While most 24-year-olds working in public relations last year were looking for a promotion or just hoping to hang on to their jobs in the downturn, Susanna Simpson decided to leave her account manager's role at Eulogy and go it alone, having wanted to run her own agency since doing work experience at Countrywide Porter Novelli when she was 16.
Susanna set up Limelight Public Relations with three clients to her name, but on her first day running the new business, all three dropped out for reasons beyond her control. By 4pm, after a cold emailing frenzy and a pep-talk from mentor and company secretary Martin King, business development director at the REaD Group, she secured meetings with another seven companies, a number of whom became regular clients.
Susanna started the business on her credit card because her bank refused to give her an overdraft on the grounds that her fee income was unrealistic, and she was forced to remortgage her house. But just one month later, Susanna was so overwhelmed with recommendations from journalists, associates and clients that she recruited her first member of staff to help her build the business.
Over the next three months, the business grew rapidly - Limelight was averaging three major new business pitches a month, and winning every time.
Limelight now has four full-time employees and one part-timer in the team. Susanna does not hesitate to spend money on her staff, who get a night-out once a month, gym membership and a generous commission if they introduce a new client.
The agency now has ten retained clients, including YO! Sushi, ad agency Feel, and viewlondon.co.uk. All have bought into Limelight because of Susanna's infectious passion for PR, her business acumen and her depth of understanding of their business, plus a transparent company culture, which helped Limelight post a 25-per-cent net profit in 2002.
COMMENDED - JENNIFER O'GRADY, BRAZEN
Jennifer O'Grady is the name behind some of the most creative PR work of the past year, from new messages for Lovehearts sweets to a number of mobile phone campaigns for phones 4u.
A senior account manager at Brazen, Jennifer joined the company in February 2002 when the agency had just four staff, and helped to shape the business into a 24-strong agency with a turnover of £1.2m.
As well as bringing in new business leads worth £128,000, Jennifer has increased existing client business by £102,000, and she manages a team of ten staff.
Her successes for clients have included helping Swizzels Matlow achieve higher St Valentine's Day sales, despite dispensing with advertising.
Jennifer is passionate about training.
She has designed a development programme for the company, and coaches her teams on basic PR skills.
She is also currently mentoring two junior employees.
Rebecca Gray Commission for Health Improvement
Jacqui White Edelman