Why Erica Ehm’s career has included designing hats – and wearing a few


Entrepreneurs have to get creative when they’re first starting out, and no one knows this better than Erica Ehm. The serial entrepreneur started her first business in the 1980s while working as a host on Canadian music channel MuchMusic. “I started a line of funky hats that sold coast to coast,” she says. But instead of finding a retail space to sell her line, she got creative to get the hats out the door. “I worked with designers to create the look, sold the hats myself and my basement was the shipping/storage area.” Hats were just the first stop on her entrepreneurial journey though, and next up was a way to turn her love for songwriting into a business – starting a record label called Them Records. Ehm ran the label and ended up writing and producing records for an award-winning country artist. “I’ve always been entrepreneurial,” she says. “I don’t wait for someone to ask me to do something. I just make it happen.”

It was during the transition to motherhood that Ehm came up with her latest business idea – she had no idea how difficult it would be emotionally and physically, and created a show called YummyMummy to help showcase some of the issues involved. But her efforts to help new mothers didn’t end there. “Once the show finished, I wasn’t done with trying to connect with moms and reminding each other to have guilt-free me time, to take care of ourselves, to reinforce the idea that no mother is perfect and there’s no perfect way to parent,” she says. “So I started a one-page website, and got excited so added another and eventually I had singlehandedly built a website of 300 pages.”

The resulting site was YummyMummyClub, which Ehm describes as a playful, sexy online social network that speaks to the woman in every mom. Ehm started YMC because she was on a mission to connect with moms, and was driven because she really believed in the message (and still does). But she faced challenges starting out – especially because she was starting a web-based business and had no background in technology. “I had zero startup dollars, no background in technology and no background in advertising,” she says. “Basically I had nothing. But me. And my vision of connecting with moms. So I invented everything.” She made up her own rules, both in the way she created her website and the way she invited advertisers to connect with readers. She says the learning curve was huge, but that’s what differentiates hers from other communities out there – it comes from the heart and doesn’t patronize the readers.

Ehm says entrepreneurs need to work hard and wear many hats (not the hats she used to sell though). “Get ready to work harder than you’ve ever worked in your life and make no money,” she says. “Sounds fun, huh? You need to be an inventor, a worker, an ambassador, a banker, a dreamer and a realist. At the same time.” She has become an avid user of social media tools to get the word out about YMC, and to encourage others to become her ambassadors. “Social media is what changed everything for me,” she says. “When I jumped onto Twitter, my numbers skyrocketed and my ablility to connect with awesome like minded women expanded exponentially.” And while social media facilitated the connections, Ehm’s willingness to partner is what keeps the business thriving. “I dont believe in online competitors in my business. There are enough online users for us to work together and reap the benefits.  I have several colleagues who get that and social media has brought many of us together easiily and at no cost.”

Now that she’s well into her third business idea, Ehm is learning the basics of owning a business. “We are growing like mad, so I have to be extremely careful to ensure the business is being built on a solid foundation,” she says. “So I’ve personally been learning about the business of running a business. I’ve hired stupendous women to help us grow efficiently.” She’s also finding creative ways to work with brands that fit in with the YMC vision. “I am loving the opportunities to brainstorm for and with these brands to come up with new playful unforgettable ways to connect them with moms.” She’s hoping to expand their online TV presence, and utilize other cool technologies. But it sounds like her next business idea needs to be inventing the 30-hour day. “I feel like I’m living in the wild west where there is so much to discover. Life is very exciting these days,” she says. “If only there were more hours in a day.”

This was a guest post from Erin Bury and was published earlier today on the Sprouter Blog.Toronto-based Sprouter facilitates networking and collaboration between entrepreneurs globally.