How Sophia Amoruso Went from eBay to Empire (like a #GIRLBOSS)

“Maybe I can pay my rent AND stay at home,” she pondered.

When this idea became a reality for Sophia Amoruso, owner and founder of Nasty Gal, she was intrigued.

Having struggled with formal education and “working for the man” through her early twenties, Amoruso seized the chance to be her own boss and capitalize on her passion for vintage clothing by launching a small eBay store in 2006 — but it didn’t stay small for long.

Today, nearly 10 years later, the Nasty Gal brand has broken away from eBay, raised over $70 million in venture capital, made a rumored $100 million in revenue a year, expanded to include two retail stores and headquarters in downtown Los Angeles, AND inspired an upcoming Netflix series, all with zero debt to its name.

But how did a self-proclaimed, “dumpster diving freegan” like Sophia do it?

Here are five of the simple, but crucial inbound marketing tactics that helped this unlikely entrepreneur take Nasty Gal from eBay to the burgeoning empire it is today.

1. Pioneering Social Media Marketing

Arguably the biggest crutch of Nasty Gal’s early success was social media marketing.

Without even knowing it, Amoruso was a pioneer in the field, using MySpace (yes, MySpace of all places) to connect with her target audience, build awareness of her offering, and ultimately drive traffic back to her store.

By today’s standards, Sophia’s strategy was fairly unsophisticated.

To start, she simply went to the profiles of fashion magazines, bands, and “it” girls and added their friends of a certain age or in certain cities using a then frowned-upon automation software.

Once she had the audience, Sophia began publishing a MySpace bulletin/blog post every time a new auction went live on her store. Shortly after this, the bids began rolling in.

As Nasty Gal began making its presence known on MySpace, Sophia made a conscious effort to read and reply to every comment and message she received. “I just went with my instincts and treated my customers like they were my friends,” she divulges in her book, #GIRLBOSS.

“I just knew that talking to the girls who bought from me was important and always had been…. My customers told me what they wanted and I always knew that if I listened to them, we’d both do okay.”

This personal touch on social media not only set Nasty Gal apart from bigger competitors, but it provided the brand with valuable direct access to its buyer.

Through social media, Sophia realized, she could get unfiltered feedback and lifestyle insight directly from the girls who were buying her products, then use that information to improve other aspects of her business. — And that’s just what she did.

2. Mastering eBay SEO

Unlike most marketers today, Sophia wasn’t going after top spots on Google or Bing when she first started Nasty Gal, but she certainly had her eyes on the eBay search results.

She explains, “Every auction title started with ‘VTG’ for vintage and then the rest was a world-salad mix of search terms and actual descriptions.”

Though she would never call it this, Sophia was mastering the early incarnations of search optimization with her eBay listings.

By listening to customer feedback on purchases and engaging with buyers on her MySpace profile, she understood what her persona wanted and recognized the words they used to express those wants.

With this insight, the budding entrepreneur knew exactly how to keyword optimize her auctions to be found by as many buyers as possible and in turn, she laid the foundation for the lively bidding wars that would help her company grow.

No matter how optimized her eBay listings were, however, not everything Sophia put in her store was a hit.