Four years ago, Vanessa Baker was a busy advertising manager for a national digital news site. Her territory covered the northern Illinois suburbs, which required her to spend considerable time in her car traveling to meet clients and co-workers.

The time and distance took her away from the people and things she loved the most: her husband, two young daughters and community. That national news site was struggling – having expanded too quickly - but Baker still managed to earn a good income and quickly rose as the leading producer of her regional sales team.

In her heart, she yearned for a change. In her mind, she worried about losing all she had gained.

Finally, with a little inspiration, Baker decided to strike out on her own and submitted her resignation. Drawing on 14 years of digital advertising experience, Baker founded Fast Forward Marketing, a firm providing online marketing, advertising and promotional services. She launched her business on Linkedin in December 2012.

“I had so many feelings – a mixture of fear and belief,” Baker recounts. “But, I believed in me. I am a hard worker and I knew if I worked hard for my clients, I would succeed.”

Baker started FFM with three small clients, managing their social media accounts. With more time on her hand – off the road and working from a home office - Baker quickly built a large clientele base and acquired a city contract to oversee its Shop Local campaign. She established relationships via the local business chamber and expanded her base regionally by utilizing Linkedin.com.

Within six months of striking out on her own, Baker was earning the same income she left behind. She had more time to spend with her family, the ability to attend her children’s afterschool events, and even time for herself.

Starting a new business hasn’t just changed Baker’s personal life, it’s shaped her professional outlook, as well.

“I’ve gained a sense of independence, freedom,” Baker said. “I don’t have any limits on my capacity to learn more and make more money. I have the ability to pivot and adapt to business changes and demands when necessary. I have more confidence and more respect for myself. Everything I have is within my control.”

“We provide real, measurable benefits for my clients because with digital marketing everything is trackable,” Baker said. “The impact on our customers is they have a local resource they can trust who can fill a need they have.”

Baker received the “Best Under 40 Award” from Shaw Media Business Journal in 2014, recognizing her accomplishments and community service. She received the Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce Presidential Award of Excellence in April 2014, honoring her commitment to the chamber.