A media darling, Sophia Amoruso, developed her $85 million business Nasty Gal from originally selling vintage finds on eBay. The brand expanded quickly and also failed utterly. The spectacular rise and fall of the fashion company has become something of a case study in the business world.
The details of what went wrong are succinctly presented here (https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/289761) but what is crucial is that the failure was a moral one.
Nasty Gal has folded but the intellectual property has been purchased for $20 million so likely Amoruso will be fine, though investors who ponied up some $64 million will be eager to have their say.
The curious thing about Amoruso is that she once billed herself as an anarchist yet her reckless business practice leaves some two hundred people without work, not least workers at the distribution center in Kentucky. It is a failure of justice to upend people’s lives when a business plan informed by ethics could so easily have made her company durable.
V&R Chapter 5 offers Scheler’s idea of the estate as a model for ethical business. It is a model quite in tune with anarchist goals. Scheler argues that a stable business with a vivid identity that affirms the human persons who work at the company needs a clear priority of loves: love of the work is primary, then gross earnings to ensure continuity, and finally profit. On this model, expansion is possible, but rapid growth of a business is not. Indeed, a large scaling up of a business is almost guaranteed to warp and invert these priorities. Amoruso seems not to have given any thought to the moral character of her business, and certainly no anarchist reflection.
In the article cited above, Steve Tobak identifies four business mistakes: rapid expansion of the business including the transition from purely online to having physical shops and logistics; Amoruso did not love the job of running a company though did enjoy marketing the company; she could easily have delegated and put the company’s daily operations into trusted business hands to then focus on parts of the business she did love; and lastly, she did not see the success of her company as a way of life.
It is striking how these four points are a moral inversion of Scheler’s estate: mobility and change prioritized over stability; failure to love the work; disregard for the craft of management, production, and logistics; and her business was not part of her identity, indeed, she always tried to cultivate herself as a brand in addition to being the inspiration of Nasty Gal.
Many would dismiss that business is about love but the case of Amoruso and Nasty Gal clearly shows that a business with tremendous potential can be crippled by disordered loves.