In episode 10 I talk to Debbie Viola.
Debbie went a Catholic Business High school in Brooklyn New York at a time when girls were not encouraged to pursue their passions but were guided to be typists and secretaries. She was not allowed to take Art but excelled at Stenography and typing. Following graduation she joined a law firm as a legal secretary.
After a couple different jobs, she settled in with the same law firm for 23 years. She was great at her job but her boss was very demanding of her time, always dangling the carrot of extra pay to stay late or take on extra projects. Her kids were going to a private college and so she stayed on to make ends meet.
A pivotal moment of change happened for her on 9/11 . That day at work they watched in horror at the towers came down with colleagues inside. As she was fleeing her building to get to family, her boss asked her if she could take home extra work. In that moment she made a promise to herself to never work for anyone but herself ever again.
Because she’s a practical person she stayed until Christmas to get her bonus while she made plans to become an entrepreneur. Despite the trauma of the events she pulled her blinds down so she didn’t have to look out the window and forced herself to get through the next few months. Missing person posters continue to haunt her for months and she lived in daily terror of explosions.
A few years earlier while renovating their house, Debbie used a paining technique she had learned on HGTV and the contractors had told her how professional it looked. This led her to taking some art classes and selling art at craft fairs. When someone asked her to do decorative painting in their home for a renovation, this gave her the idea that maybe she could make a living at art. One referral led to another and slowly she started to build a business despite not having a business background.
As she got older and wanted to spend less time up on ladders she got the idea to start teaching art classes online. During COVID that morphed into live online facebook painting sessions and a faithful following that refer to her as a “female Bob Ross.” She now does live paining online 4 nights a week and teaches a variety of painting classes. She tries to keep supplies easy to find and affordable so anyone can join without spending too much money.
She shares how she finds time for herself while caring for elderly parents, running her business and helping with grandchildren. She also gives advise to would be entrepreneurs and tells us about plans for the future.
You can find Debbie at