Publisher: Portfolio
Published: 9/29/2015
Sophia Amoruso spent her teens hitchhiking, committing petty theft, and scrounging in dumpsters for leftover bagels. By age twenty-two she had dropped out of school, and was broke, directionless, and checking IDs in the lobby of an art school—  a job she’d taken for the health insurance. It was in that lobby that Sophia decided to start selling vintage clothes on eBay.

Book Summary - #GirlBoss by Sophia Amoruso

Key Insights

In #GirlBoss, Sophia Amoruso presents her personal story as anecdotal evidence that entrepreneurial success can be achieved by unconventional means. She emphasizes the value of creativity, confidence, positivity, and failure, as pathways--and teachers--in the pursuit of one's personal path to their goals. Arguing that school is not for everyone and that figuring out your individual strengths is the most important step to take, Amoruso details the winding—and often daunting--path she has walked to become the businesswoman—and person--she is today.

Key Points

Discovering Natural Strengths

In this section of the text, Amoruso writes about how parents often equate success in school with success in life--when, in reality--one does not beget the other. Instead, she acknowledges that there are many types of people in the world, some of whom excel academically, and others who are not skilled in the classroom, but who add value to society in a different way.

She calls these non-traditional ways of adding value “special talents” and she believes that by focusing on innate abilities rather than a dictated path, individuals are able to perform at a high-level and ultimately succeed.

Personally, Amoruso knew she was strong when it came to retail skills. She knew how to haggle for a discount on vintage clothing and, in turn, she was able to sell her acquisitions in exchange for a sizable profit.

Additionally, Amoruso was aware that she was not a natural extrovert and in knowing this, she was able to leverage her skills--and build connections--online rather than in person.

Finding Value in Odd Jobs

When we are children, we are often taught that the easiest way to complete a task is the best way. However, Amoruso argues that there is no linear path to achieve success. Instead, taking the “easy route” will limit you and the twists and turns add to the adventure, sometimes changing its course entirely.

For example, think of an astronaut who spends years in training to reach outer space, only to discover that he is prone to severe motion sickness. If he had considered other career possibilities earlier on, maybe this individual would not have pigeon-holed himself into such a specific role. Similarly, students occasionally make it half-way through medical school before recognizing that they cannot stand the sight of blood.

Becoming an Expert

Amoruso identified her passion for working with retail early on. But, as she discovered, succeeding professionally would require more than a strong interest--she would also need experience. In fact, she would need several experiences pertaining to her field that she could use to learn everything she possibly could.

When experiences did not go as planned--such as when items on Amoruso’s clothing site were not selling--she experimented with her marketing approach, ultimately gaining critical knowledge about her consumer base through her willingness to adapt.

Amoruso was committed to thinking outside the box. She encouraged customers to connect not only with her product but with both each other and with the community the company had built. Through her developed expertise, Amoruso was able to achieve investment from consumers that extended beyond the physical products that she sold.

On Breaking Rules

In becoming a topical expert in a specific area, a hidden benefit--beyond the top-tier knowledge--is that we develop the ability to discern which rules can be broken and which most certainly cannot.

Rules are not always black and white. In many cases, they are contextual, meaning that in some situations they are necessary, while in others, they do not have the intended impact.

While Amoruso warns that breaking the law is never a good idea (and she regrets her shoplifting misstep), it is important to see the world in shades of gray and to be willing to try what may not be explicitly permissible, especially if it’s for a greater good.

She notes that one time she was trapped outside during a rainstorm and a bus driver picked her up even though she did not have the $1.00 fare. She was relieved when the bus driver let her ride for free, even though the official rules were that he had to charge for every passenger.

Staying Positive

While it is human nature to get bogged down by challenges from time to time, a key benefit in maintaining a positive attitude where possible is that it allows us to devote more time and energy to our passions. If we are caught up in the bad things that happen--such as when Amoruso’s website NastyGal was plagiarized by her friend--the positive aspects of our undertakings are minimized. For instance, if Amoruso was super focused on the incident with her friend, how would she have had the emotional capacity to continue providing quality service to her customers while the situation unfolded? She wouldn’t have...and for that, her business would have suffered even more.

Embracing Creative Passions

According to #GirlBoss, creativity and entrepreneurship are two sides of the same coin. Both are equally necessary for developing a business model that innovates. An example? NastyGal decided not to participate in the industry trend of featuring women who were thin and flat-chested in their advertisements. Instead, Amoruso directed her company to project a different image: one of the women who looked “real” and had curves. While the decision to take this approach was a creative choice, on one hand, it was an entrepreneurial one on the other, because it ultimately generated revenue, by enticing a previously unrepresented customer base to purchase products.

Simple things--like a website’s font and the photographs used to showcase products--can be key determinants in differentiation and helping a brand resonate with consumers.

Amoruso cautions that just because we fall into a specific niche like a “creative person” or “business person” or “numbers person”, it does not mean that we are unable to expand ourselves and delve into other realms. For success, versatility is essential.

Connecting with Supporters

In finding success, not only are our personal choices and experiences important but who we choose to surround ourselves with is instrumental as well. This especially comes into play when considering investors in a company.

Some investors come into a business scenario with their own agenda in mind, potentially changing the direction of the company and taking it out of the CEO’s control. Others may lack values that align with the larger goal.

For instance, NastyGal experienced an encounter with an investor where the female CEO was asked if she felt comfortable managing money.

When there is a disconnect in perspective and philosophy, it can be hard to reconcile. Even in the short-term, it is never worth sacrificing your personal beliefs for economic gain.

Being Confident

Oftentimes, there is a fine line between confidence and arrogance. Insisting you know everything is arrogance, whereas confidence is being assertive and humble with what you do know, but delegating to others when necessary if someone else has more expertise on a subject.

Seeming aloof is not confidence--it comes off as cold and unwelcoming.

Instead, confidence is displaying comfort in your own skin, whatever that means to you on both a personal and professional level. It is being confident in your identity and not wavering from who you are.

A common misconception is that confidence is about speaking in a certain way, but in reality, confidence is just as much about knowing when to stop talking and listen, too.

Main Take-away

In a world where higher education is often seen as the primary vehicle to personal and professional success, Amoruso encourages readers to be driven by their passions--and their strengths--rather than by the letter grades they receive. She aims to teach budding entrepreneurs that experience with failure is a critical piece of achieving success and that she has created highly implementable strategies to help you go after your goals, beyond what it says in your textbook.

About the Author

Sophia Amoruso--author of #GIRLBOSS--is a high-school dropout turned multimillion-dollar business CEO. Amoruso was born in 1984 in San Diego, California before relocating to San Francisco, California where she founded her hugely successful women's fashion retailer--Nasty Gal--which went on to be named one of the fastest-growing companies in the United States. Unfortunately, Nasty Gal's prosperity was short-lived, as the retailer was forced to file for bankruptcy in 2016.

However, Nasty Gal was not Amoruso's only claim to fame. In addition to penning #GIRLBOSS--her autobiography--Amoruso founded Girlboss, a company, and community that develops editorial content intended to empower and inspire success among ambitious women--in 2017. To this day, Girlboss Media serves as a diverse resource for motivated women, delivering articles and videos on topics including work, money, wellness, and identity.

Amoruso's popular book, #GIRLBOSS--which was published by Portfolio in 2014--was picked up by Netflix in 2016 and adapted into Girlboss, a television series that was eventually canceled following its first season.

Currently, Amoruso resides in Los Angeles, California where she continues to lead Girlboss in supporting women worldwide.


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