Sophia Amoruso has stepped down as CEO of the fashion company Nasty Gal; chief product officer Sheree Waterson will be taking the mantle. Amoruso, who founded Nasty Gal and grew it from an eBay store to a well-known eCommerce brand, has stated that she made this decision independently and will remain actively involved in the business.
While some might see Amoruso’s abdication as proof that leading a fully-fledged eCommerce entity is a lot harder than starting a kitsch and fun style online shop, it is equally arguable that the move shows remarkable shrewdness on Amoruso’s part. “She knows herself and that includes her limitations,” say Pando’s Sarah Lacy and Michael Carney. “She has tremendous instincts and isn’t afraid to act on them… she wanted to focus on the customer, not the employee. That’s undoubtedly her strength and scaling an eCommerce company operationally is unquestionably her weakness.”
This self-awareness (and distinct lack of ego) led Amoruso to bring in Waterson as CPO and President last year, claim Lacy and Carney. “When Amoruso decided to take on venture capital two years ago and to transform her runaway success of an eBay business into a real company, she already made this decision that the company wasn’t her fiefdom, it was going to be something bigger.”
Acknowledgement of one’s own shortcomings isn’t something that people are encouraged to dwell on in Silicon Valley, where ‘reaching for the stars’ and ‘making the world a better place’ are standard benchmarks for everybody, from developers to CEOs. Perhaps this was why Amoruso’s memoir-meets-motivation-manual #GIRLBOSS was touted by publishers as a font of wisdom for young women embarking on careers (although Helen Lewis described said advice as “shallow as a teaspoon” in a review for The Guardian).
It’s not exactly as if Amoruso’s own personal journey is something that can be easily emulated these days. Her resume includes ‘dropout’ and ‘shoplifter’ as well as ‘eBay entrepreneur’, and it could easily be said that the success of Nasty Gal owes as much to timing as anything else, occurring back in a less crowded marketplace, where it was possible to establish a presence without spending a penny.
Regardless, whether it’s committing petty larceny or accidentally catapulting herself to the top of a notoriously difficult industry with her punk style, Amoruso’s track record guarantees we’ll all be watching closely for her next move.