Sophia Amoruso is the founder and CEO of Nasty Gal, which has grown to a $US100 million-plus online fashion retailer with more than 350 employees in just eight years. The following is excerpted from her new book, #GIRLBOSS.
I never started a business. I started an eBay store, and ended up with a business. I never would have done it had I known it was going to become this big.
I was 22 and, like most 22-year-olds, I was looking for a way to pay my rent and buy my Starbucks chai. Had someone shown me the future of where Nasty Gal would be in 2014, I would have gasped in revulsion, thinking, Oh, hell no, that is way too much work.
The name of the company alone should clue you in to this fact — who would have thought that a company called Nasty Gal could be so successful? I sure as shit never intended to be saying those two words all day, every day, seven years later.
There are different kinds of entrepreneurs. There are the ones who start a business because they’re educated and choose to, and the ones who do it because it is really the only option. I definitely fall into the latter category. I considered myself completely unemployable, and wanted to give one last shot at my ideal of being “jobless.” And boy, did being jobless work for me.
Nasty Gal would have surely failed had it been my goal to grow a business to the size that I have today. When you begin with the finish line in mind, you miss all the fun stuff along the way. The better approach is to tweak and grow, tweak and grow. I call it the incremental potential. In e‑commerce, you have to get everything right — from the marketing to the product descriptions to the checkout process.
Because I started small, I think I inherently did that from the beginning. Customer service was my number one priority. A lot of people run their businesses like their customers are dummies. This is a mistake. If you’re just out to take their money, they know it. But if you genuinely care about what you’re doing, they will respond.
I knew my customers and knew what they liked, because I was my customer. And rather than dictating what I thought my customers should buy and wear, I listened instead. If I bought something and they hated it, I moved on. Rather than force my idea of what Nasty Gal should be on my customers, I let them tell me along the way.
Nasty Gal felt like the best-dressed girl’s best kept secret — except that it was a secret she really wanted to share. One key to running a successful business is to know how to get free marketing.
Rule number one? That’s simple. Just do a good job.
Through the styling, photography, and voice of the brand, Nasty Gal was an exciting place to shop, but if our customers weren’t equally as stoked when they were holding one of our products in their hands, then that excitement lived and died on the internet.
I don’t take it lightly when someone buys something from me. I know there are a million places where people can buy a dress, a crop top, or a pair of shoes, so I want to make sure that if someone is buying it from Nasty Gal, she feels like it’s worth it. We’re dressing girls for the best years of their lives, so whether you drop $US300 or shop the sale section, I want you to look and feel like a million bucks.
Rule number two: Keep your promises.
When girls bought something from Nasty Gal, what they got in the mail was just as amazing as what they’d seen online. Customers became not only loyal, but also evangelical. They came back again and again, and shared their excitement with their friends — frequently on the internet. It was the kind of natural word of mouth that can’t be bought.
Rule number three: Give your customers something to share.
Social media is built on sharing, and Nasty Gal was giving girls something amazing to share each and every day. Whether it was a crazy vintage piece, a quote, or a behind-the-scenes photo, we have always worked hard to create the best and most compelling images, words, and content for our customers.
At most companies the person manning the Twitter and Facebook accounts is far from the top of the food chain. But at Nasty Gal, even though I’m not always composing every tweet, I still read every comment. If our customers are unhappy about something, I hear it first.
At other businesses, it might take months for customer feedback to filter up to the CEO, if at all. Social media allows me to have my ear to the ground even when I’m out pounding the pavement. When Nasty Gal joined Snapchat, it meant that I joined Snapchat. I sent out a few Snaps, and our customers responded in force. There’s nothing more thrilling than sending private texts directly to a customer and seeing what she has to say in response.
Call me crazy, but I truly believe that Nasty Gal is a feeling. And though our community lives in many different places, it’s that feeling that unifies our customers and makes us about much more than selling clothes.
Reprinted from #GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso with permission of Portfolio/Putnam, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright (c) Sophia Amoruso, 2014.