From Shoplifting to Running a $100 Million Company

Rebecca Jarvis and Mary-Rose Abraham
May 6, 2014

What are the odds that an eBay shop run by a 22-year-old would one day become a multimillion-dollar company?

Not so great. Yet Sophia Amoruso did just that. As CEO of Nasty Gal, Amoruso turned her knack for selling vintage clothing into one of the fastest-growing online retailers today. She writes about her unlikely story and advice for other young women in her new book #GIRLBOSS.

“The biggest thing I’ve learned along the way is to trust my instincts,” said Amoruso, now 30. “Whenever I’ve hesitated, I’ve failed. I grew up snowboarding and it’s kind of similar, where if you think that you might fall, you will fall.”

She had plenty of so-called falls along the path to her success. It’s an unusual path that included hitchhiking along the West Coast, dumpster diving and even shoplifting in her late teens. Amoruso said her lowest point was when she was caught stealing a grocery cart of items including a George Foreman grill and hair products. That led to a series of minimum-wage jobs -- factory outlet store, Subway, record store, dry cleaner, bookstore. But she finally found her niche when she combined her talent for finding desirable vintage pieces and sold them to customers through her eBay store Nasty Gal – a name inspired by the album and song by Betty Davis, whom Amoruso called “a super outspoken wild woman with an irreverent spirit, super sexy and unapologetically so.”

For two years, her eBay store consumed her life – she attributes her success to consistency in her brand, attention to detail and eye-catching visuals -- and she learned that “hard work is the only thing that can sustainably manifest great things for oneself.” When she broke eBay’s posting rules, the site kicked her off and she launched Nasty Gal as a stand-alone presence. Loyal customers followed her there and everything sold out in the first day. Nasty Gal now sells a mix of new and vintage clothing and even launched its own namesake line.

Less than a decade later, the retailer's yearly revenue is more than $100 million. Perhaps more surprising is that leading the company is Amoruso’s first job in an office. Yet there is nothing she would do differently in her journey to CEO.

“There was no disconnect from what I was doing, [because] when I was flailing and making mistakes, I was learning,” she said. “If you learn from everything you do and don’t keep beating your head against the wall with what doesn’t work, you’re not failing, you’re just learning.”

ABC News' Brian Fudge contributed to this episode.