NastyGal available for interest, she snapped up eCommerce expert Danny Rimer of Index Ventures, whose past wins include ASOS and NetaPorter.
*Action point: Make a list of areas that you need to read up on and think about whether these are best outsourced to an expert (for example, an accountant for your taxes) or if they’re something that you could learn yourself. It’s important for any business owner to know at least a little about every area of the business so that you can make sure these tasks are being managed properly and the outcomes are optimal. If you find things that you could polish up on, get to a library and start borrowing, or trawl Youtube for useful videos (like this one) that you can watch in your own time.
Your customer is everything
Amoruso is quick to acknowledge her customer “our girl”, as the backbone of everything that NastyGal stands for. She’s been in touch and in conversation with her customers from the beginning, through MySpace, email, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. There’s an advantage too, of Amoruso herself being her own ideal customer – young, fashion-forward, and a fiend on social media.
While, like many things that have propelled NastGal forward, she took an ad hoc approach to gathering feedback, it’s always been priority number one and something that’s considered in every part of the business.
*Action point: When was the last time you spoke to your customers? Whether through email, phone, social media or surveys, you need to be continuously gathering insight from your customer. Without this, you won’t have a deep understanding of who your customer is as a person and it’s going to be much harder for you to predict their future behavior as you grow. Use tools like Typeform to help you send beautiful, enjoyable surveys to your customers and make sure you leave enough room for them to tell you what they want in their own words.
Own your space
As much as you might rely on social media or external platforms to drive traffic and awareness to your business, you need to have your own piece of internet real estate. Amoruso caught on to this early. Feeling restricted by eBay’s rules and watchdogs, she made the move to set up her own eCommerce site where customers could buy from her directly and most importantly she could keep their contact details. This allowed her to use those contacts for future promotions and customer reach-out campaigns that kept buyers loyal, engaged, and actively buying from her. She’s very aware that even though social media is great for finding potential customers, it’s not your home and any platform can make changes that will affect your business greatly if you rely too heavily upon it.
*Action point: Get your data collection sorted by getting a Mailchimp or AWeber account and hooking up your mailing list to your online store. Make sure that every social channel you use is driving traffic to a URL that will not only convert to a sale but a sign up to your mailing list.
#GIRLBOSS isn’t going to be everyone’s favorite business book and I would imagine that that’s kind of the point. While it’s not full of actionable advice that will give you specific ‘next step’ detail, it’s an interesting peek into a world that may very well be the norm not too long from now.
What’s really interesting is Amoruso herself. MBAs and doing things “the right way” might be moving aside for savvy young things that say “cool”, “awesome” and “like, you know” while they navigate VCs, manage hundreds of staff and make serious money.
It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but there’s some strength to it that I really like – it’s refreshing and real and it gives us permission to do serious business without having to wear a mask.
Have you read #GIRLBOSS? What did you think?