Mariah McKechnie is in the business of making magic. She was able to pivot and keep her wedding and special event business afloat in a year when not many events took place. For McKechnie, 2020 was filled with love, lessons, and tough decisions, and and she is taking all of it with her in the future.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I love love, and fortunately get to make it the center of my universe at home and at work. I married my best friend 15 years ago and we have identical teenage twin daughters. For the past 10 years, I’ve owned and grown a wedding and special event business in Duluth. We work with couples to plan purpose-driven weddings and events that focus on loving the process as well as the outcome. Our work takes us to many amazing spots along the North Shore of Lake Superior, as well as in Duluth and northern Wisconsin. I’m so lucky to be able to make a couple’s wedding day dreams come true in a place that I love deeply.
How did you get involved in your work?
My wedding planner hired me to join her team after my own wedding in 2005 in Washington, D.C. After my husband and I moved our family to Minnesota, I started helping my sister plan her North Shore wedding at Lutsen Resort and the rest is history. I saw the need for wedding and event planning services in this region and I jumped on the opportunity!
The events industry took a particularly hard hit this last year. How were you able to stay afloat?
Very carefully! Although there were some pretty scary, low days, I kept a positive attitude and focused on what we could do, rather than what we couldn’t. We took decision making day-by-day and let the chips fall as they needed. We downsized our physical space, said some sad goodbyes to long time employees, and tightened our bootstraps as much as possible. I was lucky to receive a PPP loan, as well as some local grant funds that truly made all the difference in the world to a small business. If you’d asked me last June where I’d be in March 2021, I couldn’t have imagined things would be as good as they are today. Here’s hoping we can continue that trajectory!
Did you learn any lessons, or make any changes that you think will stick around long
after the pandemic is gone?
Absolutely. So many amazing lessons! Downsizing and re-engineering my business model out of necessity created a much more sustainable future that I am so grateful for every day. I also realized how much I needed a break personally and how important self- care and rest is to building a successful business. I’d been running at mach speed for 10 years and needed a break to gain perspective and refocus. On the wedding and event front, we learned, along with our couples and clients, that bigger isn’t always better and that magical things can happen if you just keep an open mind. Amidst all of the COVID regulations, we safely pulled off some really incredible, emotional weddings that our clients wouldn’t change for a minute. We’re seeing a trend toward continuing to plan smaller gatherings and focusing on details and personalization that a smaller guest list allows.
Who inspires you?
Entrepreneurs in general inspire me, especially women. My mom was my original inspiration. She started a business at 40 and ran it successfully for 20 years. I was lucky to follow in her footsteps. I’ve been in several Mastermind groups with women entrepreneurs and I owe so much of my success to their inspiration and guidance.
What is your favorite form of self-care?
I swear by monthly 2 hour massages and recently I’ve started a morning routine of reading, journaling, and walking my dog that makes me so happy and keeps me grounded.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve heard recently?
The piece of advice that sticks with me and that I now share with my clients is to live a life of Joy and Ease. If something doesn’t feel right, doesn’t bring joy and flow with ease, take a pause. Re-evaluate. Don’t just keep banging your head against a wall or fighting against the current. Go with the flow and focus on joy and the rest will fall into place. This is my event planning and general life philosophy!
What do you think women need right now?
Oh goodness, women need so much right now. The last year’s ups and downs, changes, transitions, fears, and worries have taken an especially hard toll on women. As schools go back to in-person learning and more women have to return to work outside the home, I am seeing so many women in my life struggle to figure out what “normal” looks like. So many great life lessons came out of quarantine and a slower pace of life, but our society and economy dictate that we race right back out there and start grinding again. How can women balance the positives and learnings of 2020 with a return to “normal.” It makes my head spin! As women, we need to stand our ground. We need to demand a pace of life that works for our family and be unwavering in what works for us. We had a taste of another way of life, we need to fight for the pieces of it that we want to keep!
Check out Mariah’s work and business, Northland Special Events, here.