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Celebrating 28 years

Three years ago, as we prepared to celebrate our 25th-year milestone, we were also grappling, like most, with how our lives had quickly changed in the wake of the pandemic. The milestone year was celebrated but somewhat subdued – much more significant things were happening. So here we are three years on celebrating 28 years – not what is typically considered a ‘milestone’ birthday. But, if we’re honest, we feel we are overdue a celebration and the opportunity to mark it together in person with bubbles and cake!

So, here’s to 28 years! Hurrah!

We’ve seen many changes over the nearly three decades since Optima began. And in the spirit of the nostalgia of our celebrations, we thought we’d share with you some of the potted history from the business founder, Simon Shaw:

“For those that don’t know the “How” of Optima’s creation, it was created after I moved back to Lincoln in 1995. We started the company from a small bedroom in our central Lincoln terraced home. The set-up funding came from inheriting some money on the passing of my Gran and a government incentive grant Enterprise Allowance - £6,000 went into the business pot to start Optima – most of that went on Apple Macintosh computers, big 21-inch screens and an A3 laser printer.

Reflecting on the last 28 years – we’ve had so many high points

In the early days, we worked with local businesses like Interflora on their internal coms and original postal offer. We also worked with different departments of Lincolnshire County County Council. We particularly enjoyed working with their careers service, which eventually became  “Connexions” – a brand we adapted for them as part of a national programme. 

Our move, in 1998, to our first proper office at 12 West Parade, for me, turned us into a “real” business! I loved that place, and all the people who came to work with us seemed to love it there too… despite the fact it was often very chilly in reception on a winter’s day! In the same year, we also won our first-ever prospectus pitch for the University of Lincoln (or University of Lincolnshire & Humberside as it was in those early days). We went on to deliver twelve prospectuses (I think!) for the University of Lincoln. Jayne and I worked hard to do what we always do – have great ideas and energy and consistently deliver. We pulled out all the stops to deliver that first prospectus to hit the first Heist mailing. During that project, we forged stronger links with the Wayzgoose team, who we trusted implicitly and printed many important projects for us (we became one of their top clients in just five years). Mark and Adam at Prontaprint proofed all the pages in glorious colour, often outside working hours. It really was a milestone for the business, and thanks to Cathy Twigg at the university for giving us that first opportunity and Jayne for leading the way on print!

Times and technology were rapidly changing, and we struggled to make the transition to website design and development at first. Our senior who led the upskilling to HTML and .CSS left the business, but two junior team members stepped up – James Lindeman and Damien Majer took hold of developing our web skills, and we have never looked back.

We had light bulb moments where we embraced responsive web design ahead of all our competitors and gave our clients a great content management system to work with – Expression Engine. Damien is still recommended by the EE team in the US as a leader in knowledge of integrations for the platform.

Our next leap forward as a business came after a cry for help… from Geneva. Someone we had worked with previously had taken a marketing position with the International School of Geneva and was running a campaign to recruit 1,200 students to a brand new campus with no campaign messaging, styling, or ideas on the table and a six-week deadline. We became a regular of EasyJet, at Luton Airport and discovered how great we are at communicating with clients no matter what their location. We delivered a campus filling campaign, discovered Geneva, and made great contacts with the school, suppliers and other agencies. We’ll always be thankful to Michaelene Stack for the opportunity that has led us to work for the International School at Aiglon, the World Economic Forum and numerous NGOs and UN Agencies.

Our combined service offer of Brand, Print and Web – created stronger brand consistency and helped us go from strength to strength. We’ve worked with some fantastic clients – Branston, Pipers Crisps, Coveris, CIPs, JIMMY’s, The Collection, World Heart Federation, World Stroke Organisation, World Energy Council, The NCD Alliance and now the International Diabetes Federation. We’ve driven cars onto ferries to Amsterdam, become EasyJet club members, delivered projects for Lincoln College in Saudi Arabia and visited air ambulances and their crews. And just to name drop – we’ve picked daffodils with Max Boyce in Wales, met the Ambassador for Bhutan and discussed happiness, designed a Joseph Banks Exhibition that Sir David Attenborough opened, launched Lincoln’s Think Tank with the help of Nick Brewer, Shaa Wasmund, Jason Bradbury and Titan the robot and Julian got to drive Jason Bradbury’s Delorian over cobbles and into Lincoln Cathedral.

Most of all, thanks to the Optima team on this journey. We’ve enjoyed drinks, golf, FIFA, Red Nose Days, Macmillan coffee mornings and some banging Christmas parties and secret Santas. We’ve supported each other and celebrated each others successes, including the London Marathon runners of 2022. Thanks to each of you for contributing to a great team that has created lots of brilliant work that we are really proud of.”

What does the future hold?

We’ve had a great start to 2023, with lots of new work in the pipeline. But what we are most excited about is sharing next our new vision that defines Optima’s next chapter. We are finalising this now with big plans, more investment and new arrivals to the Optima team… watch this space!

We are currently adding the final touches to an international brand that is set to launch with the website we have built in the next few weeks. We are working on a great data visualisation project focussed on health and the global effects of cardiovascular disease. Closer to home, we have also re-kindled our relationship with the Lincolnshire Showground (we created the brands for Lincolnshire Showground and the Lincolnshire Show over ten years ago), delivering the new campaign for the Lincolnshire “BIG” show in 2023.

…but right now our immediate future involves cake and fizz. Cheers!