Photo Credit: Drew Escriva
Sophia Amoruso — has two major businesses under her belt in Nasty Gal and Girlboss — and she’s about to do it again. The serial entrepreneur and New York Times bestselling author is wheels up on her next adventure, Business Class, an in-depth digital entrepreneurship course that delves into the A to Z of how to start a business… and how to make it successful. In the span of eight weeks, Sophia will cover all aspects of business, including the best staff development practices, diversity and inclusion training, how to cultivate brand identity, understanding the role of legal, financial handling, how to earn customer loyalty and much more.
It makes sense that she would play professor — not only does she have the experience, but she wants to see fellow females, in particular succeed. After all, that was the intention behind starting GirlBoss, a community for ambitious women, in 2017 (which was acquired by Attention Capital in 2019).
As such, she’ll also be introducing The Business Class Scholarship Program as a way to get Business Class in the hands of as many entrepreneurs and small business owners as possible, including those who are part of underrepresented communities — specifically students of color and the LGBTIA+ community. Sophia is personally committing at least $200,000 (100 students) in scholarships to this effort.
We chatted with Amoruso about her career, gained some of our own business advice, and truly discovered why getting on board with Business Class is the most rewarding thing you can do for yourself this year.
Photo Credit: Drew Escriva
Let’s talk about Business Class. How did you come up with this idea? Why did you decide this should be your next focus?
I’ve been at this for so many years. It’s my 15th year in business, it’s my third business. I’m working a lot but it doesn’t feel like work. I’m giving everything I know to this new generation of entrepreneurs. I’ve learned it the hard way, I’ve earned it. I’ve made some really big mistakes and done some things really, really well. I wish I had had that guidance that Business Class provides, because it’s really lonely starting a business. The information out there is really fractured. You can Google stuff, but who’s giving [the information] to you? What’s their experience? Even with colleges, entrepreneurship is being taught [sometimes] by people that have never been in it or started a business. Since I’ve accumulated all of this in my head, I figured I might as well do something with it in a really comprehensive way. I haven’t really shared what I know in this way. I’m covering everything that I think people really need to know; it runs the gamut from branding and identity to legal to intellectual property to LLCs versus corporations to payroll to hiring and firing. Everything is in there, from the boring to the more exciting stuff. I can’t wait to see the results. That’s all that matters to me. it’s not how many people take it, it’s did the work that I put into this change anybody’s life and did it change their bank account? Are they building something they’re happy with, and are they able to be themselves a little bit more?
Do you think it’s important for entrepreneurs to fail?
Honestly I wish I had failed earlier on. It’s not like I hadn’t had any adversity, but my adversity in business came later than I wished it had because the stakes were so much higher. If you make mistakes, you should make them early, before you have hundreds of people that are affected by your learnings. I wasn’t an overnight success but my first business worked and I didn’t learn the hardest stuff or most valuable stuff until things were challenging. I don’t wish pure success on anybody because it makes you lazy. When everything’s great, champagne’s clinking and everyone’s celebrating, you’re not really looking around at what there is to learn or what could be going wrong. There’s always something happening. Success can really cloud that.
With Business Class, is the intention to set up young entrepreneurs up with the tools they need to be successful?
It’s my knowledge, it’s my experiences, some of the methods I use for things, like naming businesses, there’s a lot of reverse engineering, then stuff that’s just good business practice. Some of the stuff I teach are things that are taught in business school and end up in investor pitch decks. I didn’t go to business school, but I’ve learned to present myself to investors, things like a SWAT analysis that’s really unglamorous, but really good to know.
What things would you like to do in the future that’s outside of your normal realm of expertise?
I’ve actually Googled hobbies before. It’s really sad when you’re Googling hobbies. I want to have a family at some point, I really like backpacking, I love interiors, I want to build another house or office next door because somehow I filled up 3000 square feet with way too much furniture. I miss travel so much. There’s not a lot that I miss. I like it here; I really like it here, but I miss travel, not for business. I went to Bhutan right before the pandemic hit. My bucket list is just going back there. It’s so magical. Bhutan, having a kid, seeing my family, having more space to work from home and solar panels. I don’t want a lot.
What are the secrets to your success?
The biggest secret is the secret that everyone has access to, which is curiosity. I am endlessly curious. When you’re curious you treat life like an educational video game. Curiosity generates self-improvement. It’s the basis of resourcefulness, creativity and the root of what great entrepreneurs possess and need.
Do you think it’s harder as a woman to have success in business, or has that changed? Is it still changing?
I think it’s changing very slowly. It’s absolutely more challenging. Issues are deep and systemic.
Why is right now — during the pandemic — the best time to start a new business?
We’re all pivoting right now. Anyone who hasn’t been forced to consider what their values are and what they want to spend their life doing [aren’t looking deep enough]. Everyone I know is switching industries, starting a new business or moving, and this new environment, just being at home, gives us an opportunity to try new things. There are so many tools out there to start online businesses specifically that didn’t exist when I started, and people’s needs are shifting. Now is a time that’s right for experimentation. We don’t have to go all in. We’re all at home and can take a few extra minutes a day to put something out into the world to see if anybody likes it. That’s starting a business. Starting a business doesn’t mean you have a brand identity, it means I did something, some people like it and maybe more people might like it. The opportunity to test and try little things to see if they can become big — this is an incredible time for that.
What to you is the greatest luxury in life and why?
Having enough to be generous. Having enough to be able to provide for other people. Being able to share. What are you going to do with all of your shit if you’re all by yourself? I’ve taken friends on amazing vacations. That’s the luxury, being with the people you love being able to afford what you want to do.