Why Sophia Amoruso Is The Sexiest And Smartest CEO: Lessons Learned From Nasty Gal
Sophia Amoruso has had a crazy and impressive few years. Her fashion company, Nasty Gal, has exploded in popularity, getting hype from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Elite Daily, Business Insider, Forbes and many more.
The increased media exposure is long overdue, as Nasty Gal’s growth has long been fueled by consumer loyalty and word of mouth recommendations.
The crazy part about the whole thing is the simplicity of the initial idea. After dropping out of community college in which Sophia Amoruso was taking photography classes in 2006, she got a job checking IDs at an art school for $13 an hour.
While there, she would receive MySpace (remember that?) invites to check out vintage clothing resale sites. Since she herself was a vintage enthusiast, she quickly saw the huge turn-around profits of savvy finds, and started her own eBay endeavor: Nasty Gal Vintage.
Her own developed taste and creative energy fueled the popularity of the growing brand. Our profile of her goes into more detail, but it is her fundamental vision and commitment to an authentic sense of style that has resonated so strongly with her young consumer base.
Now at age 28, Sophia Amoruso has been named “Sexiest CEO Alive” by Business Insider, is writing a book and is extremely excited about expanding Nasty Gal’s self-made designer line, opening a chain of retail stores and publishing the Super Nasty lifestyle magazine.
As Amoruso told the WSJ, "I've accepted what I have, and I feel like I've completely done it on my own terms." Here are some key ways that Sophia has developed her company that every budding entrepreneur should emulate:
Go into business in a field you are interested in
Don't chase dollars. Pursue an interest, develop an intimate knowledge of some cultural sphere and then figure out where there are problems or inefficiencies within that subset of society.
In Amoruso's case, she had spent years cultivating her own personal style and dressed almost solely in vintage clothing when she began her eBay store. In fact, it was her deep experience with finding vintage clothing for her own wardrobe that made her realize how much potential profit was to be had in a re-sale website.
Be passionate about your product
This is connected to the above idea. If you are genuinely interested in something, it becomes much easier to dedicate long hours to a project that doesn't seem to pay off right away. The nature of startups always demands huge input of hours to get the project started and to develop it, and unless it is a labor of love, you are better off never trying.
Additionally, passion is contagious. Working with other people who care similarly about the process and the result, not just the profit margin or financial bottom line, is both more productive and resonates with customers.
Have an authentic presentation
Again, a genuine engagement with your work reflects itself in the finished product. Nasty Gal has always striven to use models who “looked like nice people, not dead people." As the About Us page on Nasty Gal says:
Influenced by her background in photography, Amoruso obsesses over the thumbnails displaying the garments. Nasty Gal models don't pose lifelessly, but instead emanate verve in dynamic stills that attempt to capture the imagination of browsing viewers.
Engage with your customers
From the start, Nasty Gal had an incredible rapport with its consumer base. This contact with the people wearing the product remains integral to the company's identity, as a quick glance at the Nasty Gal Facebook page shows that they frequently engage with user comments. Since we did our post on Amoruso in April, Nasty Gal has increased its followers on Facebook from 600,000 to over 977,000, while also amassing 138,000+ Twitter followers.
"Nasty Gal really emerged from a conversation," says Amoruso. "I've probably spent more time than any other brand reading every last comment. To listen to people the way you're able to online is very powerful. I think other companies are just starting to figure that out."
Grow at a healthy rate
Despite having started in 2006, Nasty Gal got its first round of financing in 2012. "I built a huge profitable business with no debt. I put every drop of profit from this business back into it. That's why it's successful." Due to Amoruso's thrifty roots, the company grew as the customers demanded, preventing the brand from over-expanding and growing too fast.
Consumer loyalty and brand engagement were integral to the expansion, creating a strong and sustainable growth. Some skeptics have decried Nasty Gal as another manifestation of the hipster/retro movement, but I firmly believe that the company is here to stay.
Top Photo Credit: Cindy Ord/Getty Images