30 Under 30: Meg O’Hara carved out a niche as the go-to painter for the North American ski industry

When ski resorts shut down during COVID, O'Hara attracted a whole new group of customers: affluent collectors in Canada and the U.S.

Meg O’Hara, 29

Founder + CEO, Meg O’Hara Creative

Life Story: When Meg O’Hara was 16, she sold her first painting for $100—to her late grandmother, after whom she’s named. “It was the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to me,” recalls O’Hara, who grew up in Toronto in a family of lawyers and judges.

Other childhood memories aren’t so happy. Unable to read until Grade 3, O’Hara was diagnosed with dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). “As a kid, I would always get pulled out of class,” the Whistler resident says. Told by teachers to aim low and embarrassed that fellow students thought of her as dumb, O’Hara now says her learning disabilities gave her grit and creativity. “Art was always my outlet,” she explains. “I could express myself in art, but I couldn’t in writing.”

O’Hara moved west to ski—and to earn a BFA in art history and theory from UBC while painting on the side. After trying to work a regular job, she decided to paint full-time, building a client base by word of mouth. O’Hara began focusing on landscapes for the ski industry when Banff’s Sunshine Village commissioned some work in 2018. Soon she was painting for ski resorts, heli-ski lodges and private chalets throughout North America.

“I have very strong relationships with clients, so a lot of them will end up being repeat clients who refer me to others.”

When ski resorts shut down during COVID, O’Hara started to panic. But she quickly attracted a whole new group of customers: affluent collectors in Canada and the U.S., including nostalgic former ski bums who wanted her large canvases for their homes.

Bottom Line: O’Hara, who recently hired her first full-time employee, saw revenue more than double last year. After she tapped the American private market, her international clientele quadrupled in 2020. O’Hara’s five-year goals include topping $10 million in revenue, being represented by New York-based David Zwirner Gallery, participating in international art fairs and having her work at Christie’s auction house.