Kristian Tapaninaho: bootstrapping his way to success

Kristian Tapaninaho grew Ooni, his pizza-oven business, through "bootstrapping" – quick and successful growth with very little external funding.

Kristian Tapaninaho wanted to achieve the perfect homemade pizza. But there was one thing stopping him from creating the “perfect pepperoni”, says Peter Evans in The Times – his oven wasn’t hot enough. He began looking into pizza ovens, but the cheapest one cost more than £2,000 and was too big to fit inside his house. And so Ooni, the multi-million-dollar company that sells portable pizza ovens, was born. His invention reaches 500˚C and costs from £199. 

Tapaninaho (pictured) runs the business alongside his wife, Darina Garland, both 38, from their headquarters near Edinburgh. They employ 51 people and made sales of £10m in 2018. Ooni is “unusual” in that it has achieved its success through bootstrapping – it grew quickly and successfully with very little external funding. The couple raised a small amount from family and friends and have run three crowdfunding campaigns on Kickstarter, but they “made a conscious decision to grow the business within its own means and have so far resisted the temptation to take venture capital, despite several offers”. In an age of “unicorns and multimillion-pound funding rounds”, and record levels of investment seeking the next big thing, bootstrapping can seem “old-fashioned”, but it paid off for Ooni. “It can feel like it’s more about how much money you’ve raised than how successful you are,” says Tapaninaho. 

Bootstrapping ensures that founders remain in control and reap the rewards, even if they don’t make as many headlines. It works, too – what started as a “passion project” was named the fastest-growing private business in Scotland, says John-Paul Clark in the Daily Record. 

Its sales have grown by an average of 148% every year. Three-quarters of Ooni’s customers are men. “It’s something to do with mastering fire in the great outdoors,” says Garland.

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