Sally-Anne Stevens, 38, lives in London with her husband and two children, Alexander, four, and Mia, six months. She set up B Communications Agency in 2004.
THE IDEA I worked in fashion PR after leaving university and loved it. After a few years I moved into the corporate world, doing PR at a digital platform and worked as the in-house global PR Manager. It was a learning curve, but I missed the excitement of the fashion and beauty world. So, after 18 months, I left and joined a beauty PR agency. My boss and I didn’t always see eye-to-eye, but I loved my role and decided to do it for myself.WHAT HAPPENED NEXT I met a freelance PR at my old agency, who looked after beauty clients such as make-up artist Jemma Kidd, who has her own range. She was also looking for something new, so we decided to go into business together. I bought a laptop for £700 off eBay and we set up in her bedroom. We networked at every opportunity, through friends or at beauty or fashion events, to find clients. We were thrilled when we signed our first client, a jewellery designer. Having a polished website was important from the start, as it’s a potential client’s first port of call, so we employed a web designer. Within three months we were renting an office in London. I wasn’t married at this stage and used my final pay cheque to get started. We employed one member of staff, and clients began coming in from then, so we were able to take small salaries the first year. We specialised in fashion, beauty and lifestyle brands, and clients ranged from a hairdressing salon to a top London sports club. At our first bank meeting we were asked, “How much do you think you’re going to turn over this year?”. We predicted £80,000, and that’s exactly what we hit.BREAKTHROUGH MOMENT We were working in tandem with US PR agencies for some of our brands, and found that our ways of working weren’t matching up. So, we decided to set up our own US office. Initially, two of our London publicists worked on New York and LA time to co-ordinate clients. but we later partnered with an agency in New York to share premises and move staff there. It was exciting and a massive step.WHERE I AM NOW We represent more than 70 clients and regularly host events here, in LA and New York, such as the launch of Hairfinity hair supplements with Kim and Khloe Kardashian. Other clients include fashion brand Missguided and cosmetics brand Ciaté, whose creative director is actress Olivia Palermo. It is a glamorous business, but it’s also very hard work. Recently, we’ve been focusing on digital, and even have an in-office studio where we produce videos, photography and hold our own fashion shoots. I bought out my first business partner a few years ago, and now Holly Brunskill, who worked as an employee for eight years, is a partner in the business.TIP Get a good lawyer and a good accountant. We had trouble in the beginning with finances, as our accountant wasn’t keeping on top of things. It’s worth paying for, even if you are stretched out at first.