This past weekend, over 1,800 people from 28 different countries descended upon UCLA for the fifth annual Girlboss Rally. For those unfamiliar, the Rally is a physical manifestation of the Girlboss community — a network of women inspired by the ways of Sophia Amoruso.
Amoruso founded Girlboss, the term, when she wrote #Girlboss, a career-focused self-help book that chronicles her story as the founder and CEO of Nasty Gal. According to Amoruso, it was during her book tour that Girlboss, the community, was born. While women waited in line to get their books signed, Amoruso noticed they would often exchange business cards. From there, she launched a podcast, appropriately dubbed “Girlboss Radio," and in early 2017 the first Girlboss Rally was put on in Los Angeles.
These days, Amoruso is working on Girlboss, the company, a venture backed by a full-fledged movement of women supporting other women and celebrating their own successes. This weekend, the company took the hood off Girlboss, the network, a professional platform for ambitious women to make like-minded connections.
I spoke with Amoruso about her experience learning the new meaning of “product,” why one human connection per day is a novelty, Mad Lib bios and the unique advantage she has as a founder (hint: it has to do with motorcycle jackets).
On the evolution of Girlboss: The Girlboss Rally is only two days out of the year. But that feeling and energy is something we want anyone, anywhere to carry around all year round. So this is launching globally. And it’s free. It’s really a place for women to ask things they can’t ask elsewhere. Things like how to negotiate a raise. We know that Googling things like that doesn’t really get us to a place where there’s any sense of credibility. We want women to be able to ask other women who have been there and done that, or are maybe asking the same questions.
On why it’s free: It was initially going to be a subscription product but in terms of it being free and accessible to everyone — this is what I’ve always wanted Girlboss to be. That’s what the Girlboss podcast is and that’s what all of our content has been to date. For women who were able to buy my book — that was a luxury. I’ve had women tell me that they couldn’t afford my book, so they checked it out from the library, then were able to get a job, and then bought the book because they could then afford it. That’s the girl I want to make sure has the opportunity to be part of this platform because she’s the person who needs it most. There’s always going to be, no matter where you are in your trajectory, someone who’s just a step ahead of you who can help you get to where you need to go next.
On why it’s a new platform (and not just another Facebook group): Facebook is really built for friends and family. It’s also a monoculture of people shouting whatever they want all over the place. When you discover content in a Facebook group, you’re finding it in a feed that’s mashed up with what your mom ate for lunch and your friend’s vacation photos or pictures of their children. And while maybe people will share vacations and pictures of their family on the Girlboss platform, it’s really built for everyone to be highly engaged in advancing themselves professionally and personally.
On features that make the network different: One of the things that’s really novel is that you can only connect with one new person per day. Because that’s how the world works. We really want to make this a place where really substantial conversations can happen. To connect with another person, you can’t just push connect. On their profile, you’ll click “Say Hey” and a modal will pop up that says “What would you like to talk to Sophia about?” Then, they can select from options like “Let’s collaborate” or “Let’s meet up in person” or “I’m a fan” or “I think I can help you” or “I’d love your help.” They choose one of those and they state their intention. They really have to stop and think about it. They also have to think about who they’re reaching out because that’s their one shot that day. On the other end, that person has a day to accept the connection. They’ll get a notification that tells them who’s interested in collaborating and why, specifically.
On building in “Girlboss moments”: These profiles are pretty robust. They showcase not just what you do — like what you might find on a resume — but also who you are. We’re not LinkedIn Monday through Friday or Instagram Saturday and Sunday. This is a place where a woman should feel comfortable sharing things like “I negotiated a raise.” That could be one of the Girlboss moments on the section of the profile that’s called “My Journey.” This section does take your education and your job experience into account, but it also showcases your Girlboss moments, or other things you’re proud of, that really make up the picture of you beyond your resume.
On unintentional discoveries: Initially with our Facebook group, we noticed that people would ask interesting questions or try to hire one another, but really they would celebrate. They were giving themselves a moment, and the community showed up and rooted them on. It’s also something we did see in the beta experience of the product. So we engineered Girlboss moments into profiles to help people share and celebrate.
On the different-looking bio: The other place where women can showcase what they’re great at is in their bio. It’s a bit of a Mad Lib. During the onboarding process — before you even get to the product — you have to answer a few questions. Beyond the typical location, title and industry name, you have to finish these sentences:
“I’m good at…”
“I’d like to learn…”
“I’d like to meet…”
You state your intentions first and squarely answer, what is it that I’m here to do? Also why do I have to write a bio about myself? This gives people an opportunity to actually say, out loud, what they’re good at without it feeling really pompous or having to call themselves a visionary on LinkedIn to get attention.
On challenges building the platform: For me, personally, this is a whole new world. Product meant fashion in my last business. Product means something totally different now and it’s been a pretty steep learning curve for me to work with product and engineering to get my vision into this new form. I’m learning a lot. But where I have an advantage is that I understand the woman we’re building for, because I’ve been her. The level of emotion and excitement you get around meeting someone new or even just walking into something and feeling like you’re a little more confident when you leave — I did that with a motorcycle jacket. If someone bought a motorcycle jacket from Nasty Gal for the first time and had never had one, she walked out of her house feeling like she could take on the world. That feeling is what I would like to think is my greatest accomplishment — it’s those little bits of confidence that we get from being part of something that empowers us.
On how she plans to measure success: I want to measure success by the total amount of money that’s been made by people who have joined, or by the total amount of raises that have been negotiated and by the total amount of business started or co-founders found on the platform.
On the long-term vision: I want this to be the largest professional community for women. Anyone who has a dream — anywhere in her career and anywhere in the world — can join Girlboss and find herself shortly thereafter in a place just a little further along than where she was before she joined.