Chapter 2: How I Became a #GIRLBOSS?
Drawing Strength from Other Women (and Men):
Throughout this chapter, Amoruso mention many other women who helped her and inspired her along her journey. When she first started her eBay business, her mother helped her prepare garments and descriptions for listing (25). She had several models, friends, model-friends, photographers help and believe in her as her business grew. The name of her store was inspired by “legendary funk singer and wild woman Betty Davis” (22). Amoruso describes her decision to name her shop out of homage to this woman:
She even describes her relationship (literally and figuratively) with her customers as being the bedrock of her brand and her success. (This is something she will comment on throughout the book as well.)
“I remember perusing a vintage store in San Francisco when the girl working there confessed to me that to get outfit inspiration before going out on Fridays, she visited Nasty Gal Vintage. I started to realize that, though I’d never intended to do so, I was providing my customers with a styling service. Because I was styling every piece of clothing I was selling head to toe . . . I was showing girls how to style themselves. And though you’ll rarely hear me advocate giving anything away for free, this realization was one of the most profound and welcome ones I’ve had with the business. I always knew that Nasty Gal Vintage was about more than just selling stuff, but this proved it: What we were really doing was helping girls to look and fee awesome before they left the house.” (31)
“I knew that talking to girls who bought from was important and always had been . . . My customers told me what they wanted, and I always knew that if I listened to them, we’d both do okay. We did better than okay, though. Together we were amazing.” (43) emphasis mine
I don’t think that Amoruso means to be making an obvious political statement about how supportive women can be, but by telling her story she evidences that they are. This combats the negative assumption that ‘women just can’t work together’ or that they are naturally ‘catty.’ Someone as ambitious as Amoruso can work with other women, rely on other women, and acknowledge their role in her and their success without feeling threatened. She does also talk about other times when she did not get along with people, but just as she treats the women and men who support her, she treats this as a fact of life. Some people and communities you will get along with, others you will not. Gender does not need to be mentioned.
Don’t Apologize for Ambition:
Throughout this chapter, Amoruso describes her eBay business becoming her primary focus and gradually taking over her life. She acknowledges that at some point she decided that she didn’t want to live like that and made changes, but she also recognizes that her drive to succeed and create a high quality service and business (requiring a lot of work) was what made her business take off. I love that she doesn’t apologize for letting her ambition shine through and letting her business monopolize her when it needed to. I love that she is confident enough in herself, her own standards, and her own dreams that she doesn’t require herself to explain her decisions to other people.
“It was important to do my best . . . If you believe that what you’re doing will have positive results, it will—even if it’s not immediately obvious. When you hold youself to the same standard in your work that you do as a friend, girlfriend, student, or otherwise, it pays off.” (29) emphasis mine
This focus and inner foundation helped her stay on-track in her business and stopped her from wasting her energies on negative things— whether other ebay sellers trying to sabotage her store (38) or the natural intimidation of doing something for the first time. A great example of this is her story about first interacting with the Jeffery Campbell brand (which now has a well-known and hugely successful relationship with Nasty Gal):
“Six months after launching the website, Christina and I attended our first trad show in Las Vegas. No one had heard of us, and we had never done this before. I approached Jeffrey Campbell’s booth, knowing he was a brand we wanted to work with. I was instantly told now . . . It takes a special kind of stubbornness to succeed as an entrepreneur. And anyway, you don’t get what you don’t ask for. I marches back, opened up my smartphone, and showed Jeffrey what he was missing out on” (41-42) emphasis mine
I really admire Amoruso for standing up for her business in this way. This is something that takes a lot of courage, and I think is especially difficult for women who are trained to take what they are given and to be grateful about it. I have been in similar situations (obviously nothing of such magnitude) where I wish I had had a little more of Amoruso’s “stubbornness” . . . which is just a feminized euphemism for confidence and authoritativeness.
There is no shame in learning:
I’m starting to suspect that what I find the most inspiring about Amoruso is that she just doesn’t apologize for anything that doesn’t need to be apologized for, because the other major take-away I got from chapter two is that it’s ok not to know something. Amoruso constantly acknowledges that there is a lot of stuff that she didn’t know and doesn’t know. But rather than let this make her feel inadequate or scared, Amoruso sets about practically resolving the issue . . . by learning what she doesn’t know and recruiting people with more experience to help her.
She doesn’t spend a lot of time being embarrassed by her ignorance or her inexperience. She just accepts as her reality, but a reality that doesn’t need to be permanent. She doesn’t apologize for not knowing something, she just tries to learn more.
“We started buying units of six, testing the waters to see what sold and what didn’t. If it sold, we learned. If it didn’t sell, we learned. And we kept on learning.” (42)
“I was a sponge, soaking it all up.” (46) she says as she recognizes learning opportunities and takes advantage of them. Again, she doesn’t let negative feelings and worries about what other people think become a reason to hobble her success or prevent her from continuing to develop as a businesswoman.