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How Sophia Amoruso made $300 million with only a laptop and knack for op-shopping

Mamamia logo Mamamia 26/04/2017 Zara McDonald
© Getty Images/Desiree Navarro

Sophia Amoruso, as she is most famously known, is a #GIRLBOSS.

With nothing but a laptop, a penchant for old, underappreciated clothes and the gut instinct of someone confident in her craft, Amoruso built fashion empire Nasty Gal with nothing. No office, no university degree and certainly no money.

At just 32, Amoruso has experienced every element, high and low, of business. From the green, doe-eyed days as the owner of a DIY start-up, to the founder of one of the fastest growing companies in United States, and then, at last, the public face a company that just went bust, Amoruso, in all her stubborn glory, has seen it all.

And soon, we will be able to see it all.

Amoruso’s very public rise will soon be documented in a Netflix drama, Girlboss. The drama will detail the rise of Amoruso from a woman with a habit of shoplifting, to one who, just 10 years later in 2016, would be named the richest self-made woman in the world by Forbes.

For the uninitiated, Amoruso’s story is a brilliant one. And if you haven’t read her book yet, or purchased a quirky piece of clothing from Nasty Gal, it’s worth looking at.

By her own admission, at the age of about 21, Amoruso spent her time shop-lifting, dumpster-diving, attending community college and checking student IDs in a school lobby to make a bit of cash.

After watching her parents go bankrupt and leaving home at 17, by 22, she had moved from Portland, Oregon to San Fransico. It was here where Amoruso set up on eBay store called Nasty Gal Vintage, where she sold vintage clothing and accessories she had initially bought for a fraction of her asking price.

At the time, Amoruso's two big talents separated her from the pack almost immediately. She was good at hustling - she knew what things were worth and could spot an original long before she looked at the tag. More than that, she could style and she could take photos. Her stuff looked professional, and there was merit in that. Nasty Gal Vintage may have been an eBay store full of second-hand clothes, but it was a very professional-looking, lucrative one at that.

Within two years, however, the then 24-year-old had been banned from eBay, and there are conflicting reports as to why. She claims she was banned in 2008 for posting hyperlinks in feedback to customers. She was also accused of artificially inflating bids on her clothing, but it's an allegation she has since denied.

Regardless, being banned from eBay did not break Amoruso's business. It made it.

She moved her clothes over to a stand alone website and her customers loyally followed. She sold out her entire stock on day one, and revenue grew from $223,000 in 2008 to almost $23 million in 2011. At its peak, the company was raking in close to $300 million a year and Amoruso's wealth hovered at about $280 million.

If you're wondering where the name Girlboss name originated from, that was all the work of Amoruso.

In 2014, Amoruso's part-autobiography, part-how-to-business manual #Girlboss was released and spent 18 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. It's more than book now, it's a movement and a global brand. There's a podcast, a website and Amoruso has become a face of ambitious women in business.

There were profiles on her, the New York Times dubbed her "the Cinderella of tech" and she was at the helm of the fastest growing retailer in the United States.

Soon, it would all fall apart.

There would be rumblings of staff discontent, lawsuits from former employees about unfair dismissal and allegations the company culture was tough to thrive in.

And then, years later, in November 2016, while she was visiting Australia for a couple of Business Chicks events, news would break that Nasty Gal had filed for bankruptcy. It would be unclear how much Amoruso's personal wealth would be affected by the announcement.

Although the news meant Amoruso would have little to do with the Nasty Gal brand, she still has, and perhaps always will have, Girlboss. And with the Netflix drama set to air on April 21, it's likely Amoruso's personal brand will remain strong without its roots.

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