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Slow Growth, Strong Roots

Mary Marantz sits on armchair while smiling.

Written by Mikenna Pierotti
Photographs Provided

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MARY MARANTZ HAS HEARD THE FULL RANGE OF REACTIONS when people find out she’s from West Virginia — they ask if she had shoes growing up, they wonder if she’d ever dare go back and, sometimes, they remark on the natural beauty of the region. But few really get it.

“People know what they’ve been told to know about the state,” she said. “In a lot of ways, West Virginia is an island in its own country. Not enough people have spent enough significant time there to really understand this unique culture and set of values. No one fully understands it.” 


Lawyer, author, creative, podcast host, businesswoman, Marantz has seemingly done it all, including earning her bachelor’s in political science and philosophy from WVU in 2002 and her law degree from Yale in 2006. But growing up in a singlewide in Richwood, W.Va., working alongside her mother and grandmother cleaning houses and stacking wood with her father, a logger, to get by, she never imagined how far she could climb. “I very much believed that if you started from a little, you were destined for a little.” 


Marantz was the first in her immediate family to attend college. Although she had dreams of law school, she was intimidated at first. WVU and the city of Morgantown were a big pond compared to Richwood, and she thought herself a little fish. For a while, she put her passions on the backburner, convincing herself to get a teaching degree at a smaller college instead. But giving up has never been in her nature. “I do not do anything halfway. It’s just not in me.” 


At WVU, Marantz fed her soul a steady diet of new ideas and new people. She blossomed, joining the debate team, earning a scholarship, traveling and flexing new skills — not only debate skills, but also the quiet strength of listening, honest conversation and meeting people where they are. “There was something really powerful I learned in those four years about constructing an argument, anticipating other peoples’ arguments, how to disagree with dignity and how to invite others into conversations,” she said. 


The topics she debated and the people she met opened her eyes to the world beyond her tiny mountain town, even as it reminded her of the strength she drew from her roots — a strength that came from memories both brutal and beautiful. “When I look at the girl who started and the girl who graduated, the transformation that happened, it never would have happened without that environment of professors and debate coaches and team members. Suddenly there were no limits. There was no upper ceiling. All these doors swung open. It was overwhelming and exciting at the same time to decide, ‘Where do I go from here?’” 


Mary Marantz sits on a chair with a mug in her hands.


For Marantz, that was Yale. But after law school, her path took several more turns, each of which taught her more about herself. She graduated from Yale with six-figure-salary offers in London and New York. But that road just wasn’t for her. Instead, she and her husband, Justin, started their own business, which has since grown into a successful online education platform for creative entrepreneurs. That was when she learned how much she loved talking with people from all walks of life. It was her husband who convinced her to start a podcast. 


Her podcast, the Mary Marantz Show, debuted in the iTunes top 200 list. On the show, Marantz brings in unique voices and perspectives on everything from faith to business to relationships, all with one unifying theme, “We believe slow growth equals strong roots.” She is also the author of “Dirt: Growing Strong Roots in What Makes the Broken Beautiful,” an Amazon bestseller in Southern U.S. biographies. It’s about honoring your roots, no matter how muddy, but never being afraid to climb higher. 


Ask her to describe her message and why so many listeners have gravitated toward its unassuming honesty, and she’ll say she likes to make a safe space for others to feel the fear and move forward anyway. On her website, she reminds listeners, “You’re here and you have scars. You’re here and you have dirt in your story. You’re here and you’re afraid both of those things disqualify you before you even start. But you have a place here. And your story already matters.”