Career

How To Deal When Things Get Tough, With #GirlBoss Sophia Amoruso

This morning, Sophia Amoruso spoke publicly about her cult online fashion company, Nasty Gal, filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection – and for the first time explained her decision to step down from her position as Executive Chairwoman.

For Sophia Amoruso – founder of hugely popular online fashion retailer Nasty Gal and bestselling author of #Girlboss – 2016 has been a year of highs and lows. In June, she made the cover of Forbes magazine, celebrating her arrival onto the ‘Forbes Richest Self-Made Women List’ and the cool $280 million fortune in her pocket from her Nasty Gal fashion empire. It’s now November, and as well as recovering from a divorce three months ago, news that her company Nasty Gal is filing for bankruptcy broke yesterday afternoon.

Amoruso has been touring Australia this week with Business Chicks and didn’t expect the bankruptcy news to hit while she was down under. Amoruso wound up in tears, explaining that it’s “probably been the most eventful week of my life” – topped off with a speeding ticket in Brisbane. “It’s been a wild year,” she concedes. “A lot of people have said 2016 has been a shitty year, and you know, I’m going to put my hand up and join them.”

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Amoruso speaking with Emma Isaac’s of Business Chicks. Image: supplied.

While she admits that times have been tough, Amoruso isn’t giving up. She sees life post-Nasty Gal as a new chapter. She’s just released her second book, Nasty Galaxy, and a #Girlboss Netflix series, loosely based on her life, is coming out mid-2017. Career is a big deal for Amoruso, and she believes that if you want something badly enough you can manifest it.

Here’s Amoruso’s career advice for when the going gets tough:

Work hard – like, really hard

Nasty Gal started as an eBay store in 2006, when Amoruso began selling vintage clothes online. She devoted every waking minute to finding vintage items for her store; going to estate sales, spending hours at the Salvation Army and regularly making the six-hour drive from San Francisco to hunt through rag houses in LA, which she describes as “indoor garbage dumps of clothing.” The reality of running a vintage clothing store was often less than glamorous, and Amoruso looks back on that time, saying, “it was a lot of dirty fingernails, black boogers and long days.”

“A lot of people have said 2016 has been a shitty year, and you know, I’m going to put my hand up and join them.”

She’s going to use that #girlboss grit for the next chapter of her life, and she’s defiant when she announces that she “plans on hustling that hard from this day forward.”

Be honest about where you’re at

Amoruso embraces authenticity, and she’s unflinchingly honest when discussing the Nasty Gal bankruptcy news. “You can’t ask for advice if you can’t admit where you are,” she says. “Be straight up about what you’re failing at and where you are.” At the sold-out Sydney Business Chicks event, Amoruso does just that, discussing her plans to step down from her position as Executive Chairwoman in front of an audience of 1000 women. She chokes up when she says that Nasty Gal was her first business, and that she “got really far.” To move forward, you have to know what you could do better.

Try new things and embrace failure

Throughout her career, Amoruso has embraced failure. She laughs when she talks about all of the jobs she had before starting Nasty Gal, like sorting dry-cleaning and making sandwiches at Subway. “I’m a community college dropout,” she admits. “I’ve made more mistakes than most people.”

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Sophia wound up in tears when discussing her 2016, which involved divorce and filing for bankruptcy. Image: supplied.

But unlike many people, Amoruso always learns from those mistakes, advocating trying new stuff and seeing what happens. When discussing failure she refers to a quote from her book, cheering, “you have to throw yourself at things like you’d throw spaghetti at the wall. You’ve got to see if it sticks.”

Focus on yourself

It can be tempting to focus on other people and compare your success to what you see in your Instagram feed. That isn’t going to help. The only person you should be comparing yourself to is the person you see in the mirror. It was this drive for self-improvement that pushed Amoruso in the early days of Nasty Gal. When the eBay store had a good week she’d examine what went well and then try to better it the next week. “I was always trying to one-up myself,” she confides. “It was about trying to be the best that I could be.”

“You have to throw yourself at things like you’d throw spaghetti at the wall. You’ve got to see if it sticks.”

Part of focusing on yourself is knowing who you are and what you want. Amoruso says she’s an impatient millennial and she encourages other people to think about what they bring to the table. “If you don’t have the patience to stick around for a year [at a corporate company] you might be a really good entrepreneur!”

Trust yourself to make hard decisions

Part of knowing yourself is trusting yourself when it comes to crunch time. Amoruso isn’t ashamed when she discusses the uncertainty for her business. Part of putting yourself or your business out there is knowing when to call it quits. She says that the decision to file for bankruptcy is the most responsible thing to do for the company, and that it will allow Nasty Gal to continue operating. Amoruso’s drawing on everything she’s experienced so far, admitting that “things that I would have freaked out about two years ago I can handle now. All you can do is keep going.”

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Ally was a guest of Business Chicks at this morning’s event.


Ally Garrett is a Sydney-based writer and performer. Her writing has been published on Jezebel, The Wireless and The Guardian. Ally’s work often touches on body positivity, like her recent performance in Force Majeure’s dance-theatre show, Nothing to Lose. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram at @allygarrett