Book Review: Nasty Gal’s #GirlBoss

I’m not gonna lie, I surprised myself when I purchased #GirlBoss, the new book out from Sophia Amoruso, Founder and CEO of Nasty Gal. (Hash tag as book title? Really?) The book touts itself as a  how-to guide for young female entrepreneurs, chronicling Amoruso’s own success in the process. By now, Nasty Gal is ubiquitous among twenty-something cool girl types. You know, the ones that wear trends before big box retailers snap them up. While I have yet to buy anything from Nasty Gal, I am familiar with Amoruso’s enviable success story: eBay shop owner slinging vintage clothing transforms her little ol’ business into a multi-million dollar company in just seven years. 

I endured so many motivational-slash-business advice books at my former retail management job, most of which where written to strike a chord with the suit and tie wearing, moving-up-the-corporate-ladder types, not a bunch of young women in charge of running a hip clothing store. For this reason alone, it’s no wonder #GirlBoss is a bestseller. Amoruso’s rag to riches tale is relevant to the Nasty Gal customer, told through the lens of a self-made young woman. It’s about sticking it to “the man” and carving out your own path in life, regardless of your lack of experience. “If it feels right, do it” is the unspoken mantra of the book.

 #GirlBoss isn’t short on inspiration, such as Amoruso’s commendable feat of building Nasty Gal with zero debt. That alone is remarkable, as well as her innate ability to stand out in an over saturated industry by tirelessly keeping her brand’s image relevant in the fickle world of fashion. However, she tends to beat the reader over the head with the basic principles of the book. Most chapters simply rehash what’s already been said, but with a hash tag for a book title, perhaps she’s just taking the social media obsessed reader’s short attention spans in mind. 

I found much of the book too idealistic for my taste. Amoruso stresses, for example, that she was a high school drop out, never bothered to go to college, ate bagels out of the trash in order to feed herself, then started an eBay store with stolen goods. As someone who dropped out of college myself, I understand where she’s going with this: you don’t need a fancy degree in order to kick start a career, but how many dumpster diving shoplifters actually turn into millionaires? Amoruso also stresses that she winged her way to success: she busted her ass and just hit the ground running in lieu of doing extensive market research in order to realize her vision. There is something very empowering in just putting in the work versus overwhelming yourself with mapping out a business plan, waiting for the most opportune time to start, which I can definitely relate to. When I started Slow Southern Style back in 2009, I had no clue what I was doing. If I had waited until I had professional photos, a slick blog layout and an ad sales manager, well, I’d still be waiting. However, the chances of creating the next Nasty Gal- just winging it with zero business knowledge- is slim. How many people are disciplined, and lucky enough, to create that kind of success for themselves, no matter how how much work they put into it? There must have been a smidgen of kismet working in Amoruso’s favor. 

At times I wanted a tinge more humility from Amoruso. There’s a scene in #GirlBoss where she is meeting with investors for the first time, with just a small mention that she admittedly feels out of place, like a young, naive girl in an adult world. There’s so much bravado in her writing style that I wanted to see a more vulnerable side to her. We don’t really get a glimpse into those “holy shit, what have I gotten myself into” moments, even when she admits that she was in over her head in that board room. I also felt the book was part Amoruso sharing her knowledge, part trying to prove herself.  Still, you’ve got to hand it to her for saying *$%! the straight and narrow  path by creating her own company on her own terms. 

If you’re looking for a manual on how to start your own company, I’d  hardly call #GirlBoss a guide book to creating your own business. Instead, take it for what it is: a motivational book for young women that hold “bad ass bitch” as the highest compliment paid. 

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