Picture of the Luminary Australian team celebrating 25 years with confetti

Luminary turns 25

This wasn't a birthday we were going to let pass without a bang! We share a couple of exciting announcements about how we're marking our 25 years, and reminisce about our early days as an emerging digital agency.

Claire Dunton

24 June 2024

7 minute read

Each year at Luminary brings new celebrations and meaningful anniversaries, but none more significant than our business celebrating 25 years on July 1 of this year. Join us as we dip into our rich history. But first, we'd like to share with you how we are using our 25th birthday as a foundation for two initiatives that we hope will lead to a brighter future for Luminary, for the environment, and for the communities we work in...

Backdating our carbon offsetting to 1999

As we come to the end of our 25th year, we are thrilled to announce that we have committed to offsetting all of the carbon dioxide we have created since we began, with the planting of 5000 mangrove trees in Bali. Having attained our carbon neutral certification in honour of our 20th birthday, we knew we wanted to make a bigger impact for this quarter-century milestone and started to consider not just our present and future impact, but the impact we’ve had over the years we’ve been in business. We have been offsetting our carbon footprint since the end of the 2018 financial year, but that didn’t take into consideration the previous 18 financial years. So we decided to take action to offset our impact over that time. 

Since 2018, we have sponsored the planting of trees in the Reforestation Yarra Yarra Biodiversity Project in Western Australia, through carbon offset provider Carbon Neutral. We also worked with Carbon Neutral to calculate our total carbon emissions back to 1 July 1999, and we've partnered with Mangrove Rangers in Bali (where we also have offices) for the planting of the mangrove trees. 

Luminary mangrove box in Bali

Donating $25,000 to charities 

As well as marking our 25th anniversary by retrospectively offsetting our carbon impact, we will be donating $25,000 to 36 charities throughout the year. 

Launched in February this year, our ‘Luminary Hearts’ program invites Luminary’s team members to nominate and champion causes that are close to their heart. Each month, three different charities, put forward by the team, receive a share of the total donation pool of $25,000. 

Luminary Hearts recognises that we all want to make a difference in the world and each of us has a cause that we are passionate about in some way – from the arts to wildlife protection and everything in between. Luminary Hearts provides a way for our team members to feel involved in giving back to the communities where we do business.

So far, donations have been used to support a diverse range of charities across Australia and Indonesia, including: Indonesia Mengajar (rural education), Two Good Co (women’s refuges), Firesticks (Indigenous environmental management), Rumah Harapan Indonesia (hospital accommodation), Helping Hoops (sports programs for underprivileged children), Sintang Orangutan Center (orangutan rescue and rehabilitation), McGrath Foundation (cancer treatment service), Mama Maggha Foundation (antenatal and infant care), Silverchain (in-home care), Dementia Australia, Project Hope Indonesia (health and humanitarian aid), Berry Street (children and family services), SOS Children’s Villages Indonesia (education and food services), Soils for Life (sustainable agriculture) and Djirra (Indigenous support services). 

A word from our founder and CEO, Marty Drill

Marty Drill, Luminary CEO

In 1999, the plan was to build a website design business to help businesses get started on the web. Twenty-five years on, that business has become a team of 85 digital professionals across eight offices in Australia and Indonesia. Here is what Marty had to say about where we’ve come from and where we’re headed…

Back to where it all started

Picture this. Cher’s Believe is topping the charts, fear swells around a possible Y2K catastrophe, and the second Harry Potter novel is released to its growing group of readers. 

It could only be 1999, a time when the internet boom was right around the corner and we earnestly started a business in the comfortable surroundings of our bedrooms. A business name and web address were secured for $210 and our small but ambitious team set out to help businesses get started on the web. Convincing potential customers of the benefits of publishing their brochures online turned out to be a task in itself, with many dubious that this dial-up tool would be where their customers would spend time. 

A cautious market and a less-than-effective business plan of high volume, low margin templated websites should have signalled the end for our team of almost-professionals… but we survived, just. 

Fortuitously, the tech crash occurred six months after the business began, and actually provided an opportunity in the market with so many agencies getting out. The bread and butter of the business then became maintaining business applications, which built the team's capabilities. 

Solid foundations began to form

At the five-year mark, with our team a little larger and a little more confident about the space we were claiming in the digital landscape, we were approached by construction equipment hire company Fleet Plant Hire to bring their business online. We recently celebrated our 20 year anniversary with Fleet Plant Hire. The jury is out over who was getting the better deal back in 2004, but both businesses grew, and together we completely revolutionised Fleet Plant Hire’s operations.

By 2007, my initial business partners had exited the business and the market wasn’t growing at the pace it needed to for a viable business to survive. Adam joined as a Director and soon after the GFC hit and things were looking shaky. The ATO provided interest-free loans to businesses braving the GFC, which kept us afloat. 

Adam’s financial acumen and business skills literally saved the business, and his steady hand and leadership have allowed the agency to excel beyond even our aspirations. As the smartphone took off, Andy pushed us towards a mobile-first approach. As we now needed to design both mobile and desktop versions of websites, I was worried that clients wouldn’t pay for two versions and that the cost would price us out of the market. Andy was right and I was wrong. Mobile-first soon became the basis of how people navigated the internet and as the newly minted CTO of the business, he graciously provided his technical skills and guidance to us, which became the backbone of our business. Andy and Adam have both been leaders at Luminary for 22 years and I can’t imagine how we would have survived without them.

Creating impact in our agency and beyond

With the business stable and digital adoption growing in the wake of social media, smartphones and increasing choices in the market, we secured some big client names and did important work.

The 2009 Victorian bushfires were the worst bushfires in Australian history, and Luminary was truly honoured and proud to announce our involvement in developing the website for The 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission’s final report. This would be the first of many charity and NFP clients Luminary would work with, with an impressive portfolio of active clients including UNICEF, Cancer Council, Save the Children, The Fred Hollows Foundation, Heart Foundation, Vision Australia, Beyond Blue, and the Australian Centre for the Prevention of Cervical Cancer.

In 2016, we opened in Bali to support a potential team member with being able to live with his family instead of moving to Australia. It was in line with our commitment to supporting people with flexible working arrangements. However, it became an unintended brilliant strategy as we were able to source some of the brightest minds in digital. 

Bali team celebrate 25 years

Celebrating 25 years at our Bali office.

We were also committed to ensuring Luminary was a great place to work for our team, through implementing structures that champion our team’s psychological safety with a social contract designed and adhered to by every team member. Our vision was recognised when we were certified as a Great Place to Work in 2017 and we have now held that title for eight years.

For us, becoming a certified B Corp in 2021 was a natural progression. We wanted to help redefine the purpose of business and to Influence change. Capitalism has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. And yet it has failed to provide balance. We cannot leave it to governments and NFPs to find the balance alone and we cannot continue to expect 3-5 percent growth year on year. We need to do something different in order for growth to be sustainable.

Part of our responsibility as a B Corp is to balance the needs of people and the planet with profits, and to influence change. That’s why I’m super excited to be able to announce that we are offsetting our carbon footprint right back to when we started. 

We became carbon neutral as we wanted to do business in a way that offsets our impact. As we approached our quarter-century milestone, we started to consider not just our present and future impact, but the impact we’ve had over the years we’ve been in business.

We hope that by taking steps to address our historical carbon impact, we can contribute to a brighter future, not just for Luminary but for the environment and for the communities where we do business.

Learn about more of the moments that brought us to where we are today. 

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