College Dropout Turns eBay Page Into $100 Million Business

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EbayAs a 22-year-old community college dropout, Sophia Amoruso was living with her step-aunt and working a $13-an-hour job checking student IDs. She thought about photography school but blanched at the cost, so instead quit her dead-end job and started scouting out vintage clothes and selling them for profit on eBay.

Today, six years later, Amoruso runs her business from a 7,500-square-foot warehouse in Emeryville, Calif, has a 500,000-square-foot fulfillment center in Shepherdsville, Ky., and sold almost $100 million of her wares last year, at a profit. In a profile of Amoruso for The New York Times, Nicole Pelroth calls her the “Cinderella of tech.”

There were some stumbling blocks at first, like the company’s name, “Nasty Gal,” taken from a singer’s album, which conjured ever-so-slight associations with hardcore pornography. It didn’t help that the domain name was actually a porno site.

But through skilled use of Myspace, and then Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (the company has no marketing team, the Times says), Amoruso built an almost obsessive fan base of over half a million, largely hip twenty-somethings. Last year the company’s sales grew fourfold, and a quarter of its customers visit the site every day.

Insiders say that Amoruso will likely sell the business for a very oversize chunk of change (she’s currently in talks with Urban Outfitters), or go public in a mega IPO. Amoruso, for one, has long said goodbye to her step-aunt’s house, and is currently remodeling her dream home. Forbes places her net worth at $250 million.

While it’s rare for someone to build such a successful business out of an eBay page, Amoruso certainly isn’t the only e-trepreneur to rake in millions. Sarah Davis takes in $4 million a year selling vintage designer handbags on her eBay page Fashionphile, and now through a storefront in Beverly Hills, reported AOL Small Business in 2011. By that point, Mark and Robin LeVine had also sold almost 3,000 square miles of bubble wrap through their eBay store, Bubblefast, with an annual revenue of $1 million.

At this point, Amoruso seems simply tickled that her company isn’t so well known across the fashion industry. “People say: ‘Nasty Gal? What’s that?’ ” she told the Times. “I tell them, ‘It’s the fastest-growing retailer in the country.’ “

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