If you’re going to a conference of future-altering female entrepreneurs, Nasty Gal founder and professional badass Sophia Amoruso better be on the ticket. Despite the news this week that the company plans to file for bankruptcy (and that Amoruso is stepping down as executive chairman), there's no question that she has influenced an entire generation of girls and young women.
Not only did she inspire millions to take charge of their professional futures in her 2014 New York Times Bestseller, #GIRLBOSS, the retail genius and style guru has spent the last 10 years leading a movement of sharp, savvy women who unapologetically — and often irreverently — dress for themselves. Oh yeah, just last month, she released Nasty Galaxy, her sophomore publication, as she preps for the 2017 launch of a Netflix series based on her career. So there’s that.
Which is why, when we heard about the L.A.-based AWE conference (Amazing Women Entrepreneurs), we were in no way surprised to see that Amoruso was a featured panelist. And as expected, the self-made millionaire delivered some words of wisdom we won’t soon forget. Read on to get her take on how to make it big in the biz, why the road to happiness will forever meander, and what to do when it feels like the whole world is falling down around you.
When Life Feels Impossible, Keep Things In Perspective
Building a multimillion-dollar company from the ground up sounds glamorous, but it’s come with more than its fair share of challenges, both personal and professional. Since Nasty Gal's move to Downtown Los Angeles six years ago, Amoruso's had to make tough decisions around layoffs, restructuring, and politicizing the company. Just this year, she and her husband filed for divorce. And then, just a few days after Amoruso spoke at AWE, there was the disappointing news about Nasty Gal filing for Chapter 11. It would be enough to overwhelm anyone, but the entrepreneur says, “I try to remind myself where I was even a year ago and what I was stressing out about [then]. If you can say, 'This sucks, but two years from now, it will be like child's play,' [...] it makes the moment less extreme." Plus, she notes, “You don't learn in your peaks; you learn in your valleys.”
Business 101: Keep Hard Conversations Brief
Delivering bad news can be tricky, especially in business. And though staying human can elicit a better reaction, according to Amoruso, “Keeping it short, direct, and unemotional is best.” There are exceptions to that though. “If a person asks to have a conversation with you — that’s different; have that conversation.” But even then, she adds, keep it professional. “If you're crying because you feel bad — no employee wants to see that."
No Missed Opportunities
Not only did the entrepreneur churn out "Nasty Woman" tees and totes (with an image of Hillary donning a moto jacket and spike collar, no less) to sell on Nasty Gal’s website a mere two days after Trump's infamous debate insult, she also immediately jumped on board when an opportunity arose to turn her first book, #GIRLBOSS, into a Netflix series.
"My book got passed around and, eventually, Charlize Theron got ahold of it. She was like, 'I produce things; I love this. Let's make a show.'” We may not all be getting offers from Hollywood’s elite, but the lesson still applies: “Strike while the iron’s hot.”
Be Picky Choosing Your Team
It’s near impossible for a business to succeed without a killer team, but knowing what to look for in people isn’t always obvious — especially if you’re just looking at a portfolio. "There are people who maybe have 'done the job,' [but in actuality] have taken credit for other people's work.”
Luckily, Amoruso explains that there are ways to avoid duds: Look for “someone who comes to the table with ideas, someone who wants to be a part of what you're doing for the right reasons — not for vanity, and someone who's curious, who comes with questions.” The latter may not seem as significant, but it actually reveals a lot. “If you're not curious, what it means to me is that you think you know everything or you're not really interested in the job.”
Living Your Best Life Requires Recalibration
Finding your "true north" is an ongoing process that, according to Amoruso, you'll never totally perfect. "If you're walking generally in the right direction, you'll keep getting there,” especially if you keep your eyes open for lessons and opportunities. "So much of what I do is like Zelda, where you collect some rupees, then there's a sword, and then you're like, 'Wow! I learned some stuff!'"
But creating success along your path is only part of the puzzle. Identifying whether you’re even on the right path is the other, and it’s a process that never ends. "Especially in my 30s, the question is: Am I doing this because this got spun into motion or am I doing this because this is what I want?" Knowing the difference makes all the difference.