Growing up, Sophia Amoruso was never one to take the safe road.
“I had a healthy disregard for authority from an early age,” Nasty Gal founder Amoruso, 32, exclusively tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “I’m not someone who is super great at working for other people.”
Born into a long line of entrepreneurs, Amoruso always had an independent spirit, a curiosity to explore, and a drive that would eventually turn her into a fashion retailer worth millions.
“My father told me, ‘When you’re done with everything, don’t stop – keep doing something,’ ” she says. “That’s my work ethic.”
At the age of 10, the San Diego native ran a newspaper delivery route, and at 15 she worked at a sandwich shop. At 17, Amoruso moved out of her parents’ house and was ready and willing to fend for herself.
For more from Amoruso, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday
As a teenager, Amoruso says one of her first experiences as an entrepreneur included stealing books and reselling them on Amazon. It wasn’t until she got caught that she received her “wake-up call.”
“I was doing that as a teenager because I thought capitalism was evil,” she admits. “I thought corporations were evil. I thought that they were faceless and if I stole from them, I’m not hurting anybody. It’s not a noble thing to do.”
As she continued to mature, Amoruso supported herself with a job checking student IDs at an art school. Feeling creatively unfulfilled, she began brainstorming better ways to find merchandise to sell – scouring thrift stores for vintage finds until she eventually began designing her own items with a vintage feel.
“It was the first time I learned that if I did a better job, I earned more,” she says.
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In 2006, Amoruso launched Nasty Gal – a fashion retailer selling clothes, shoes and accessories to the “girl in progress.”
“We can dress you to take on the world and achieve your dreams,” she says.
Now worth an estimated $250 million, Amoruso is continuing to grow her Los Angeles-based brand into a retail powerhouse with global online research. Since the launch, Nasty Gal has more than 2 million followers on Instagram and more than 1.2 million on Facebook. Amoruso has also expanded her brand with her memoir, #GIRLBOSS, a weekly podcast of interviews with other successful women, and a nonprofit foundation that gives grants to women working in the arts. A Netflix series – co-produced by Charlize Theron – and a new book called Nasty Galaxy are also on the way.
“It s exciting that by sharing my story, it makes people feel capable,” she says.