A WEST Lothian-based pizza oven company that saw sales rocket during lockdown is ramping up its export business.

Darina Garland, co-founder of Ooni Pizza Ovens, said that North America is currently the firm’s biggest export market but revealed that the Broxburn firm is targeting Australia. “We are talking about putting people on the ground there and growing a team,” she said.

As well as Austin, Texas, the company also has a base in Cologne, Ms Garland noted.

Ooni, which manufactures portable, wood-fired pizza ovens and accessories, was founded 10 years ago by husband-and-wife team Ms Garland and Kristian Tapaninaho, who previously ran an education company to promote creativity, innovation and problem-solving within school communities.

She told the Go Radio Business Show with Hunter & Haughey: “Kristian was getting quite good at making pizza but he was frustrated that they were ‘just good but they’re not great’. They weren’t anything like you could get in a pizzeria or in Italy.

“He looked at what was on the market at the time and found only very exclusive, niche products that required huge installation and were very expensive – something more affordable and accessible didn’t exist but he’s quite a practical guy so started prototyping, and created the world’s first-ever portable wood-fired pizza oven.”

Launching the company in London in 2012, the couple moved to Scotland three years later and quickly tapped into support networks such as Scottish Edge and Scale Up Scotland, co-founded by Sir Tom Hunter and fellow entrepreneur Chris van der Kuyl.

“I felt there was a really good support network for early-stage businesses in Scotland,” Ms Garland said. “We are quite front-footed and proactive in making connections but there was definitely a lot of help and good people to help us get beyond that volatile start-up stage.

“Scotland is a really good place to do business and scale up.”

With just 40 employees at the start of the first pandemic lockdown, Ooni has grown its head count to just under 300. “We are still tiny but we are only getting started,” Ms Garland added, pointing out that this really hit home when she sat next to the chief executive of Tesco at a dinner.

“I think it’s really helpful to get perspective from bigger companies,” she noted. “Our growth has been epic and we have a lot of runway in terms of what we have to do.”

Investing in its people and the culture of the company has also been instrumental in Ooni’s success, Ms Garland said. “We hire by our values and make sure we are invested in the person. We care about individuals and people who are passionate – it’s not just about having a work life.”