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#GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso

#GIRLBOSS_Mel_Had_Tea_Review

This badass bitch took the time to write a book. You should probably read it.

Amoruso went from selling stolen books on eBay to running her own incredibly successful business selling vintage clothing through her online company Nasty Gal.

She’s an outlier in the world of internet and tech businesses in that she started as a home-schooled, anti-capitalist teenager who never went to university and now owns a 100-million dollar company with hundreds of employees. Her story is cool and crazy.

This book is part autobiography, part how to be a badass #GIRLBOSS guide.

#GIRLBOSS spelt in caps throughout the book. That’s some great free marketing incentive built right in. And, according to Amoruso, one of the reasons Nasty Gal grew so rapidly those first few years running it from her apartment was because of the  free advertising friend power of Myspace. Girl knows how to spread a word.

Most impressive about Amoruso is not her crazy business success, but her awesome work ethic.

“Life is short. Don’t be lazy.”

She also taught me that the quote, “With great power comes great responsibility” comes from Voltaire and not Spiderman.

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Or does it? Amoruso cites Voltaire as the origin of the quote, but when I looked into it, it seems that this is one of those mysterious phrases that seems to have just phased its way into history with no provable source. The mystery continues.

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One invaluable section of the book includes DOs and DON’Ts for cover letters and job interviews. As a high-profile boss for a large company (Nasty Gal now has over 255 employees), Amoruso has seen the lot. There’s a very practical checklist that mirrors and adds to the advice I’ve heard from other hiring professionals.

The chapter on money also shines. Even if you don’t start off as a dumpster-diving freegan like she did, you can appreciate her logical approach to money. As she puts it, “money looks better in your bank account than on your feet.”

Although she is now worth millions, she tells us about her thrifty background (haggling with thrift store employees in her early days and never paying more for anything than she has to):

“There is no dignity quite so impressive, and no one independence quite so important, as living within your means.” – Calvin Coolidge

Amoruso tells future #GIRLBOSSes not to waste time looking up to other idols, but to instead “be your own idol” this might be on-brand with Nasty Gal’s values, but it also ties in with her waste-no-time mentality. If you’re looking up other idols all day, you’re not working on creating yourself.

Cut away anything that is holding you back (whether it’s your extravagant Starbucks purchases, your star worship, or your unwillingness to work a long-ass day).

As expected, behind all the pragmatic business talk is a lady who believes in the magic of a good set of clothes:

“Clothing is the suit of armour in which we battle the world.”

Amoruso’s writing shows she knows herself. She writes that if she had started Nasty Gal intending for it to be a multi-million dollar company, it would have:

  1. Scared the shit out of her and she never would have started; OR
  2. She would have tried and failed to be something she wasn’t (at the time).

She arrived at today by starting up a mountain, keeping her eye on what was right in front of her, and trudging ahead, working day after day, listening to her customers and working, working, working while trusting her gut instincts.

Your self + gut instincts + magical thinking + not spending all your money + hard work = success.

There’s a whole section on intention setting and magical thinking. Whatever you want to call it. Call it focus. She drops magic and practical advice in the same breath. She worked hard to get where she is and she’s not afraid to tell you to do the same for yourself. There might be some repetition in her writing, but the pragmatic advice is solid.

I’m pretty confident this book would not fail as a gift for any entrepreneurial lady in your life or anyone who wants to be their own boss.

Lifestyle

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert


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I’m generally wary of titles that fall under the genre of inspirational reading, advice or self-help. But this one I found genuinely useful.

Maybe there’s something to the inspirational category. After all, I also really liked J.K. Rowling’s Very Good Lives which falls into a similar category.

I’ve never read any of her other books, not even Eat, Pray, Love. But I have watched her TED Talks on Creativity and picked up the book because I really liked those. It was a good call – the book is essentially an extension of what she starts to delve into in her TED Talks.

Unlike Very Good Lives, which is a verbatim book of Rowling’s 2008 Harvard Commencement speech, Big Magic does a lot to expand and add to the concepts she started fleshing out in her TED Talks.

Themes

  • ‘Creative Genius’ (a.k.a. it’s not your fault if the juice doesn’t show up);
  • Hard Work (a.k.a. but you better show up);
  • Why Some Writers and Creatives Never Make It (a.k.a. they give up before they even begin due to frustration); and,
  • How You May Make It (a.k.a. I’m not promising you anything, kid).

There are some great anecdotes in here. This is a psalm book of creativity. It has high re-readability. I can see myself picking this up in the future and reading a chapter or two here and there.

There’s a lot of focus on grace and being humble. It talks a lot about creativity as a sort of spiritual practice, but still one where you have to expect to show up and work 9-5.

There’s one point where she talks about sitting around in her sweatpants, trying to write (I hear ya’) when she realizes, ‘Of course inspiration isn’t coming to me. Look at me. Would I come to me?’ and she then showers and puts on some perfume to sit down and work.

This is a woman who says she doesn’t wear perfume to dinner. But yet she’ll wear it to write.

I like that.

Thinking of picking up her book because you don’t feel good enough to create art? Get it! She’ll pat you on the back and comfort you for about two seconds before kicking you out the door and telling you to get to work. No sniveling, miserable artists in this studio. Amen to that.

Since ’tis the season, I don’t mind saying I think this would be a good Christmas gift for anyone creative in your life. Whether it’s an anti-capitalist first year art student or a seasoned advertising pro. Even your artsy kids. Get the knowledge in ’em while they’re young!

In this book, Gilbert is like a ranger in the creative wilderness. Telling us how to deal with fear, discover buried treasure in ourselves and have humility.

I still don’t know if I’ll ever read Eat, Pray, Love but I’m glad I read this!

Lifestyle

What’s a Bloghouse?

You may have heard me talk about this thing called Bloghouse.

What might not have been immediately clear is what exactly it is, or what happens at one.

What Is It?

It’s an intimate weekend workshop for upcoming travel bloggers hosted by travel blogging veterans. It’s meant to help you reach the next rung on the travel blogging ladder, boost your progress, and help you build a sustainable career.

How Did I Apply?

Stephanie Yoder from Twenty-Something Travel told me about the open applications for this Bloghouse when I met her at the WITS in Boston last March. I thought it sounded pretty cool so I tidied up some of my work and then sent them off the link to my blog.  A few weeks later I heard back that I was in. Voila!

Then I did a little happy dance in my living room and booked my plane tickets to Milwaukee.

What Happened Over the Weekend?

We drank the kool-aid.

During the weekend we participated in talks on writing, web design and management, income strategizing, photography, editing, branding, pitching, and working with travel boards.

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We also asked our mentors absolutely anything we wanted, and I think they were very candid, honest and open with us in sharing their anecdotes.

Each person has a personal audit, where you sit down with a mentor and have a 1:1 review of your website. There’s also an optional 1:1 tech audit, where you can ask any WordPress, hosting, or other technical questions.

There was also a lot of eating delicious food together, and exploring our host city.

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We were treated to several organized networking sessions between local tourism organizations and ourselves over (more) delicious food at fantastic locales. One was in the presidential suite of the Potawatomi Hotel, and another at the urban bar, The Rumpus Room.

Here’s a few shots of the presidential suite that you can rent at Potawatomi. Bartender not included.

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I had a great time talking with tourism reps and learning what I could offer them, and what they could offer me in return. It was nice to hear what they look for in a blogger. Now knowing what they’re looking for, I’ll be able to craft better pitches.

Would I Do It Again?

Yes.  And I would encourage anyone who thinks they have a future in travel writing to apply. Not only for the practical and pragmatic advice you’ll receive, but also to meet people from all over the world who are as serious about travel blogging as you are. It’s fun! You take pictures of your food together!

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Don’t just take my word for it though; every blogger present that weekend is writing a recap and if you Google “Bloghouse Milwaukee” I’m sure you’ll come across a few. I’m also listing my cohort’s names and websites below, so be sure to check them out!

Unfortunately, there’s no Bloghouse ‘Grad School’ or Bloghouse 2.0 that I can go back to again someday because I would. One of the best ways to become great in your field is to surround yourself with other amazing people, and I definitely felt the love over the weekend.

They did give each of us a free membership to Travel Blog Success, which has ongoing education and workshops around travel blogging.

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We were a group of wifi-locating, travel punning, food loving, frequent-stop-photographing, cellphone-in-hand, connected women (and two dudes – thumbs up to Barry and Mike).

The good humour of my fellow Bloghousers also helped us all to get through several delayed flights, and there was a lot of laughing to be had in general.

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Since quitting my job at the law firm I’ve been asked a lot how I’m going to make my money while traveling the world, taking photos and writing. It was nice to be around other people with similar objectives, where I was given a break from feeling the need to explain all my motivations.

As you’ll see from a lot of the changes I’ve made to my blog, the weekend obviously really inspired me. The mentors do a great job of identifying each Bloghouse attendee’s unique strengths and specialties, and help them to amplify their voice.

I think my feelings about Bloghouse Milwaukee are well summed-up on this license plate I found upon exiting the Rumpus Room:

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I’m Interested! When Is The Next One?

The next Bloghouse hasn’t yet been announced, but I’d watch their website and join their mailing list if you’re interested.

There is a vetting process and a limited number of spots, so if you do apply, make sure you’re showing your best content and make sure your website is in good shape before hitting submit.

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Our hard-working mentors for this session were (as seen Left to Right in the picture above):

My fellow Bloghouse attendees were:

I had never been to the American Midwest and really knew nothing about Milwaukee (“Mil-Where?”) before I went; so if you’re in the same boat now, be sure to check out my post, You Don’t Know What You’re Missing in Milwaukee.

As well, if you have any questions about my Bloghouse experience, or in general, feel free to ask in the comments below!