Bikini pro

Erica Willick leads a triple life: financial controller by day, fitness guru by night and mom 24/7.

In 2012, Erica Willick, 32, won the bikini category at an Ultimate Fitness Events (UFE) competition. The London, Ont.-based accountant went on to win the Pro Bikini title at the UFE North American Championships — and repeated this feat in 2013.

But before Willick came first in fitness competitions, accounting came first for her. She obtained her CA designation in 2007 while working at EY as a tax and audit accountant, and the same year she became a controller for engineering company Dillon Consulting Ltd. In April she joined Info-Tech Research Group, an IT research and advisory company.

Despite her demanding career, she found time to focus on herself. She had been "active, though not athletic" prior to her first pregnancy, but after her son was born, she began to exercise more seriously. "I had the best reason in the world to commit to being healthy for life: my son," she says. To change her body shape, she started weight lifting at the gym.

Willick devoured fitness articles and signed up for a strength-training boot camp, which led to a surprising opportunity: a photographer for Oxygen magazine spotted her. "He liked my look, got my card and it went from there," says Willick, who appeared in 10 print features for the magazine.

After noticing that many of the fitness models in the magazines she read had competed, she entered her first fitness competition in 2011. Although Willick didn’t win, she was hooked. "Being fit makes me feel energetic, strong and more confident," says Willick, who is expecting her second child this summer.

Willick draws on her accounting knowledge to support her fitness endeavours. "Finding a business model that makes money in the health and fitness industry is very challenging," she says, noting that the industry is heavily dependent on sales of supplements. Her accounting background helps her explore other models and opportunities as business cases. Instead of "selling out to supplementation, accounting has let me innovate."

Willick cofounded Gorgo, a digital fitness magazine, and launched Sisters in Shape, which coaches women preparing for competitions and runs programs for people wanting to become more fit. "I love teaching fitness and nutrition because teaching is about giving women the tools to take control of their own health," Willick says.