Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead book cover

A quick read, “#GIRLBOSS” aims to inspire by sharing lessons of Sophia Amoruso’s meteoric rise from anarchist “freegan” wanderer to founding CEO of the Nasty Gal clothing company. “In the same way that for the past seven years people have projected themselves into the looks I’ve sold through Nasty Gal, I want you to be able to use #GIRLBOSS to project yourself into an awesome life where you can do whatever you want,” she writes.

This leap from identifying with an outfit to creating a life is not as ridiculous as it sounds. Amoruso built a multimillion-dollar retail company from a humble Ebay store, so she’s likely to have a helpful tip or two for would-be moguls. In fact, for its target reader (who I imagine is a 20-something woman with a penchant for Nasty Gal vegan leather turbans) the anyone-can-do-it tone may have as much motivational impact as the details of her counsel. I’m sure her calls to “race balls-out toward the extraordinary life that you’ve always dreamed of” will resonate with some millennials. Moreover, the substance of her story gives women of all ages a window into the incredible power of self-confidence, customer focus and hard work.

For the degreed and pedigreed who often accumulate credentials at the expense of down-in-the-trenches experience, it’s illuminating to see how far straight-up work ethic can get you. With no college degree or extensive work experience, Amoruso cut her teeth at home in a ratty pink bathrobe coordinating models, “friending” people, editing photos, uploading files, writing sales copy and primitive HTML, and packing and shipping boxes, only breaking to hunt vintage store racks for merchandise to resell.

From the outset, Amoruso focused her company on giving a particular demographic of women the waist and hip accentuating styles they desired. She filled her fledgling company with the independent spirit of Betty Davis’s Nasty-Gal ‘70s funk album, which exudes sexuality. The original Nasty-Gal rocked platform heels, fishnets and lingerie, long before Beyonce spawned Bejeweled Leotard Feminism.

But make no mistake, any hints of feminism are beside the point in Amoruso’s account. As she puts it, “#GIRLBOSS is a feminist book, and Nasty Gal is a feminist company in the sense that I encourage you, as a girl, to be who you want and do what you want. But I’m not here calling us ‘womyn’ and blaming men for any of my struggles… I believe that the best way to honor the past and future of women’s rights is by getting shit done.” Um. Okay.

Deconstructing that statement would require another 1,000 words, so let me say just this: Feminist or not, the book offers a compelling example of a woman who forged her own path without getting sidetracked by paralyzing ambivalence, second guesses or unrealistic expectations of “having it all.” Rather, she made her own choices and lived with them–unapologetically.

She may have hit the big-time, but Amoruso still obsesses over giving women the profile they covet. In the book, she describes the photo editing process she’s used since launching the company in 2006. To this day she shrinks photos down to thumbnail size, crosses her eyes, and then flags images that stand out through the blur. “This allows me to edit quickly without getting distracted by the details–if the composition or silhouette sucks, it doesn’t matter what the model’s face says,” she writes. “The DNA of a successful image, and brand, must be encrypted into its tiniest representation while gracefully telling the same story in its largest incarnation. My thumbnail photos were the postage stamps to Nasty Gal’s success.”

Talk about projecting yourself into a look and into a life. Her Photoshop revelation is impressive in two respects. One, Amoruso’s still editing photos for the site after all these years, to stay in touch with what sells. And, secondly, it clearly illustrates how the fundamentals don’t change. No matter how big your business gets, success requires staying focused and consistently delivering what the customer wants. It seems that a successful brand, like a successful life, is in the little things.

If this review resonates with you, I bet you’ll enjoy my newsletter. I regularly send bookish news and notes out to more than 1,000 readers. Sign up here.