Reflections on life and business in 2020

Reflections on life and business in 2020


The beauty of running my own business is that I adapt and shift each month depending on new projects. The not so beautiful thing is that when a pandemic hits, your business plans come to a sudden halt. 2020 is my point of reference for this post.

All businesses and workplaces stopped and it seemed like a full stop that none of us was sure would ever switch to a comma.

From my point of view- all events in my diary were cancelled. Hen party bookings refunded, In person workshop tickets taken back and an altogether sense of bewilderment descended on my business, like pretty much every other business no matter the scale. Last January was surreal for every sector.

I mentor young creatives.

I knew I could sit and weep not knowing where my next sale would come from, praying all the while that the government would help me. Or, I could adapt and shift the line up of what my business was.

Children’s art tutorial.

Our three boys were home from school, my husband continued teaching from the iPad in our bedroom and I decided I should offer free tutorials for kids and adults using my social media.

Some days I couldn’t think of anything worse-

my youngest was three years old at the time and interrupted every video which I appreciate could be funny for the viewers but I dreaded how I would attempt to reason with him during those sessions. Live on TV essentially.

YouTube rainbow demo

Gemma who worked for me at the time became very sick so the support of team members was no more. Instead it was me back to the basics of how I would make life work. Friends, acquaintances, businesses I availed of all trying to find our way with this, dare I say it “new normal”.

My Mum was isolating and she is a widow so weekly I dropped her supplies and left them in the middle of her driveway so as not to be close to her.

One evening driving back via the streets of Belfast was the most sombre and eery feeling.

Shutters down, deafening silence and an unspoken fear crept through the lanes that once were packed with honking horns and life.

Walk to the shipyard

Each morning was a kerfuffle to get the lads sorted into some routine and then I made myself execute the correct type of content to the right channel at the right time. All the whole I decided to expecting nothing in return except engagement and giving a sense of therapy to the people who followed me.

It worked!

As an artist and expert in my field this consistent effort of showing up paid off.

I learned how to speak to the viewers more and as I navigated my own chaos in the home trying to “home school” our boys I began to see the loopholes were they weren’t being taught certain things online and  I could fill the gap creatively. None of my boys show much interested in paint or model making but we managed a footballer demo who was a hit and this one will entertain you which was a rainbow.

I made a demo for a rainbow and not just a rainbow because they were linked to supporting the NHS (which was still hugely important)  but  this demo also allowed me to teach the colour wheel.

As well as the kids, I learned when I taught painting for free on my social media that parents were exhausted with zoom. If I was to run an official online workshop they didn’t have any way to get materials of their own so I kept evening paid workshops brief and we had two ticket options with the most popular option being utilised. This ticket meant we sent the pack of materials to the student.

White rocks tutorial

Can you imagine my husband and I packing 70+ packs with each tub of paint being hand filled. It was quite a scene! Now when I look back I think of it all with rose tinted glasses- the simple life of filling pots and wrapping packs.

Sporting my bikini on hot summer days… but in reality it was quite a slog.

Keeping the stock of materials correct also played a part as well as the kids kicking footballs and cricket balls knocking over any materials sitting out ready to be counted!!

Nonetheless, by reading the audience and learning how I could help them in this small way to escape from the pressures of lockdown and the worry about Covid,  I was able to keep my business afloat and by October of last year the demand for corporate workshops was so high that

I had to hire a new Personal assistant. This came in the form of a long time friend and mother of one of my god daughters Sharon Jennings.

I always marvelled at Sharon’s ability to keep a tidy house and to also allow the kids to have fun.. this translated perfectly into my business! She organises me and my diary, she tidies the inboxes and still takes part in the marketing and fun side of the plans we make.

By Christmas we had to put a cap on the amount of workshops I could supply.

Some weekends I was on zoom for five workshops

including corporate, hen parties who could not all be together but wanted to do an activity worth talking about and kids birthday parties.

Imagine my husband and I filling all the paint pots for that!! I hired Adele to help as well by the end of November to keep with the demand for materials!!

At kids workshops we painted pencil cases and I remember one day when the weather was so hot I thought the kids party would be disengaged. This couldn’t have been further from the truth- they were the best at listening, mixing colours and applying them. Not one asked to leave early to go play in the paddling pools that were being filled as I taught them online !

Moments like this reminded me of the power of creativity.

Painting is therapy.

When I lead people in paint I know they are trusting me with a journey that is unknown but is always rewarding.

This post is not a brag but more my words, sharing what I learned about life, business and workshops during the global pandemic.

In the end it seems that those of us who were  fortunate enough to have a business they could move online had to get over fears of not being good enough to make it work.

We are all just trying to be happy.

When you can no longer run from life’s external pressures or internal trauma in or outside of your workplace you get to sit with it. Everyday. It can be painful.

Part of me wonders if business has been good because I couldn’t travel or mask my worries about not being good enough anymore.

Self Acceptance Ebundle – Aly Harte

That’s what I often think of some “influencers” online – they can hide behind the value of promoting stuff. Things that are perishable, that only have a social value.

At the end of the day they still have to sit with their thoughts and where happiness resides.

Right now I am listening to podcasts about happiness and personality types because I think as a leader in business I have to keep learning and adapting. The common factor in all of the research is that my theme of placing importance on the everyday is relevant now more than ever. We only have the next task at hand and we are the right person to fulfil that.

Sea swim at PortavoeSea swim at Portavoe


Last week I helped my brother herd sheep on his farm.

Two and a half hours later we ere still there with the most stubborn (and high jumping!) ewe. She did not want to move field and she was a nightmare. All of us running after her and in the end we had to get the sheepdog to help. What a perfect example of having to complete only the task at hand.

It didn’t matter if we were right for the job but there and then we were in the job!

White park bay, headlands and sea’

Stag print

Aside from this being a challenge it was actually the most happy I have felt in a while- reduced to chasing sheep with my two biggest sons and family!

Thanks for supporting my workshops and thanks to those of you who are interested in me teaching you further on my new monthly subscription. it is called The Unintentional Artist.

The Unintentional Artist

We have four demos a month ranging from 15- 45 minutes as well as a live Q and A each month. This sits better with your schedules now that lockdown has shifted again and we can see friends in gardens or go to the pub!

If you are reading this and want to know what therapy and paint mixing of which I speak then please do check out my YouTube and my podcast for more information and tutorials.

Wild tulips

Wild tulips

Well done for getting through 2020 and keep striving for the good in. Each day and task at hand. Feed your happiness !


Aly Harte