Meet R. Michael Rose
When I was three or four years old, I already loved my first job; it’s one of my earliest memories. My job was to collect bottle caps at my grandparents’ Italian restaurant and hotel. I would run back and forth behind the bar, pulling a cigar box on a string, and fill the box with discarded bottle caps.
When I was in high school, I worked at Rose’s Meat Counter with my dad, delivering our Famous Pepperoni Rolls out of a van. My dad, Jack Rose, took after his Italian mother who had a knack for caring for her community, feeding people, and hosting a great dinner party. I think that was the most important inheritance I got from my dad and grandparents, they taught me how to take care of people.
My dad grew up in this small Pennsylvania town and then left for the Airforce. While stationed in Ft. Worth, he met my mother. His roommate was set to go on a blind date but couldn’t make it at the last minute. Jack took his place, met Janett (a descendant of LBJ and 7th generation Texan), quickly got married, and stayed Jack and Janett for the rest of their lives.
They had two boys in Ft. Worth, me and my brother Christopher, and stayed there until we were ready to go to school. A rough neighborhood and lack of opportunity made my parents decide to move back to Jack’s hometown in Pennsylvania to pursue more opportunity for us and to be closer to family.
My growing up years in Pennsylvania are full of memories of my grandparents’ home, my Northern Italian grandmother’s lively table, dinner parties, the restaurant, and my dad’s deli. People in this small town still remember my family’s hospitality and our secret pepperoni roll recipe which no one has been able to recreate to this day.
After high school, it was time for us to move back to Ft. Worth. My parents wanted more opportunities for their children outside of their small Pennsylvania town, and so we moved back to Ft. Worth.
I became the first in the family to go to college. I didn’t want to pursue entrepreneurship or business like my dad. Instead, I chose pre-med and then switched to biochemistry. After graduation, I had two job opportunities to choose from — a crime lab in Ft. Worth, or the chemistry lab at Alcon. CSI wasn’t a thing back then or I might’ve gotten into the crime lab. I chose Alcon. I loved the research and analytical side of working in the lab alongside really brilliant people. Four years into my career, I got the itch to try something new and enrolled in law school. I kept working full time while in school. The first summer after law school I started on a path that would lead me in a drastically different direction, away from the lab and the law.
My friend gave me a promotional product catalog to review the pricing for some custom embroidered shirts. I noticed the profit margins right away and a germ of an idea started to grow. Around the same time, my lab was switching to a more casual dress code, and I knew they would be purchasing golf shirts with an embroidered logo, like the ones I had seen in the product catalog. I sensed opportunity and consulted with my dad, who was a successful salesman at a printing company by that time, about buying embroidery equipment. “Why embroidery?” was his first reaction, but after consideration and scoping out the field, Jack was on board and encouraged me to buy equipment.
That was how I started an embroidery and promotional products business, my first venture into Marketing. I didn’t have room to store the equipment anywhere else, so I ran the business out of my parents’ backyard, in what we called the Dog Shed.
(Fun fact: Mojo has a conference room in our Dallas offices called the Dog Shed in memory).
Working in the lab during the day, fulfilling embroidery orders during every spare minute of the day and night, I was once again a team with mom and dad in the family business. Janett, the brains of the family, kept the accounting side of the business in order. Jack was my best unpaid salesman, drumming up new business left and right. Eventually, we landed a large account for Michael’s craft store, making all of the embroidered aprons for their employees to wear across the country.
The business in the Dog Shed was booming. We did $100,000 in sales the first six months. We expanded, bought more equipment, hired people to help my parents (who spent their evenings finishing aprons in front of the TV). And yes, we moved out of the Dog Shed.
From that very humble beginning, making custom embroidery casual wear and expanding into promotional products, I got a passion for the business owner life. Years later, I changed course once again, from a product-driven business to a service focused business, and launched Mojo Media Labs. I felt compelled to pursue deeper relationships with our people and our clients, and one way to do that was by taking care of their broader marketing needs as a service agency. This was at a time when digital marketing and web services were in their infancy. It was obvious that this was the next right move.
Fast forward a decade, now Mojo Media Labs is a full-service marketing agency with offices in Dallas, Chicago, Indianapolis and Oklahoma City. My #1 concern as a business owner is for our people. Happy People = Happy Clients. Our official vision statement for the company is to Enrich Lives. I often reflect on my mom, my dad, and my grandparents, who taught me those values and how to care for people. It’s a better inheritance than a trust fund or business lessons could ever have been.
My hope is that every person who comes into contact with Mojo will have their lives enriched in some way— to feel the love that travels generations back to warm family gatherings around a table in Pennsylvania, where we celebrate life together and we create meaning that extends beyond just doing business.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michael's innovative, game-changing approach, centered around the proprietary concept of Return on Energy®, is born of his unorthodox viewpoint that turns business organizations on their side and teaches leaders and management a new way to achieve personal growth and business success.