Casting a wide net ... Brent Harpur is taking his business online. PHOTO: RUBY HEYWARD

The digital world can be an intimidating place for some, and for others it is downright inaccessible.

Artist Brent Harpur belongs to the second camp.

For the past 30 years, Mr Harpur has taught art to children, using it as his main source of income.

When the Covid-19 crisis struck in 2020, many people had to adapt to online business.

Mr Harpur has low vision and confesses he is not an ‘‘IT guy’’, so was met with a significant barrier when it came to moving his business online — even before Covid-19.

He was not the only person who struggled with this, and so the Department of Internal Affairs established the small and medium-sized enterprises digital skills fund, to help Maori, Pasifika, or disabled people in similar positions to build their digital skills.

Workbridge, an organisation that connects people with disabilities with employers, used this fund to establish its own initiative, Grow Digital.

By serendipity, Mr Harpur posted a cartoon lesson online for each day of lockdown.

Kids from all over the country were sending him their drawings, and one post garnered thousands of engagements.

Mr Harpur, who also works as a teacher’s aide, wanted to create an e-book to be used as a self-directed activity or classroom resource.

With a $2000 grant from Grow Digital, Mr Harpur was able to pay digital artist Anne Bruestel to design the book How to Draw Cartoon Animals with Brent Harpur.

Through the initiative, he was assisted by two Workbridge employees with all the ‘‘behind-the-scenes’’ processes needed to upload the book online and set up an online shop.

Moving online allowed him to earn an income and the ability to sell the book 24 hours a day. This was especially helpful, as Mr Harpur had also put his art tours on hold because of Covid-19.

Prior to that, he used social media to promote and sell his work, but Grow Digital allowed him to take his business one step further. Since its launch, people from all over the world had bought his e-book.

Mr Harpur planned to produce physical copies of the book and was already working on a second edition. Mr Harpur’s book could be purchased at