By Marina Sergeeva
She’s a hero to many in the vintage fashion community, so when Netflix released Girl Boss, a series loosely based on the story of how Sophia Amoruso, the founder of Nasty Gal, became an online vintage clothing entrepreneur, we were pretty excited, because her story could be anyone’s.
When she was only 23, San Francisco-based Sophia was working crappy part-time jobs, on the verge of eviction and dealing with various health problems; she sure wasn’t someone you’d be thinking of investing in. But after she sold a rare vintage designer jacket on Ebay for ten times the asking price, a business woman was born.
After setting up her eBay shop, Sophia dedicated her time and expertise to sourcing vintage clothing with added value, which she bought cheap and sold expensive, reading Dummy books to transform her business from a simple online shop to a Nasty Gal empire.
I’ve drawn up some key takeaways from Sophia’s experience and also asked some experts including designers Henry Holland and Andrea Brocca to give advice for those of you who may be interested in the industry, have always aspired to open your own boutique, or just intrigued to see how entrepreneurs make it from the bottom to the top.
7 Tips For Becoming A Girl Boss Yourself
1. Find Something You Like Doing…And Actually Do It
Find something you like doing. Sounds easy, right? That’s pretty much all it takes to launch a new business, in conjunction with some initiative and planning – but the issue is, very few people even know what they really like doing. Sophia was inspired by two things she enjoyed: vintage fashion and browsing eBay. It took her a wee bit of creative thinking to understand how she could combine those two things to launch Nasty Gal, but she did it. It almost happened organically!
The same could be said for British designer Henry Holland. He says: “I just started making t-shirts for my friends and I to wear as a personal project. I think the authenticity and grassroots nature of the work really resonated with people and the industry – it took off quite quickly! It was very much an idea I had for my friends and I which worked on a wider scale,” Today, his passion for tee shirt design took him from working for fashion magazines to having his work featured IN them!
2. Get By With a Little Help From Your Friends
Friends help your creativity, whether it’s supplying unwanted clothes or spending a day figuring out a witty name for your new venture. Even if they can help you relieve the stress of starting a new business with some well-deserved time-out, they are important, full stop! Not only do they keep you sane, they may also have whole-hearted belief in your idea, success and getting you to your end goal. So, make the most of their free advice and support, and don’t push them away. Additionally, they make for great brand ambassadors and that’s ‘dolla’, as Sophia would say.
On the other hand, if you’re surrounded by negative people, make a change and surround yourself with people who believe in you and who will support you through thick and thin. Sophia had many ups and downs throughout her journey; personal relationships, business complications, ‘haters’ blocking her from continuing her eBay business, but what did all of that lead to? Tackling those setbacks head on, which nudged her to achieve greater things.
3. Remember That Barriers Are There To Be Overcome
Don’t let setbacks keep you from making your biz better. Never let other people’s opinions (negative ones) stop you, as they will only prevent you from achieving your goals. So why lose sleep over it? If an item that you perhaps thought was the one, and one that you thought would give you a large return on your investment, but just didn’t sell – get over it & move onto the next big thing. It’s a hard fact that all – literally ALL – successful people have suffered failure at some point along their paths. Why would you be any different?
“You should never give up because every time you fall, you get back up stronger, and you become more immune to the stressors of failure,” says designer Andrea Brocca.
4. The Customer Is Always Right, Right?
Customers are key. Sophia committed to each client on her list, to ensure there was a constant feed of positive reviews of her product and business, which helped her to continue growing her business. But what happens when you get a customer complaint? The reality is that even if you’re selling pure gold for cut rate prices, there’ll always be that ‘one guy’ who says it’s not shiny or cheap enough.
When life starts throwing lemons at you, fight back and do everything in your power to make the situation turn around. A perfect example of this is how Sophia dealt with Ladyshopper999 (if you’ve watched The Girl Boss already, you’ll know this was a customer from hell). After dealing with her patiently, Sophia’s reward was not only relief, but a customer who helped publicise the brand. Old school advertising is all but dead; word of mouth and online reviews are everything – so remember, the customer is always right!
5. Have Clear Goals In Mind
Goals are essential – they keep your mind focused, help direct your decision making and help you measure your progress. When your goals are crystal clear, it’s easier to share them with your team if you have one, to ensure everyone’s working towards the same thing. And personally, I believe in the law of attraction – if you are very clear about what you want, your subconscious mind tunes in to that, and next thing you know, it’s happening!
After all, that’s how Eluxe was launched – our editor was tired of working for ‘conventional’ magazines and was looking for a sustainable luxury one to edit. When she found none, she zeroed in on a clear goal: to launch the world’s first eco luxury publication, starting with an online version. And voila! You’re reading it.
6. Know Your Customer
If there was one thing Sophia was confident about, it was what fashion lovers wanted from vintage markets. How did she know? Well, she was one of those fashion lovers herself. Sophia ensured that all items of her eBay page were on trend, unique and well cared for. In short, to have a successful business, think: who would want to buy this, and how can I reach them? The closer you are to that target market, the better.
Kim D’Amato, owner of PRITI NYC, for example, was her own target market – she was looking for a non-toxic nail polish when she was pregnant, and finding none, created her own. One reason PRITI is so successful is that Kim knows her customer – because she is the customer.
7. Be Prepared to Make Some Sacrifices
Be aware you may have to change your life a bit when launching a new business – for example, your personal and social life may suffer for awhile, and you may not be putting all your best efforts into your day job. It may suck at first, but keep in mind, it won’t be like this forever.
Just ensure you find a coping mechanism that works for you when the going gets tough – Henry Holland (second from the left, below) says: “To relax or switch off I exercise because it’s probably one of the only times my brain thinks about something over than my work. I think when you run your own company, it’s very hard to switch on and off. People ask what hours do you work and the answer to that is the moment my eyes are awake to the time my eyes are closed. Exercise is kind of my chance to switch off.”
As we all know, Nasty Gal went on to be named one of the ‘fastest growing companies’ shortly after it was founded, and is now global (and one of the worst fast fashion companies around, but that’s another story!) Formerly normal gal Sophia Amoruso titled one of the richest self-made women in the world by Forbes magazine. And if she can do all that, then what’s stopping you?
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