I have wanted to be a business owner since I was a little girl. Sometimes I feel like it runs through my veins like I was born with it. I used to watch my parents run a successful business. I would sit in their office writing invoices to imaginary clients on my dad’s old invoice pads, and boss around imaginary people telling them to work harder and get me designs by Friday. As I grew, the games evolved and I began to swap invoices for drawing. I would draw everyday. Sketch after sketch, piling sketch book on top of sketch book – I was addicted. When I got a bit older and received the common “what do you want to be when you grow up” I always felt a bit stumped. I had a sense of what I wanted to be, but didn’t feel like I could explain it in one basic sentence.
What I really wanted to do was change the world somehow, and to be a fashion designer. I know it’s an odd combo. Imagine the looks when that came out of my mouth! The responses were what you’d expect, things like there’s no money in fashion, the market is too saturated, it’s too competitive etc. My favourite comment of all was that ‘only crazy people change the world’ – well hey I’ll risk that! I saw this as a challenge, I wanted to prove these people wrong. My parents were fiercely supportive of my siblings and I but also realistic and protective so these responses came from them too. Sometimes I would try put my sensible hat on. I considered becoming a psychologist because I was good with people but the thought of it didn’t set me on fire. I have my dad’s drive running through me, I need to be on fire.
I Guess you could say that’s the start of Mickey Rose. Where the fire started, the hunger.
Growing up, we had a holiday house in the sea side suburb of Anglesea (Victoria, Australia). It was an amazing, peaceful place. It was like the world slowed down when we were there. We made memories that will last a lifetime but of course I had no idea how special it was at the time. Rosetta was my mum’s best friend, and was family to me. We spent many weekends at Anglesea with Rosetta’s family and it was the highlight of my young life. Rosetta loved looking at my sketch books and would always ask to see them and check out what I was working on. I loved that. You can’t explain a person like Rosetta. She affected every person she crossed paths with and was infectious and inspiring. Rosetta was in the midst of battling breast cancer at the time.
I remember one night in particular. Rosetta was looking through my most recent sketch book where I had drawings of wedding gowns and formal wear. She took the time to study every sketch, then looked up at a me very seriously and said, ‘You have to do this for a living”. I was only 15. Rosetta’s husband Michael, ever the realist, told her not to get my hopes up, that it was a tough market out there. But Rosetta was a dreamer. She turned to him and said, “Someone has to make it. Why can’t it be Adriana?’. That was balance right there, being realistic on the one hand but never losing that hunger to succeed. Today I still believe in that balance. The following year Rosetta lost her long fight to breast cancer. She put the Rose in Mickey Rose.
Unfortunately, Rosetta’s passing was not the last time someone close to me would be affected by cancer. When I was 18, life as I knew came to a gut wrenching stop. One morning I received the phone call that my Dad, Mick, had been diagnosed with cancer. Within hours of the original news, we found out it was life threatening and my dad was given two years to live. I thought, okay, I can handle two years, I can do a lot in two years. I used to repeat this to myself. That’s two more birthdays, two more Christmases, two years’ worth of advice and many more memories. I could do this. While my dad was sick, we spent a lot of time together, slowly soaking up life. He loved to walk. We would walk his neighborhood over and over, passing house after house, admiring the parks and the trees that lined the footpaths, stopping occasionally for my Dad to catch his breath. One of our favourite topics was discussing the details of the houses we passed on our travels and my lifelong dreams, my goals, my job, all the things I guess he wanted answers to before he left us in this crazy world without him.
One afternoon sitting in hospital, we found out the cancer had spread through his entire body. With nothing positive to look forward to, I decided to talk to my dad about my business idea. I knew this would ignite him. My dad was a successful business owner himself, an entrepreneur in his own right. He started his first business in his early twenties with little money or formal education behind him. Having come from the third world country of Serbia, my dad was not even able to read or write when he started his business. But against all odds, he built an empire. My father was so passionate about my ideas, he wanted to know what I did yesterday to get it started, how could I do more, think bigger. He launched straight into where to get the money for start up, asked how much space I needed, questioned whether I should take over one of his offices. This was typical Dad. I felt like saying slow down, dude! I was just making post chemo chit chat, gees! But I had to laugh – I could really see that this guy, my dad, he believes in me. I respected his zest for life with all of my being, but I couldn’t handle it just yet. I was dealing with too much to think about launching a business at the time.
My dad was a man with a strong will to cultivate a great life and a man who loved his three kids fiercely and unwaveringly. A man who had given us nothing but his all since our beginning. And now he sat there at 47 years old, helpless in a way but with achievements people spend their whole lives striving for. It tore me apart, but I had to take his drive and put it into any idea I ever had for the rest of my life.
Three months after the initial diagnosis my Dad was in hospital again but this time, it was the end. It had only been three months. What happened to our two years? What happened to two more birthdays, two more Christmases? This wasn’t OKAY. In an instant, life was ripped out from underneath me. January 23rd 2012 we lost my Dad. It was only three weeks before I turned 19. He put the Mick, in Mickey Rose.
I was, Numb.
My life, stopped.