I distinctly remember the day my sister and I said, “let’s do it”! We were both at a crossroads in our 9-5 professions and had spent a good week getting together every morning to discuss our goals. That’s what the sister duo- Ann Meritt and Ban Markos thought before making a business of Art, culture, and experience that can give you a sense of connection with your inner soul and a break from the monotonous life!
What is You and I Paint? What kind of products/services do you provide?
You and I Paint is a luxurious, sophisticated Sip & Paint Experience. It’s more than a paint session. It’s therapy, a social outing, and we help our clients explore a side to them they didn’t know they had. It is more than a canvas and paintbrush; it is an escape! Events can vary from a scenic outdoor winery setting to an aged, rustic barn overlooking Lake Ontario.
Tell us about yourself?
We are sisters who were born in Baghdad, Iraq. Our Ethnic background is Chaldean (aka Babylonian), and we speak an ancient language Neo- Aramaic amongst Arabic and English. We both studied Architecture and Engineering and have been in that industry for 10 + years until we decided to pursue our passion for Art and to become business partners. Art has been in our family ever since we can remember living in Iraq.
We are also proud mothers to four beautiful daughters between ages 1-6, whom we hope to educate and enhance their exposure to Art and entrepreneurship. On the rare occasion that we are free, we like to dress up and eat/drink inside picturesque restaurants, wineries & coffee shops. We also love spending time with friends and networking with like-minded people. Truthfully, talking about a vacation is almost as satisfying as actually going. For now, that will have to do, and we know that is ok!
What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
We hope to cheer women across the globe to be confident enough to make sound decisions and achieve economic power. Every woman should be confident and believe in their ability to follow through with their passions despite cultural or gender pressures. Personally, this day always reminds me to take a step back and appreciate the close group of women in my day-to-day life. We are only here because of their sacrifice to make us all we can be!
Does being a woman affect your journey as an entrepreneur?
Being a mother has many temporary setbacks when it comes to advancing our 9-5 careers. The cycle of getting pregnant, going into maternity leave, and being the primary caregiver to the baby most certainly challenges your career.
We knew there was an entrepreneurial calling for us to work around our life instead of shifting our life around our work. We endured long days and nights while juggling four toddlers under four years old! As working moms can relate, it was overwhelming, but we knew that our passion for Art would push us through.
How has your team tackled the challenges posed by COVID-19?
Being a service company where we host in-person paint events, we were highly affected by COVID and couldn’t work. However, we realize many people were eager for something different, a change of pace, so we wanted to give back by hosting free weekly virtual paint sessions where we had over 150 participants join us online to paint. We’re all in this together and will get through it together.
I think we’ve adapted to the better, safer & more hygiene version of ourselves to the point where we had specific reviews stating how people felt so safe coming to our events during the orange and & red zone. Our setup and material give people their own little space, and we allow people to feel safely distant while enjoying a therapeutic session. We also adapted to spreading everyone to the point where we had to use a projector screen and display the guided paint session through there so they could see from far.
These creative sisters know that once a woman is determined, then the sky is the limit. They plan to expand their business, spread awareness across the board, create a community of creative souls, and prove to anyone that they can paint even if they’ve never held a paintbrush in their life.
Written by Sadaf Zehra, Content Writer, Toronto, Canada.