Closing The Gap

Nasty Gal founder and Girlboss CEO Sophia Amoruso: 'Women are beginning to write our own history'

Sophia Amoruso speaks onstage at Girlboss Rally on November 11, 2017 in New York City.
Cindy Ord | Getty Images
Sophia Amoruso speaks onstage at Girlboss Rally on November 11, 2017 in New York City.

Entrepreneur and Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amoruso says that now, more than ever, women have the opportunity to rewrite history.

"I think historically women have been spoken to in a way that is very fear-mongering," Amoruso says to Recode. "Women, it feels like, are beginning to write our own history and our own version of what success can look like for ourselves individually; a conversation that we can have collectively as a group, and share ideas, learnings, wins, losses and hacks to define together what that means for us individually."

Discussing the #MeToo movement, Amoruso tells Recode, "I think change takes a really long time. I think we're [at] this point, we're ripping limb from flesh, and culture's just totally f-cked. There's gonna be room to write something new."

Amoruso says that although progress for women's equality has slowed, the fight is more inclusive today than it was in her adolescence. "When I was in high school, the girl who was gonna go into college and become a sorority girl would never have gone to a women's march," she says, adding that today, "the women's march is full of teenagers and full of young people."

In her latest role as Girlboss founder and CEO, Amoruso tells CNBC Make It that she wants to inspire women to redefine what success means for themselves by sharing their stories and encouraging them to learn from each other's experiences.

"[Millennials are] growing up and I want Girlboss to be better than anyone else at speaking about things like hardship, success and spirituality in a way that has a lot of heart, for a generation who doesn't really have that. It's a new era," Amoruso says.

Since speaking with CNBC Make It in November, Amoruso announced she raised $3.1 million in seed funding led by Lightspeed Venture Partners on December 13. Just days later, she joined Hillary Clinton, Senator Kamala Harris and over 10,000 girls from local public middle and high schools for the Girls Build Leadership Summit.

Amoruso is most famous for starting vintage designer clothing company Nasty Gal, which she grew from a one-woman eBay operation as a 22-year-old in 2006 to a company which earned over $300 million in revenue in 2015 alone, according to Forbes estimates.

Amoruso was scrutinized following financial struggles, legal issues and layoffs at Nasty Gal and the Netflix original show "Girlboss" which she helped produce. In 2015, she stepped down as Nasty Gal's CEO, the company then filed for bankruptcy in late 2016 and was acquired by fast-fashion company Boohoo for $20 million, a mere fraction of Nasty Gal's valuation just two years prior.

"The last decade of my life has been inheriting choices that I made without knowing what I was building or how to build a culture. There were just so many things, I was 22 years old and I ended up with this runaway train that was Nasty Gal," Amoruso says.

"I was a young, naive founder," Amoruso tells Recode. "I thought I could hire C-level executives who would just write their job descriptions for themselves, hold themselves accountable. At the end of the day, I think scientifically we've proven that an observed object behaves differently than when it's not observed."

Since publishing her best-selling memoir "#Girlboss" nearly three years ago, Amoruso says she wants to pass on the wisdom and hard-learned lessons she has learned from her time as an entrepreneur.

Through her recently published book, "The Girlboss Workbook: An Interactive Journal for Winning at Life," Amoruso aims to provide structure to how women should approach getting jobs, start businesses and build brands.

She also includes a "Girlboss Oath" for readers to stand by, part of which says:

I will live deliberately. I will work with intention, play with intention and love with intention. I will take nothing at face value, ask questions and write my own rules. I will wake up every day to fight the most important battle of my life: my life. I will be curious and trust that, in time, my questions will answer themselves. I will play my strengths, sniff out my shortcomings and stomp out my ego at every opportunity.

The 176-page workbook is made up of fill-in-the-blank pages including a roadmap for plotting your dream career, tips for writing cover letters and thank you emails, budgeting tools and money advice, self-care and relationship tips.

Here are three pieces of career advice Amoruso wants everyone who uses the "Girlboss Workbook" to apply to their lives:

Bring your best self to work

"Everyone has a different personality in the workplace," Amoruso says. "By bringing your best self and not letting the small things sway you, that will allow you to keep rolling ahead in work and in life."

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She adds that by unapologetically being yourself, speaking up at the table, asking questions and not being afraid to not know something, "it shows other people that you're willing to learn."

Amoruso also notes that if you find yourself caught up in divisive workplace politics, you need to let those things roll off of you, focus on doing your best work and be confident in who you are.

"Don't overinflate your worth, but also don't settle for less than you're worth," she says. "Know that it takes hard work to get to where you are."

Do things that terrify you

"If what you're doing doesn't terrify you, we have problems," Amoruso writes in the book. In this case, she is referring to sense of fear that often comes with the challenges of pursuing your dreams.

"I've taken some really big risks in my life and I've seen great loss, but I have also seen great, great reward," she says, referring to the rise and fall of Nasty Gal. "Without saying yes to the things that we're terrified of and continuing to step into what life asks of us or create those big opportunities for ourselves, I think we're asleep at the wheel."

Taking risks for personal growth is not to be mistaken with leading a dramatic life without stability, Amoruso points out. But if you feel complacent in your life or career, she says, it's time to consider a personal transformation.

To start, Amoruso recommends that you look at what you spend your time doing and work up the bravery to ask yourself difficult questions.

"Outside of school and work environments, you also have to say yes to things that may seem terrifying," Amoruso says. "In the same way that we work out our bodies, this is almost like cross-training for your soul."

Build your network offline and 'IRL'

Amoruso says she wants women of all ages to use the interactive "Girlboss Workbook" and hopes to connect them "IRL," or in real life, "to celebrate what they have in common, what's different, learn from one another and to have these important conversations wherever they are."

#fbf to last weekend's #girlbossrally with Sophia Amoruso. Still energized by it. #financialfeminist #nastygal #ownit

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"Walking up to a stranger at a networking event can be terrifying, but I think continuing to move into the places that make us uncomfortable is what expands us and our capabilities," Amoruso says.

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