Created the ethical Children's wear clothing company Mickey Rose at 21
Current professional job title:
Business owner of Mickey Rose
Can't start the day without: Looking at my daily list but more importantly a positive mantra.
Most efficient: From about 9am until lunch time, ‘hours of power!’
Most effective day to day productivity tool: Are all of my lists!
Most random job: Being an elf for Santa photos.
Music that sets my heart on fire: Anything by FLUME, he's a legend!
Non-negotiable: Cross Fit, me time and dates with friends.
Mindful habits: Yoga and meditation.
Most afraid of: Getting really sick again, but I mostly say I’m not afraid of anything.
Go to for fun: Nights out with friends, good food and a few drinks, or sunshine and the beach!
What led you to focus your studies in fashion?
When I was in Year 12, I wasn't very interested in the whole going to school thing. I went out a lot, I had a lot of friends, I had a boyfriend and all those things. I loved fashion - I always have. And I was really good at it. It was pretty much the only subject that I was consistently good at. I was also really good with people, so my parents kept pushing the whole psychology path but it was pretty brief and fleeting. I thought I should give it a try but I ended up failing a Science subject, so I decided I really didn’t want to do it.
I kept up with the fashion industry and then got into fashion design and technology at RMIT University Melbourne. I was really into the course, it was perfect because it was short but intense and really hands-on, which was exactly what I was looking for.
Before my course started my dad passed away and for about two years after that I was pretty much sick constantly. I didn't even really know what it was, so we were always looking for answers. I was in and out of hospitals, with doctors, and then I got to the point where I realised that I was just broken. I was ridden with anxiety and I wasn't sick in the way that the doctors were going to find anything. It was really hard to try and make people understand that you can feel physically sick just from being anxious. It presents itself in so many ways. I would just sleep and sleep and sleep. It was disgusting, I never want be back there.
Just as my course was about to start people were saying, “take another gap year, take another break”, I was like, “you know what? I'm just going do it. I'm going to study”. It’s one of the hardest courses to get into in Australia, so I was very honoured to be there.
What was your university experience like after you decided to go for it?
One of the big projects was for Jeans West. We had to go to their head office and talk them through our mood boards, trying to sell Jeans West our look books with the outfits we had each created. We were in a group of three, and I started to notice that I took total control of the groups for every project. Everyone always called me the big boss, they would say ‘Adriana's bossing everyone around today’, - I was such a taskmaster. I would say 'everyone's going to do this, it's going be like this, we're going to present it like this and tomorrow in the presentation, I'll talk.' [laughs]
Everyone always called me the big boss, they would say ‘Adriana's bossing everyone around today’, - I was such a taskmaster.
Another part of it was the business subject which no one really paid attention in. We had to do a business plan and figure out things like how to freight to another country, how to do quality control, who's doing a dispatch and really running a whole line of operations. It ended up being one of our hardest projects to do, but I actually got the highest mark in it and I got better marks in that than my design stuff, so that was a real eye opener about myself.
After I finished the two years, we had the option to keep going or finish it there. It wasn't even a consideration for me to keep going. We got our degree, and for me that was enough. Then literally within two months I thought, maybe I'll start sewing and see what happens.
Did you have a job in the background either while you were studying or when you finished your studies?
I had the same job for about four years, so all through studying and the first year and a half into having Mickey Rose, I was selling gym membership. It was first on the phone and then in person. I loved selling things, sales really taught me a lot, it’s what I kind of live and breathe now.
So when I finished my course I was working in sales full-time. One day I decided to go to my grandma's house where I sewed a bunch of bibs with her (she's a seamstress and she's incredible at it). We made them reversible and we did all this cool stuff with them, and ended up with all these bibs which I thought was cool. So, I put them on Facebook saying, "Would anyone buy my bibs?" I started a little page, they were around $10 or something. I just thought “let's give it a go and see what happens”.
The next step was that people kept saying, "Make leggings" I was like, "Seriously? OK, why not". So I started making some leggings and they were a hit, to the point I couldn't keep up with sewing anymore with my job on top. So, I hired a girl to work from her apartment who had a sewing machine to make each garment.
I was still so tired. I would get up for gym, then I would go to work, then after work start cutting the patterns. I would cut them all out on my kitchen table till like 1:00 in the morning, crying most of the time. I got really bad fluid buildup in my hands because of sitting there and cutting for so long and then I'd have them in bundles which I'd drop off to the girl I hired and she'd sew them. That went on for a while.
I was still so tired. I would get up for gym, then I would go to work, then after work start cutting the patterns. I would cut them all out on my kitchen table till like 1:00 in the morning, crying most of the time.
Was there a specific turning point that finally made you focus on your business full time?
One really stands out. My business was about 12 months old after starting out very low-key and I was like, "shit, people are really interested in what I'm doing”. People were buying it for their stores, and I couldn't keep up with demand. I'd got a website and the girl sewing for me was doing great, but me cutting everything was driving me mad. I remember really feeling like, maybe I should leave it now and get a good job, things like real estate had crossed my mind, or maybe I just stay in sales, but that wasn’t what I really wanted. I just thought that purely because I thought I needed a proper job.
It was my brother who called me one afternoon, and he said to me, "You know that we could help you. I think you should quit your job", I was like, "What do you mean?", I cried, and said "You're crazy!" he said, "I really think you can do this, I think you need to do it for yourself, let's grow it, let's do it, I can help you out, I have a business, go and quit your job." I was like, "Whoa!" and that for me, him believing in me was huge. I thought, “He believes in me, my family is backing me, he just told me, I don't need this job so I can put everything that's left in my tank into the business”. I called my best friend, and she was like, "I don't think you should quit your job" and at that point, I thought, "Thank you". I want to go quit my job now, because it was her saying to do it, that really made me realise how much I wanted to.
So I went in and I talked to my boss, and said, "You guys have been amazing, but I want to grow a business," and I left. I started full-time on Mickey Rose and in the end, that for me was the turning point.
I called my best friend, and she was like, “I don’t think you should quit your job” and at that point, I thought, “thank you”, I want to go quit my job now, because it was her saying that, that really made me realise how much I wanted to.
Even though you had support from your family did you still feel you were taking a huge risk when you actually handed in your notice?
Yeah I did, I'd just turned 22 and I was working in a good job. But I was running a business that was doing somewhat good, so I was in a good position. I knew what I was looking for, but to take that step and to quit a job and that steady income per week was huge. I owe a lot to my family, that's for sure.
Having people backing you is big, I did a lot in my head to convince myself I could do it, but when there's people in your circle, wanting to do it with you, telling you ‘just do it’, that’s incredible.
What you need to remember is your worst-case scenario is that you look for another job for a few hours.
What you need to remember is your worst-case scenario is that you look for another job for a few hours.
What practical steps did you take in the early days of starting your business?
At the time I was saving for a house, so I just took all that money and I thought, “well, I will buy a house one day, but right now I need it for my business”. So using that was a scary step, but also practical.
Writing a business plan was also a huge step. The business grew before I grew, so then I had this business with 30 wholesalers. I was hiring a staff member, I had a factory of people, and I had no idea what I was doing. I had to take a step back, and ask what the practical steps were next. Things like reassessing my bank situation, making sure we were keeping all our receipts and invoices, learning how to delegate (even though I used to be really good at that, but somehow lost it). My business journey started like, “this is fun, let's just see where this goes”, then down the line when we had serious growth I had to stop, and look at the business practical steps I needed to take.
Also, I used to feel ashamed that I was constantly reshuffling, and then I realised “Oh that's because our growth is there”. You know, every quarter we're almost doubling in growth. So, of course, I'm constantly reshuffling and taking new practical steps to get to where I need to go.
Were there any specific people and believers in what you were doing to help you achieve where you have come today?
My mum's incredible - she’s so supportive and she's let me have this house to stay in and to have all my stock in (I've turned it upside down). She's a bookkeeper / accountant and very real. My dad, he was the crazy ambitious one, so thanks to him, he made me like this. He was a very successful business owner, and a really hard worker. My business is actually named after him (his name was Mick, so that's where Mickey comes from), it's like a nice little testament to him. I actually told him, when he got sick that I wanted to open a business and he was just so full on, he said, "alright, so why don't next week you do a market?" and I was like, "Dude, it doesn't work like that". So my Dad was a huge believer in me and he was like, "Yeah, just do it. But it's hard, fashion is hard, maybe don't do fashion" [Laughs]. So, I got to tell him a bit about it.
Also I owe it to my brother and sister hugely, my brother has this insane business mind and my sister is a real go-getter and she knocks out my problems with me. So, I'm very lucky to have those two.
I'd also have to say Ana, the girl that works for me. To have someone helping you who gets your vision and wants to be there and you bounce off each other, I feel way too lucky to have someone like her work for me. Having her, and my best friend, Amy, who comes to markets with me and does trade shows with me. I actually have a whole circle of friends who are super supportive. You need a cheer squad who has your back.
So my Dad was a huge believer in me and he was like, "Yeah, just do it. But it's hard, fashion is hard, maybe don't do fashion". So, I got to tell him a bit about it.
THRIVING AND KICKING:
So, moving forwards, is there still a skill you'd like to master?
Yeah! Everything! I'm trying to move away from almost being this crazy up for everything kind of person, and learn to be a really good business owner. I guess and then, I'm not great at marketing, I don't really enjoy marketing, but that's only because I decided that I don't really need to master it. Actually, I’m hiring someone to do the marketing today!
Instead of thinking that I need to master every part of the business, realising that also to be a master at business, you need to learn how to trust other people to do what you are doing. So, I think that was a really, really hard lesson to learn, but now I'm getting there.
Instead of thinking that I need to master every part of the business, realising that also to be a master at business, you need to learn how to trust other people to do what you are doing.
What are the three personality traits you feel have got you to where you are today?
I think I'm a little bit crazy… as in being overly ambitious and a risk-taker, so mine are; crazy, positive and persistent.
What’s been the biggest “pinch me now” moment?
I think that it would have to be at the end of the trade show I did recently. I was talking to a wholesaler and she said that she felt like she just needed the brand in her store, because she needed someone positive and my energy would come through my clothes in her store. I was like, "What? That is incredible."
Yeah, it’s the people who are getting what I'm trying to do, and people who are responding with those little comments, to me. I don't know, they just keep me going. So, it's nothing big for me, it's those tiny little comments that people say. You keep me in business for another day. Thank you!
So, it's nothing big for me, it's those tiny little comments that people say. You keep me in business for another day. Thank you!
What’s the biggest piece of career advice that you would give to women who want to own their own business one day?
Pick something you frikkin love because you're doing it so much, you're talking about it so much, if you don't love it, you're going to struggle, or find something in it you love.
Also it's not all roses, it’s really hard work. Like really hard, you have to keep at it all the time. Find your groove, get a good support crew and a clear mindset and, yikes, just enjoy the ride!
For women reading this who want so much more from their career/life, what advice would you give them?
My advice, whether it's owning a business or working with someone else is try and block out the noise. What that means to me is literally getting rid of the crap that goes on in your brain and around you, and see what is really talking to you. Look at what you really respond to and what sets your heart on fire a little bit and go for that! It doesn't matter if it's a position in a job, or asking for a bit of title and taking more responsibility for the job or being in a position because you think that it’s expected of you, do it because it's what you truly want to be doing.
Photo credit: Olivia Cabral @livcabs