Our Small Business Story

Vanessa Baker, Founder Fast Forward Marketing

Vanessa Baker, Founder Fast Forward Marketing

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. 

Vanessa Baker, Founder of Fast Forward Marketing with Rik Fregia, Co-Owner of Courtesy Buick GMC.  Vanessa and Rik co-host an annual Crystal Lake Chamber Mixer to benefit the local Food Pantry.

Vanessa Baker, Founder of Fast Forward Marketing with Rik Fregia, Co-Owner of Courtesy Buick GMC.  Vanessa and Rik co-host an annual Crystal Lake Chamber Mixer to benefit the local Food Pantry.

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, participate in volunteer events, and even got a little 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 and 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.” 

“I provide real, measurable benefits for my clients because with digital marketing everything is trackable,” Baker said. “The impact on my community 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.

Courtesy Buick GMC/Fast Forward Marketing Chamber Mixer

Courtesy Buick GMC and Fast Forward Marketing teamed up to kickoff Crystal Lake Community Harvest to support the Crystal Lake Food Pantrywith a Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce mixer.

There was a large crowd in attendance, and many donations were made to support the good cause. For more information on how to help, visit http://clfoodpantry.org/communityharvest

Feedback from event attendees:

Christine Johnson, CuedForward:  "Thanks so much for sending me the invite and making introductions.  I had some great conversations with even a potential business lead and a speaker for my HR group.  Truly, what a great group of people.  I know you put a lot of time into making the event happen and it showed."

John Pletz, ServiceMaster Clean: "What a great mixer and what a great community we live in. Rik, his family and his staff are such a wonderful asset to our community. And thank you Vanessa for you commitment, concern and love for our community. We live in an incredible town and county. We are blessed!"

Carol Pringle, Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce: "Congratulations on yet another great wonderful Mixer. The food, prizes & collection was just amazing!"

Katie Van Diggelen, Acheive Footwear "Great event.  Glad to have been able to make it."

Pictures from the event:

 

 

Fast Forward Social Media Week Chicago

We learned too much at this week-long event, but here are a few notes! We always refer back to what we learned in the past in working with our small business clients.

27% higher level of engagement on Facebook when you use images vs text 

Credit Card Companies can now predict "early" when a marriage is headed for divorce based on transactions such as same area hotel charges.

Sean Callahan from Linkedin recommends making your content marketing "Hugely customer focused.  Google what questions your customers are asking, what people are searching for in your market".  Content marketing is answering the greatest and most important questions.