By Sophia Amoruso via Linked In
A lot has changed since I wrote my book — now out in a new paperback — two years ago.
We made record-breaking revenues.Nasty Gal grew so fast it became the Tower of Babel. We went through layoffs for the first time.I turned thirty. Then I turned thirty-one.We opened two brick-and-mortar (#brickandmurder) stores in Los Angeles.
My hair is long! I’m an adult with braces! I have three poodles! Most importantly, I got married.
About those layoffs . . . we started to feel the hard times only after this book was originally put to print. One hundred million in revenue is a lot of money—but companies much larger have gone extinct.
“It Doesn’t Get Easier, But You Do Get Smarter.”
– Sophia Amoruso
The concept of success is really weird. Is success building a beloved brand and business? Or is it how you handle yourself when it gets hard? Is success being in the right place at the right time—with the right voice, skill set, team, and drive to cobble it all together? Or is success figuring out how to tame the behemoth once it sprouts legs and sharp teeth?
I think about this all the time as I’ve watched Nasty Gal grow up. At first, it was a scrappy crumb-eating infant— and then it became a thriving wild child. Now, it’s hit the awkwardness of puberty—the occasional bout of acne, a cracking voice, incipient self-consciousness. Wait—are all these people looking at me?
They say that when you have a kid, it feels like your heart is outside of your body—you can’t imagine sending her off to school with the threat that she might get hit by a car or bullied by some asshole. But you have to, because that’s what growing up is all about. That’s how I feel about Nasty Gal. My whole future is in this brand—but at the end of the day, I can only give it a kiss on the head and a PB&J while standing at the front door. It’s still not fully baked. Its success depends on the resilience, fortitude, and ingenuity of the team more than any one skill that I possess.
The older I get, the less confident I become. There’s simply more to lose.
I used to snowboard—I’d fly down the slopes at a million miles per hour with nary a bit of concern—but today, I sense my own mortality—and the mortality of everything I’ve worked for—as soon as the alarm clock goes off each morning, knowing that at this speed my teeth could get knocked out if I biff it.
It’s really weird to be in your twenties and have a company that’s valued at hundreds of millions of dollars by investors, implying to the outside world that because I own a huge chunk of the stock I’m “worth” a lot of money. The funny thing is that it’s funny money. Nearly everything I’ve earned is locked up in this beautiful, inspiring, evolving business I gave birth to nearly ten years ago.
Here are the nuts and bolts of this update: At some point along the way, I realized that the people who were there at the beginning may have busted their asses and been super loyal, but for some, that loyalty was to a version of Nasty Gal as it was then; not necessarily what it promises to be in the future. Sometimes people want to drag you into the past, are unwilling to change, and stand in judgment of the decisions you make when they have even less information than you do. A lot of the time, even the CEO only has about ten percent of the info needed to make a good decision.
Speaking of being CEO, that is no longer my title. I inherited that title by nature of having founded the company. At one point, being CEO meant licking envelopes, slapping labels on boxes, and steaming dirty vintage wool coats. Somewhere in the middle, it meant hiring all the amazing people who are mentioned in this book. And then later, it meant having meetings about timelines and whether people are on track against goals and deliverables.
It meant having conversations with adults who have had longer careers than I’ve been alive, conversations I never thought I’d have to have because I assumed that as self-aware adults, they could manage themselves. But here’s the thing: Everyone, at the end of the day, really needs to be led. I love my team and I love my company; I just realized that I am best at leading the Nasty Gal customer. My strength has always been in talking to her. Since I first wrote this book a couple of years ago, I have appointed a new CEO, a really incredible woman named Sheree Waterson who used to be the Chief Product Officer at Lululemon, who started her merchandising career when I was in diapers. She wakes up every day to lead and inspire our team. I had known for years that I didn’t really want to remain CEO, even though the advice of investors and advisers was to stay put. But as you’ll read later on in this book, success is about playing to your strengths.
In the early days, I could feel the results of my work—I could see the lives I touched, because I wrote to those customers myself. As Nasty Gal has grown, I’ve hired people who are much better than I am at all the different components of keeping our business churning. Designers, photographers, stylists, merchandisers . . . and hey, I’ve hired some wrong people, too. As the CEO role evolved, I also lost the ability to feel the results of my own work. In a big company, the success of the group is much more important than the success of any individual. When we were a small business, I liked feeling like I could take credit for my work. But now, it’s embarrassing to be celebrated when I’m doing very little of what, in the end, is the work of our outstanding team.
I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I miss that. I enjoy seeing my fingerprints on things, of seeing an idea in my head take shape. Not in a taking-credit way, but in actually doing the work. I’m beyond proud of Nasty Gal, but what gets me excited is making a mess with stuff and ideas—and then driving them home. Take our retail stores, for example: I designed them on paper with the architect, but I didn’t physically build the store or merchandise the racks. There’s a sense of pride that you can feel when you’re closer to the results of your work. That’s the beauty of a small business.
Figuring out how to continue to feel that sense of pride has been difficult. I’m currently trying to find a sense of play in Nasty Gal—the margins of the business in which I can innovate and try new things. So here’s my Craigslist personals ad to Nasty Gal: Creative millennial who is a jill-of-all-trades- but-master-of-none seeks established company with hundreds of employees to help her experience a sense of play in her work. The next book I’m working on will have a big sense of play—it’s going to be a colorful, beautiful, visual guide to Nasty Gal’s galaxy. Maybe that’s a good place to start.
So what have I learned? What’s in the future? Consider me half-baked. Just peeling back another layer of the onion every day.
As I wrote in this book the first time it was published: You shouldn’t idolize anyone. And I’m telling you again, don’t idolize me. I don’t know shit. And neither do your parents. But if I can pull any of this off, so can you. Take that and run with it.
Cover image: Marie Claire
February 8, 2016