Editor's Note: Inc. Magazine announced its pick for Company of the Year on Tuesday, November 25. It's Airbnb! What's your top pick? Vote now in Inc.'s Readers' Choice poll. Here, we spotlight Nasty Gal, one of the contenders for the title in 2014.
It's the ultimate origin story: Twentysomething anarchist (and former sandwich artist) opens an eBay store selling vintage clothing she scavenged herself. Traffic soars, she builds a following, and the store is an overnight hit. Revenue rockets from a mere $223,000 in 2008 to $23 million in 2011, landing Nasty Gal, named after a funk song, the No. 11 spot on Inc.'s annual list of fastest-growing private companies.
And that's just the beginning for Sophia Amoruso.
Despite never having worked in fashion or retail, Amoruso has connected with what young women want--which is a kind of subversive street style that's not for anyone else's benefit. And for the past seven years, it's worked rather wonderfully. With her steely demeanor and YSL pumps, Amoruso looks the part of a fashion retail maven, and these days, she is one: Last year, Nasty Gal picked up $49 million in funding from Index Ventures, a firm known for betting big on e-commerce, and now sells to customers in 150 countries. Annual sales? Nearly $100 million. Employees? Almost 300. Even her "millennial alternative to Lean In," #GIRLBOSS, is a bestseller.
So, how does she do it? With plenty of attitude. Much in the same way Amoruso got good at determining when someone was likely to click on a picture on eBay, she also taught herself visual merchandising, and applies this packaging know-how to everything she does, from irreverent tweets and Instagram posts to the first-ever Nasty Gal boutique, slated to open next week in Los Angeles. The storefront actually has a sign that says, "No, it's not a porn site."
As if that's not enough to cement her success, consider Amoruso's ambitions, which extend far beyond Nasty Gal's 500,000-square-foot fulfillment center in Kentucky. The company, which is headquartered in downtown Los Angeles, has its own brand of clothing in the works and recently partnered with MAC Cosmetics to unleash a collection of Amoruso-approved lipsticks. Up next? Rumor has it the CEO may step down at some point, as she constantly questions whether she's right for the role, but for now she is very much in control. As she tweeted last year, "Agree with [J. Crew CEO] Mr. Mickey Drexler--if you work in my office and walk slower than me, there's something wrong."