“That’s not a real job”.
As entrepreneurs it’s a thought that simmers underneath the surface that many of us have to battle against. When “replace corporate salary” becomes the goal less out of financial need and more to prove to ourselves (or a family member) that it’s “ok” to pursue our dreams. It’s far too easy to find our identity in our resume and believe we have to do something important, social proof our way to Forbes magazine, and have a list of metrics a mile long before others will take us seriously—let alone take our own selves seriously.
Owning our story, believing our worth, pursuing dreams and overcoming limiting beliefs. Well. That’s a storyline today’s guest, Mary Marantz, knows all too well. From a trailer in rural West Virginia to graduating from Yale Law School, her story is captivating and will help us all find more comfort in our own skin.
Mary Marantz’s road to running a successful business started in the most unlikely of places: the top of a mountain in rural West Virginia.
“I grew up in a single wide trailer on Fenwick Mountain. My dad is a logger, his dad was a logger and coal miner, his grandfather was a logger and coal miner. They’re incredibly hard workers, but in that industry, they barely made ends meet.”
While Mary certainly inherited the work ethic she saw in her family growing up, she also inherited some of their beliefs about money and success.
“My dad sort of had this life predestined for him, and it was really hard. My parents had to make a lot of compromises and decisions around their finances that I don’t think they realized would define their lives years later. Because of that, it was really important to my dad that I go to college and get on a different path.”
And that’s exactly what she did! Thanks to a movie she saw on TV as a kid, Mary had one field in mind for her own success: law. She attended West Virginia University for her undergraduate degree before moving abroad to get her master’s degree in philosophy. Finally back stateside, she applied to law school at the top of the tops: Georgetown, Columbia, and Yale.
“I made the decision to go to Yale for law school because I wanted to be a law professor. That was the plan when I started, but then, I met my husband, Justin, and it gave me this new vision for a new life and a new business we could build together.”
At the time, Justin was working as an assistant to wedding photographers in the area, acting as a second shooter and occasionally filling in as the main shooter when needed. But in looking at the numbers, Mary quickly realized he was basically making next to nothing by the time it was all said and done. Something had to change in order for that business to grow. So, even with offers on the table from firms in London and New York in her final year of law school, Mary made the decision to turn them down and go into business with her soon-to-be husband instead.
“I just knew this was the path for me. We were building this business together, and when I graduated, I wanted to give it my full attention. I wanted us to be more than just wedding photographers; I wanted us to be the best wedding photographers—the top of the top in our field.”
And that’s exactly what they became! After their own wedding planner started referring them to her clients, their calendar filled up faster than even they expected.
“We had this plan to hit six figures in the first five years, but we ended up hitting that within the first two. That’s when we realized we could really do this. We could really make money in this business. Sure, we were working harder than we ever had before, but we thought that pace was necessary. We thought that’s what it meant to be successful.”
Like most entrepreneurs, Mary soon realized that the pace they were keeping in order to keep up just wasn’t sustainable. In short, something had to change.
“We sat down with a photographer at a conference who really guided us through that change. I was so exhausted at that point that I was desperate for a better model for our business. Generously, he walked us through that better model and helped us make it happen. That changed everything for me, for us, for the business.”
That model? It involved things like lowering their entry point pricing for new clients, increasing the value of additional services and costs along the way, and hiring a coach to guide them through things like managing their calendar and developing new ways to make more passive income.
“That’s when we really started paying attention to the numbers—tracking where our money was going, what was working, what we were actually getting in return for our time, what wasn’t bringing in the income we thought it was. When we did that, we realized we needed to find ways to make more money in the business without burning ourselves out.”
With this in mind, Mary and Justin created new streams of income to diversify their business. From individual mentoring sessions to online courses, they saw such success in the education side of their business that they soon were operating a successful online education platform for tens of thousands of creative entrepreneurs worldwide. With that, they expanded into new realms as well, launching a Poshmark business together while Mary also launched her own brand as an author with the publication of her book, Dirt.
“Now we have three big branches of our business. There’s our education side, there’s me as an author, podcaster, and coach, and there’s this Poshmark business. All three of them are their own things with their own goals and own teams. It’s taken a lot of shapes, but the business we’re running now is one we really love.”
Their primary piece of advice for entrepreneurs on a path similar to their own? Trust.
“We had to really learn to trust ourselves. We knew we were taking risks, operating with integrity, following the path we thought was right for us even if nobody else saw it. With each step, our trust in ourselves went up and with it, our capacity to hold more went up, too. We really credit so much of our growth and success to that: trusting and believing in ourselves at each part of the journey.”
In the wedding industry, Mary and Justin are two of the most well-known photographers. They’ve spoken around the world and have had their work published in countless publications. I’ve known their names for years and have always wanted a chance to meet them IRL. Today was such a joy because I feel like I got to know MARY, the person behind the brand. She shared so much *real* about their journey as business owners and we got deep quick (like first 5 minutes) about heart matters. This was one of my absolute favorite episodes so far, definitely make time to Press play to hear Mary’s full interview or click here to read the full transcript.
Mary’s first book, Dirt.
Mary’s most recent book, Slow Growth equals Strong Roots
Mary’s Poshmark Business—you’re welcome *wink*
The Best of You by Dr. Alison Cook
Currently Loving: This Children’s Book about Gratitude
Mary Marantz grew up in a trailer in rural West Virginia. The first of her immediate family to go to college, she went on to earn a master’s degree in moral philosophy and a law degree from Yale. After turning down six-figure-salary law firm offers in London and New York and starting a photography business with her husband, Justin— where they were named to the prestigious Profoto Legends of Light— they have since gone on to build a successful online education platform for tens of thousands of creative entrepreneurs worldwide. The bestselling author of Dirt, which was a finalist for the 2020 ECPA Memoir of the Year, Mary is also the host of the highly popular podcast The Mary Marantz Show, which debuted in the iTunes Top 200 and has featured guests like Kathie Lee Gifford, country singer Lauren Alaina, and Duck Dynasty’s Sadie Robertson Huff . Her second book, Slow Growth Equals Strong Roots, released in Spring 2022 and her work has been featured on CNN, MSN, Business Insider, Bustle, Thrive Global, Southern Living, Hallmark Home & Family, and more. She and Justin live in an 1880s fixer-upper by the sea in New Haven, Connecticut, with their two very fluffy golden retrievers, Goodspeed and Atticus.
September 29, 2022