Girlboss tells the story of how 20-something-year-old Sophia Marlowe built an e-commerce company from scratch. Sophia scavenged for food in dumpsters while scoring vintage clothing finds at charity and thrift shops and auctioning them off on eBay. But when eBay decided to kick her out, Sophia packed up and moved her entire inventory to her own website. Nasty Gal sold out upon launch.
It’s an inspiring story, yes… one that will get us off our butts and actually do something about our passion and have the courage to take action and do what we really want to do. I mean, seriously, monetizing your passion is rad!
Girlboss isn’t just entertaining and easy to watch, it dropped business valuebombs! And you know I’m a sucker for value, inspiration, and information. So here are some of the business lessons we can learn from Sophia’s saga:
Get Your Own Website
I can’t stress this enough. I’ve said this time and again: if you plan on running a successful online business – regardless of what you’re selling (products, services, etc.), you need to get your own site. Social media platforms and online selling platforms such as eBay have their own terms and conditions that change dynamically; one wrong move and you’re out.
Nasty Gal learned this the hard way and had to experience getting booted off eBay for violating some terms and conditions. Yeah, I get it. If you’re crashing on someone else’s couch, you might as well learn the house rules. But wouldn’t it be better if you made the house rules yourself? Rules that you’ve designed around what your goals are? Rules that are supposed to help you better reach your goal instead of impede you from achieving your full potential?
Get a website. PLEASE. You need to bring your customers to a place you can better control, a place where you decide what happens and what does not.
Build Your Email List
Yes, grow an email list – you need an environment where you can communicate directly with your audience. In the series, we see Sophia’s second step to launching her own site as “Tell everyone.”
Everyone who? Well… everyone who cared about the brand.
Ideally, these people already have established contact with you – either by buying from you before, from inquiring about your products or services, or they may have connected with you just because they like you or your personality.
One thing’s for sure though: they’re interested in you. Interested enough to invite you into their sacred inboxes.
I know… email lists are tricky. They’re a bit more difficult to grow than a social media following. People won’t just hand you their personal emails; you’ll have to prove that you are adding value instead of clutter to their inboxes. Make it worthwhile for your audience. Ask this question: what’s in it for them?
Social Media Plays a Vital Role in Marketing
It’s important to note how significant and crucial the role of social media is in her success.
Nasty Gal’s marketing relied heavily on MySpace at the time. When MySpace shut down (another classic example that social media platforms are temporary, rented space), Sophia directed all of Nasty Gal’s marketing efforts to Facebook.
Sophia spent time carefully curating her MySpace profile, including strategically choosing who would be on her Top 8. This is to show, at first glance, new profile visitors what the brand is about.
Audience targeting was one of Sophia’s strongest games as well. She aimed at getting the attention of girls who already cared about fashion by scouring through followers of other relevant brands.
Sophia also had a full understanding of what drives people (in her case, women) to buy clothes – and not just any type of clothing, vintage clothing!
Product Placement and Presentation Is Key
What made the Nasty Gal brand stand out was that she churned out high-quality, unique content on to her eBay page. While all other online sellers were posting so-so photos of their products, Sophia was providing her customers a better experience by putting up photos that were well-lit, well-thought-out, and creatively curated. Posting clothes in hangers won’t cut it in busy online real estate such as eBay. Sophia understood this, so she modeled clothes herself or employed the help of friends to do the modeling. She wanted to pop out and make the audience stop and take a second look.
Know Your Sh*t
Pardon my French, but I just needed to. At the beginning of the series, we see Sophia going through racks of clothes at a thrift shop when a motorcycle jacket caught her eye. She then managed to buy the jacket for $8 by means of badass haggling; later on, Sophia tells the cashier/owner what the item was (inferring that it cost a lot) and to know his shit because he “just got played.”
When launching a business, it’s important that you know the products, the market, the trends, and etc. You can’t just dive and pray that you don’t drown.
Invest in educating yourself properly and making sure you know the ins and outs of your niche.
You Can’t Do It All
You’re not a machine, you’re not capable of turning water into wine, you’re not Captain America (or Ironman… because Ironman is much cooler, don’t even argue with me). You’re a human being who needs to shut down sometimes.
In the series, we find Sophia desperately trying to do everything herself. Sure, when you’re running a small-time eBay shop, you really won’t need anybody else. But when your business begins to scale into something bigger, things could get a bit overwhelming.
Remember: no matter how we want to control everything, we just can’t. The universe has a cruel way of letting us know that. And you know what the biggest, baddest enemy that a business person could ever have is? BURNOUT.
Nobody likes a burnout. It’s ugly, it hurts your productivity, and it’s just downright annoying.
Learn the art of letting go.
Responding to emails taking up so much of your time? Planning out a social media strategy gets you drained at the end of the day, with no more energy left for networking? You can easily delegate all these tasks to an executive secretary or a virtual assistant if you don’t have a physical office yet.
Focus on what you do best and do that. Trying to do everything yourself will turn out to be counterintuitive. Instead of being able to do more, you’ll end up getting stuck and stressed.
All in all, Girlboss the series and #Girlboss the book are both entertaining and informative pieces. I’m so excited for more from Sophia Amoruso. Picking up Nasty Galaxy next (after I’m done with Amy Poehler’s Yes Please). Have you read it yet? Let me know how you find it!
All 13 episodes of Girlboss are now streaming on Netflix. Check it out!