Jennifer Barnes established the 100% female-owned company Optima Office in 2018. From 2011 to 2018, Jennifer served as the company’s founder and CEO before establishing Optima.
Starting a business is no simple task. A strong company strategy, funding, business plan, etc. are not enough. Fundamentally, it calls for a gifted and unflappable leadership that powers the business and steers its goods and services in the market in an efficient and forward-thinking manner.
When you mention the word “entrepreneur,” several things come to mind. Nevertheless, when one enters the market, it takes on a different meaning notwithstanding the definitions, aspirations, and motivation that are tied to it.
Tell us about Optima Office, and what inspired you to start Optima Office.
Following a hostile takeover of my first firm by my ex-partners in October 2018, I founded Optima Office. I made the error of only owning 45% of my first business, which was a bad condition to be in. Over 90% of the total earnings and the majority of the staff were my creations.
In our fourth year of operation, we were San Diego’s fifth-fastest growing firm, and everything seemed to be going great—until it wasn’t. After a few years of having a negative relationship with my partners, they managed to do a hostile takeover of the business in year 6. I was led outside by security, and everything was seized.
However, after three days I joined firm number two, and after three weeks I relocated across the street from them. I brought 27 of the employees to court, where I easily won by being allowed to compete with the other business I controlled. Three and a half years later, the Optima office has doubled in size. The nicest thing that has ever happened to me, it turned out!
What are the products or services the company focuses on?
Optima office provides an entire accounting and HR team to businesses in all industries and of all sizes. We can also fill the gaps at any level, from the bookkeeping role to the CFO or HR Director. Our main focus is on providing our clients with strategic advice, financial statements they can rely on and human resource services that keep them out of trouble and their employees happy.
How are your services different from those in the market?
Every client receives a customized service from Optima Office. We never force square pegs into round holes and are always available at all levels. Additionally, we are one of the few female-run accounting firms in the area.
Please tell us about your team.
Optima Office now has 85 employees, of which 65% are women. We have some of the most talented experts in the industry, with half of our workforce being Controller level or higher. We actively encourage work-life balance and provide excellent care for our staff. Our primary goal is employee retention, and we make every effort to abide by the axiom that “happy employees equal happy customers.”
Tell us about your professional experience.
I started my career in the accounting department at Petco after I graduated from the University of Arizona with a Bachelor’s degree in Finance, Accounting, and Marketing. I moved my way up the ladder quickly and a few years after graduating ended up in a consulting role as a Controller for numerous companies and non-profits throughout San Diego.
Learning quickly that I needed to further my education I earned an MBA from San Diego State University in 2008 (EMBA 17) and completed the Becker CPA courses in 2011. After consulting for two of our current competitors for almost 5 years, I started my first company and the rest is history.
Please share some of the key achievements of your business journey.
I was named one of the top 40 under 40 business leaders in San Diego County and was recognised five years running as a Women who Mean Business by the San Diego Business Journal. In addition to being named the 2017 Young Entrepreneur of the Year by the San Diego Chamber of Commerce, I was a finalist for CEO of the Year in 2017 and a featured woman of the year for San Diego Magazine for the previous two years in a row.
Additionally, I received the Connected Women of Influence’s Most Influential Leader Award in 2016 and placed in the semifinals of the EY Entrepreneur of the Year competition that same year. 22 more prizes have been given to me at Optima Office.
- CEO of the year Winner in Medium Business – Issued by SDBJ
- Enterprising Women of the year- over $5 million – Issued by Enterprising
- San Diego 500 Top Influential People in San Diego -Issued by SDBJ
- Top 20 Workplaces 2021- Issued by SD Union-Tribune
- Finalist for Women of the Year – Issued by San Diego Magazine
- Corporate Citizen Award – Issued by SDBJ
- Industry Leader- Celebrating Women – Issued by San Diego Magazine
- Inspirational Women Finalist- Issued by LA Times
- Resilience AwardResilience Award – Issued by Connected Women of Influence