Book Review: #Girlboss

#GIRLBOSS, by Sophia Amoruso, is part memoir, part business advice, part self-help book, written by the founder of Nasty Gal, an online fashion retailer which is,  after seven years of life, making $100m in annual sales – all online, with bricks and mortar stores coming soon.

It is a light breezy read of life lessons from someone who dropped out, found her passion and worked harder than she could possibly have imagined to make the successful business she has today. In a small way, her story echoes the well told Steve Jobs tale of someone who learned a series of unrelated things (in her case, a passion for thrift stores, photography, retail sales and web design) in various seemingly unrelated dead-end jobs and courses until all those disparate skills coalesced into a thriving business.

Amoruso was born in 1984, so sometimes (often!) this book made me feel old. Particularly in the way she discovers the life lessons of the value of hard work, mucking in to get things done, why new minted members of the workforce should put the hard yards in before they get to run the company, all those “you kids get off my lawn comments” that usually get made by 50-something captains of industry. In her chapter entitled “Shitty jobs saved my life” she expounds on this a bit

What all of these jobs taught me is that you have to be willing to tolerate some shit you don’t like – at least for a while….You’ll appreciate your amazing career so much more when you look back at your not-so-amazing jobs in the past, and hopefully realize that you learned something from all of them…

And when talking about her generation’s desire to want everything now, she says,

I see this often from new hires fresh out of college who expect to immediately get an awesome job that satisfies all of their superpure creative urges and pays well. Hey, that’s a great goal… I respect people who are willing to just roll up their sleeves and get the job done, even if it’s a shitty one.

Each chapter has its own theme of advice and memoir.  My favourite is the chapter called “On hiring, staying employed, and Firing”, which has some very sensible advice on all aspects of the workforce, which continues the theme of working hard without too much of a sense of entitlement.

I know you’ve probably grown up with your parents telling you that you’re special every day for the past twenty years – it’s okay, my parents did too – but you still have to show up and work hard just like everybody else. If you’re a #girlboss, you should want to work harder than everybody else.

There are also some great chapters on creativity, betting on yourself and taking chances.

This book can be compared  to Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, by Sheryl Sandberg. As a manifesto, it is just as big on personal responsibility, and what women can do to succeed, rather than what needs to change in the wider world to help women succeed. Amoruso puts her take on this best at the beginning of the book,

I believe the best way to honor the past and future of women’s rights is by getting shit done. Instead of sitting around and talking about how much I care, I’m going to kick ass and prove it.

It’s not a long read, and it is an enjoyable one. The target reader is probably the buyer of Nasty Gal fashion (not a coincidence – Amoruso is past master at building online communities to sell more) – a young woman trying to figure out what to do with her life. I enjoyed it more than Lean In, mainly because it is chattier, and doesn’t pull its punches. Amoruso has some strong opinions about the world, and she’s not afraid to let you know what they are.  And she will inspire you along the way.


Disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book via NetGalley.