Finding a space for new ideas – STOLT interview with Kristian Tapaninaho

Kristian Tapaninaho is the founder and CEO of Uuni, the world’s first portable wood-fired pizza oven. We spoke to him about innovation, building a business and staying fit while doing it.

 

It all started with a great love for self-made pizza

Back in 2011, Kristian got into making his own pizza and wanted to find a wood-fired oven for his garden in South-East London to be able to make the perfect pizza with all the authentic flavours and smoky tones that you only get with a wood-fired oven. However, buying one of those traditional stone ovens was not really what he was after as he wanted to find something more compact and portable and something that he could take with him if he ever moved houses. To his surprise, he quickly discovered that no-one was making the type of oven that he was looking for and eventually decided to build one himself. “As often with inventions you must scratch your own itch”, Kristian explains.

First, you must create a kickass product

New product development always takes time and in Uuni’s case it took about 1 year of active development work and numerous prototypes to get everything right and ready to launch. “You have to have a kick-ass, fantastic product first”, Kristian says. “It has to capture people’s imagination and push the market, one way or the other for it to be successful” he continues. And capturing your attention and imagination is something that the team at Uuni does extremely well with their beautifully designed wood-fired pizza ovens that immediately make you start planning for your next field trip or a garden party with friends.

Then, you must find an audience for it

Uuni have used crowdfunding platforms extremely successfully to help to launch their products. Kristian’s key advice to launching any product and using these platforms, apart from having a great product of course, is to start building your audience as early as possible. “Building an audience around the product is key to the success, having people keen on seeing that product” he says.

Other key pieces of advice Kristian mentions are finding good partners for manufacturing and being very clear what things you are going to do yourself and what things you are going to outsource. “It is a good idea to do a lot of it yourself first” he says. “I’ve done pretty much all the jobs in the company myself at some point or another” he continues.

Finding a space for new ideas

But today with 15 people in the business Kristian doesn’t have to do all those jobs by himself anymore. However, as any business leader he’s constantly wearing many hats and we were keen to find out how he balances it all.

As many successful entrepreneurs, Kristian also admits being an early morning person. He likes to start his days with a morning run and has decided to “start keeping that (running) as my non-negotiable hours” as he puts it. He runs 50k to 60k on a weekly basis and says he’s trying to stick to that “no matter what” even if that means getting up at 4am in a morning to go for a run, something that he recently had to when travelling overseas for business.

Kristian comes across as a decisive, persistent person. A quality that’s required for sure when creating new innovative products and that’s also manifested in his commitment to running. He tells us that he hasn’t missed any of his planned runs this year, except for when he’s been ill and that’s another non-negotiable for him, not running when you’re sick.

Running for Kristian is time for himself which is invaluable when running a business and having a family and kids too. But he also sees running as sort of “billable hours” for himself because it’s often time for him to think about work, solve ongoing problems, think about new product ideas or listen to business related audio books.

“It (running) gives me the energy and you need that level of fitness to be able to handle the sometimes quite stressful times and even when you’re doing well (in business) it’s not stress free. It’s still properly full on and we have some quite ambitious goals that we want to reach and so having that level of fitness has definitely helped but it (running) also gives me that time to myself to actually think things through so that helps too.”

Setting yourself a goal to get started

However, for many of us, starting to run (or exercise otherwise) is easier said than done. That’s when setting yourself a clear target can help.

Kristian started running about 9 years ago when he found himself feeling the un-fittest that he’d even been in his life. So he set himself a target. “We were going on a holiday to New Zeeland, and this was August in 2008, and I set myself a challenge to run a combined accumulative 300 kilometers before Christmas, before going on this trip.” Kristian explains. “I ended up doing about 450k and really enjoyed it and by the end of it I had already signed up for my first marathon” he continues.

That was the starting point and then a couple of years ago he decided it was time to take his running to the next level. Kristian started to run consistently every other day without any excuses. “That was really when I started to feel like I was getting better at running” Kristian says. And there was no turning back after that. According to Kristian” It’s been about setting goals and doing a certain number of kilometers or certain number of runs during a week.”

Final words about goal setting and tracking

Setting yourself achievable goals and keeping yourself accountable is a ‘must’ for any athlete and takes a lot of discipline too. Kristian makes weekly, and not monthly, plans for his running. “Because a week is long enough period to do something meaningful but it’s short enough so that it resets soon” he says. An interesting concept that Kristian explains further “you can’t leave your 50k to your last Sunday. But then when Monday rolls in you’ve got a fresh start to start over again.”

We always ask people what their favourite gear is because as runners we like to share these secrets with other runners and also, just simply to find out what are the best products out there. Kristian’s favourite gear is his Polar V800 watch and he admits enjoying the geeky side of tracking and numbers too (like many of us do). “I quite like that geeky side of things when it comes to tracking your running”, he says.

To find out more about Uuni and their revolutionary products visit www.uuni.net. And Kristian can also be found on twitter @kristian (what and awesome handle name he’s got for himself!)



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