Northern Lights: Transplanted lawyer and insurance pros on why they moved to TC
Traverse City has turned into a magnet.
Earlier this year, the TCBN profiled 28 high-level professionals who had recently relocated to northern Michigan. While the region has always been an attractive destination for tourists and retirees, the pandemic – by shuttering offices and transforming remote work from a fringe option to a predominant way of life – opened a gateway to Traverse City for scores of younger professionals in the prime of their careers.
This month, in honor of our September law and insurance sections, we’re highlighting two more professionals who now call northern Michigan their home. One is a dynamic attorney who leads both a growing female-run law firm and a tech startup. The other is a local native boomeranging back to both Traverse City and the family business.
Tricia Meyer is the founder, managing attorney, and namesake of Meyer Law. Originally founded in Chicago in 2010, the firm added a presence in Denver in 2013 and expanded to Los Angeles in 2019. Now, it’s added a fourth geographical center in Traverse City, and Meyer herself is leading up that office.
Meyer Law specializes in corporate law, offering legal counsel “to companies of all sizes across the technology sector and beyond.” The business has helped entrepreneurs and startups navigate key challenges like contracts, intellectual property, fundraising and privacy. It also assists larger corporations with contract negotiations, due diligence for mergers and acquisitions, legal strategy and more. Per the Meyer Law website, the firm counts both Fortune 500 companies and startups previously featured on Shark Tank among its clientele.
Until last year, Meyer ran her firm from Chicago. When the pandemic struck, she and her husband wanted to find a new home base. With six kids to consider, Meyer said there were “unique needs” that needed to be factored into the search, from school districts to a big house. After a lengthy search that spanned from Colorado to Montana to the Midwest, the Meyer family zeroed in on northern Michigan.
“I was thinking to myself, ‘Can we just go live on a lake somewhere and ride (the pandemic) out?’” Meyer joked of her family’s lengthy search for a new home. “And sure enough, we found a place on Lake Michigan that checked a lot of the boxes for what we were looking for. We negotiated the contract before we had ever actually been in northern Michigan, signed on the dotted line, and came up here. And we fell in love.”
Meyer’s family moved to northern Michigan for the lifestyle first and foremost, and they haven’t been disappointed on that front. From sledding in the winter to beaches in the summer, Meyer can’t help but rave about raising her kids in such a gorgeous place. But she’s also been pleasantly surprised by the area’s thriving business community – particularly its growing tech startup community.
“Once I got here, I realized that there is a cool little tech scene here in Traverse City,” Meyer said. “I am a longtime mentor at incubators and accelerators across the U.S., including 1871, WeWork Labs and Techstars. So when I found out about 20Fathoms and the tech community up here, it was just another sign that this place was the perfect fit.”
For the most part, Meyer’s job these days involves working virtually with clients and colleagues scattered across the country. While she’s still maintaining the obligations of running a nationwide law firm, Meyer is also working to integrate herself into the local community. She operates the local Meyer Law office out of 20Fathoms, and her firm was a sponsor of Northern Michigan Startup Week back in May. Meyer also hopes to start hosting mentorship workshops through 20Fathoms in the near future, to assist entrepreneurs and startups that are navigating the growth process
“We’re very big on educating,” Meyer said. “That’s why we mentor at all of these incubators and accelerators. When you’re an entrepreneur, you make a lot of mistakes. You run into a lot of growth roadblocks. So, if we can get in front of local entrepreneurs and startups and provide some education and help them dodge some roadblocks, then we’re doing a good thing.”
Meyer’s experience with startups and entrepreneurial ventures doesn’t just stem from her legal career, either. Earlier this year, she launched The Clever Baby, a new baby goods brand. The first Clever Baby product, called Jet, is described on the company’s website as “a first-of-its-kind baby food feeder, medicine dispenser and teether all-in-one.”
While Tricia Meyer is a northern Michigan newcomer who had never laid eyes on the area until she and her family moved here, Madison Ford is a Traverse City native who, like so many others, found his way back to the community during the pandemic.
Today, Ford works in employee benefits and life insurance sales for Ford Insurance Agency. The fact that he shares a name with the agency isn’t a coincidence: His dad, David Ford, is the agency’s namesake and principal. But according to Madison, it was never a foregone conclusion that his career path would lead him back to the family business.
A 2006 graduate of Traverse City Central High School, Ford told the TCBN that his big dream heading into college was to have a successful career in the performing arts. He’d been a part of the music programs at Central, singing with the top choral ensembles and starring in musical theater productions. In the fall of 2004, when Central became one of the first high schools in the country to score the performance rights to the Broadway version of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” Ford starred as The Beast. After graduation, he headed to Connecticut to major in vocal performance and acoustical engineering at the University of Hartford.
“I quickly learned that there was just a whole other level of incredible musicianship out there and I just didn’t have it,” Ford said. “That realization was a tough one, but I knew pretty early on that I could have worked as hard as I could possibly work, and that a career in music probably wasn’t in the cards. Some people just have a gift.”
Rather than pursue music further, Ford ended up taking a job as an acoustical engineer in Oregon after college, but quickly found himself rather bored with the career choice.
“I enjoyed the work, but it was mostly behind the computer,” he said. “I didn’t get to spend much time with people, and that was tough for me.”
What followed was a whirlwind. Ford left his engineering career – and the West Coast – for a job in event planning in Chicago. While there, he met his future wife, which ultimately led him back to Oregon and to another new career – this time at a consulting company doing strategic planning for colleges and universities.
Over the years, Ford got the occasional prodding from his father about moving back to TC and joining the team at Ford Insurance, but it wasn’t until 2020 that the option started to sound appealing. With two kids at home during a global pandemic, Ford and his wife finally heeded the call and traded their Portland address for a home in Traverse City.
Two years later, Ford has found an unexpected passion for insurance. In particular, he loves the way the job allows him to connect with clients and learn about the twists and turns of their life stories.
“People share their stories about their things, or about their homes, or about their businesses,” Ford said of his conversations with clients. “Insurance is so much more than just money for things. It’s telling the story about your life. As in, ‘How did you start this construction company? You’ve got 25 employees, but at one point it was just you and a truck and a hammer.’ I don’t think most people think of insurance as story unraveling, but it’s kind of become that for me.”
As for returning to Traverse City and getting to call the area home again – albeit, in a much different life chapter than last time – Ford is still finding the beauty in that twist of fate.
“I’m sharing things with my wife and my kids that I didn’t necessarily know to talk about when we lived somewhere else,” Ford said. “It feels very special, for instance, that I get to take my wife camping in places where I used to camp, or that I get to take my kids swimming at East Bay Park where I spent so much time there as a kid. It’s somewhat nostalgic, but it’s also that I’m excited about the new memories we are going to create here.”