A career from scratch: INTO Exeter alumnus turns passion for pizza into exciting business venture

A career from scratch: INTO Exeter alumnus turns passion for pizza into exciting business venture

Enzo INTO Exeter

For most, the first few years after university are a daunting introduction to the “real world” of job-hunting and career-building. Some find footing more gracefully than others, networking and interviewing their ways to launch-pad positions in their industries of interest. Then, there are the rare few who, through instinct, intelligence, and determination, successfully launch business ventures all their own.

Enzo Santos, a member of the University of Exeter (UOE) Class of 2019 and an INTO University of Exeter alumnus, is one of those rare few. Having carefully worked toward his post-graduate career ambitions from the start of his studies in 2016, Enzo is now drawing on the experiences and skills he gained in the U.K. and channeling his passions for community and pizza to start Oven Depot, his own business distributing Ooni pizza ovens in the Philippines.

Well before Enzo laid eyes on his first Ooni, while he considered different study abroad destinations, employability was top of mind.  One of the reasons UOE caught his eye was the abundance of opportunities to prepare for a business career.

“The facilities were A-class… especially the Business School,” he recalls.

After completing the International Year One progamme in management and business economics at INTO Exeter, his penchant for entrepreneurship led him to adjust his course of study so he could develop a skillset different to that of typical management graduates.

“I always knew I wanted to start a business, so I thought management was the right track,” he says.  “However, after my second year at university, I wanted to give my self a niche and enrol in modules that would give me a unique set of skills.”

Enzo pivoted to earn a B.A. in management and sustainability—a specialization which empowered him to become a green consultant for the University.

As graduation approached, he had this and more hands-on experience to help him stand out during his job search.

“I worked part-time in business development for a crypto[currency] community based in Asia, which led me to attend conferences in London, Paris, and Hong Kong in order to source venture deal flow and expand the private community,” Enzo explains.

Even with this breadth of experience, landing a job out of university was no simple process.  Between weekly visits to the UOE Career Zone to finetune his CV and practice interviewing, Enzo estimates that he applied to 50+ jobs before a hiring manager he met during the final round of interviews at a consultancy firm referred him to his first role at Nivo, a FinTech start-up in Manchester. 

“Never would I have thought that a failed interview would have a happy ending!” he admits.

After a year and a half honing his marketing and community-building skills as customer success manager at Nivo, Enzo made the bold decision to return home to the Philippines and launch his own business venture.  “I felt I was ready for my next big thing,” he said.

The thing, of course, was selling and distributing Ooni ovens, a project whose origins can be traced back to December 2019.

“I bought an Ooni Koda pizza oven as a Christmas gift for my parents,” Enzo reveals.  “[It] took up more than half of my suitcase, but I took it to the Philippines from the U.K.  Our Ooni became our family staple, and whenever we have parties, I always make pizzas.”

Enzo recognized in Ooni both a product with the power to bring people together and a company committed to sustainability and the environment.  Six months after bringing the Ooni home to his parents, he secured the exclusive distributor license for Ooni in the Philippines and became CEO and Founder of Oven Depot.

Today, Enzo’s business is growing rapidly, and he’s hired a team on the ground to meet customer requests.

“The demand for our ovens is through the roof,” Enzo reports.  “Over the next few years, we really hope to see the Ooni as a staple in every family home.”

If fortune brought the Ooni to Enzo’s attention at the right time, the energy he invested in collecting the ingredients he needed to turn his aspirations into reality while at INTO Exeter and UOE made him ready to pursue his passions—to make a career from scratch—when the opportunity presented itself.

At the end of the day, that’s his biggest piece of advice to students looking to follow in his footsteps:

“Take a leap,” Enzo urges.  “If something interests you, go for it.”

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