Shortly after starting at MuchMusic in the mid ’80s, Erica Ehm told a school audience everything she had to do to get to that point.
Being rejected. Being stubborn. Starting on radio, then City-TV. Being turned down once because she was a “distraction to the men.” It eventually led to MuchMusic, where she was one of the original VJ’s when the station debuted in 1984. None of it was easy, she says.
After relaying the story, a girl put up her hand and asked a question: “Well, Is there a short cut?”
Ehm was dumbfounded.
“I said, you don’t want a short cut, ever in life. It’s the path that takes you there that gives you all your learning.”
And the learning continues for Ehm, who was the keynote speaker Friday for the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce’s annual International Women’s Day luncheon. Just last week, she e-mailed singer Jann Arden about doing something for Ehm’s wildly successful website YummyMummyClub.ca. Arden loved the idea but said she was too busy. Ehm was crushed.
“I felt like a loser,” she told a sold out crowd at the Americana Conference Resort & Spa.
Until she changed her mindset and reminded herself it wasn’t a rejection of her, just a conflict of schedules.
“I get told no all the time, still to this day,” she said.
After leaving MuchMusic in 1994, Ehm explored acting, writing and music (even winning a couple Juno Awards). She returned to TV to host the Life Network show Yummy Mummy, about the trials and tribulations of motherhood, and created a website out of it when the show ended after two seasons. She wanted to connect with other mothers and give them content which didn’t insult them.
“(I asked) why are we so afraid to talk about feeling like failures as mothers?”
It was humbling at first. The woman who interviewed major celebrities on a national music station was now calling people and asking for a measly $100 in sponsorship. Most said no. She still remembers the ones that said yes.
YummyMummyClub.ca now employs 70 people and is one of Canada’s largest independent online magazines. Much of her staff works from home.
“I run my business in a way that allows us to have a life and career at the same time.”
Ehm stressed patience to Friday’s crowd of mostly women, but also directness – traits instilled by her mother. When she was eight, living in Montreal, Ehm recalls telling her mom she wanted pizza. Fine, her mom said – you order it. When she refused, her mom replied “If you don’t order the pizza, you won’t have supper.”
She eventually made the order, and as they ate that night her mom reminded her that even if the pizzeria said no, simply call the next one “and give them my money.”
Friday’s luncheon also recognized longtime Niagara volunteer Pamela Minns with the International Women’s Day Award. For 25 years, Minns has dedicated herself to the designation and preservation of buildings in Thorold, and was key in enhancing Thorold’s Front Street.
“We are recognizing a woman who has watched over Niagara’s historical landmarks,” said Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce president Mishka Balsom.
Minns said she came to volunteering late, but made it as important as any career.
“I needed to retire to something, not from something,” she said.
She added that preserving a town’s past ensures it never looks like everything else.
“Community livability is key to community survival.”