Seymour woman looks to mother for inspiration

By Jordan Richart

For The Tribune

Mackenzie Ritchison had a discovery one day that led to her taking a chance on learning a new skill and pursuit of a career.

The 29-year-old owner of Meraki Massage & Wellness had attended college, but that experience actually left her with more questions than answers on what she wanted to pursue in life. So she decided to look back at something she was familiar with — her mother’s work as a hairstylist.

Ritchison and her mother, Andrea Fee, have a close relationship, and Ritchison paid attention to her mother’s work and how it started to change. Styling hair and coloring was pretty much all of the services offered at many salons, but Ritchison noticed things started to change with more services at salons being added.

That’s when she got the idea to learn massage and begin offering it in a spa-like setting.

So Ritchison enrolled at a massage school before switching to the Carmel School of Massage and Healing Arts and felt like she found what she had been looking for the whole time.

“At college, I just felt like I was floating around and taking classes that weren’t sparking any interest for me,” she said, adding some brainstorming about the hairstyle service industry helped guide her. “The services increased to more than cutting hair. I thought to myself, ‘What is something like this that I can learn and grow on?’ so I went to the school, and it seemed like something exactly for me.”

So Ritchison continued to work serving tables and bartending through her education at the school and was licensed in 2019.

Ritchison said massage therapy is appealing because of the variety of work one can do and what they can offer. It also provides flexibility in where you work and how you work.

“You can be in a spa, work with cancer patients, work in a nursing home or work on your own,” she said. “I think that is what started my interest in it.”

Society’s attitude has changed, too, she said. What once was considered a luxury is now being used for medical purposes and healing.

“It can be used alongside chiropractic or physical therapy as treatment for people,” she said. “There’s definitely a medical view of things, too.”

Then Ritchison found there was a strong market demand for such services when she returned to Seymour, which is evident by Ritchison’s schedule that tends to fill up quickly.

“I don’t have eight arms, so it would be hard to meet everyone’s needs who want services right away,” she joked. “It’s definitely growing.”

She offers Swedish massage, which is focused on relaxation, deep tissue, prenatal, cupping, scrapping and hot stoning.

The name of her business is based on the Greek word, which means to have soul, creativity or love in your work and leave a piece of yourself in your work.

Ritchison was familiar with the term as she had it tattooed on herself. She decided it was a great name for the business because it was a theme for what she was pursuing.

“I wear my heart on my sleeve, and I truly care about the condition of my clients, and it’s been a word that’s resonated with me and the mentality I am looking for here,” she said.

Ritchison’s biggest goal when she started was she wanted to be on her own.

“I always had a vision of what I wanted my space to look like and have complete control over what the experience is and what my place looks like,” she said. “I wanted to be able to control what it looks like, smells like and especially what it feels like.”

She also has been focused on creating an environment where clients are comfortable being themselves. Ritchison said she is comfortable being herself.

So after a number of years being in spas and other locations, Ritchison moved to her own independent location at 1301 N. Ewing St. in Seymour.

Managing your own business — especially in its own space — has its challenges, and Ritchison has learned how to manage all of those while offering her clients a number of services.

“You have to know what is coming, but you also have to know how and when and be willing to alter what you’re doing,” she said. “You also have to watch how you react to situations in terms of customer service. You have to build relationships.”

One example of altering the plan was when the COVID-19 pandemic started. It was around that time she had started building her clientele. Ritchison was worried about whether people would still follow her or be comfortable at her business when things opened back up.

Those times taught her about boundaries, personal space and reinforced her understanding of meeting people’s needs.

As far as being featured in a Women in Business section of the newspaper, Ritchison said she doesn’t necessarily focus on the fact she is a female business owner, but she does acknowledge the fact there are many female-owned and -led businesses in Jackson County that serve as inspiration.

“I definitely don’t look at it like I’m a female dominating things, but I think it’s cool because Jackson County is full of women-led businesses, and that’s inspirational,” she said. “I think it’s awesome to have had women show me what’s possible and what you’d pursue.”

And her inspiration? Well, Ritchison only needs to look as far as where her idea for the business started in the first place: Her mother.

“My mom is my No. 1 main female inspiration because she is grit, drive and determination,” she said. “She has always been inspirational to me.”