08 Sep 2023
With offices around the world in countries such as the UK and the US, Gozney is a product design brand that makes pizza ovens for consumer and commercial settings, and has evolved and grown rapidly from its humble roots.
“It started through making a pizza in my house in the conventional oven, it was a little bit soggy and rubbish, so I went on a quest to build a pizza oven in my garden,” explained Tom.
When Tom set-up Gozney he was at a crossroads in his life. He had just come out of rehabilitation in South Africa after spending the best part of a year inside due to alcoholism and drug addiction.
“I came out and I was reintroduced to society, trying to figure out who I was, where I fit,” he described.
Reflecting on who was at the time of launching Gozney and leaving rehab, Tom said: “My persona prior to that was the messhead in the corner. I was the guy who was the life and soul of the party, and it was my persona to be this sort of wild guy.”
In search of who he is, his personality and his interests, Tom invested a lot of time into cooking for his friends and family and it wasn’t long before his interest developed into something bigger.
“What happened from then was pretty incredible, the series of events that took place. It just completely changed my life, the way I socialised, it removed levels of vulnerability from my life, it gave me purpose and made me feel at home,” explained Tom.
Upon leaving rehabilitation, Tom was still in a vulnerable state and lacked a proper education after being kicked out of multiple schools and being unable to obtain GCSEs due to his behaviour and dyslexia, something that Tom admitted to struggling with thorough-out his youth and adult life.
“I was highly dyslexic going through school, so I just didn’t achieve. I had no GCSE’s, I got thrown out of all the schools I went to because I was naughty,” Tom described.
However, despite these challenges, Gozney helped Tom find out who he was, what he was good at, and what he wanted to achieve, by acting as canvass for him to work across a variety of different disciplines.
“When I started building the business it was this grassroots self-taught marketing, self-taught brand, product design, all of this stuff. It was the best education I could have ever asked for, jumping in at the deep-end,” he reflected.
The evolution of Gozney and the transformation its experienced over the last decade isn’t just a reflection of the brand’s success but also Tom’s journey with conquering addiction and discovering who he is as a person.
Looking back at his life growing up, Tom stressed that he was privileged and came from a loving and supportive family, pinpointing his addiction to his school life where he struggled with dyslexia and was lightly bullied.
“I didn’t really know where I fit. I didn’t really fit in with kids in school, I wasn’t doing well, so I started to misbehave and what I found kids responded to me and I became popular because of it. I was the naughty kid,” revealed Tom.
Left unchallenged, Tom carried this behaviour into his teenage years when he discovered and started using drugs, providing him with escapism cancelling the noise and stresses of the outside world.
“All of sudden drugs were an everyday thing for us. If we were partying we’d take drugs, if we were sad we would take drugs, if I got into an argument with my parents I’d take drugs, and all of a sudden I became an all-time drug addict.”
Tom’s worsening alcoholism and drug use was routinely getting him trouble with the police, forcing him to address and control his problem, only for Tom to find out this was easier said than done.
“When I was trying to stop, my using just got 10x worse, so much to the point where I went downhill. I suppose that was the beginning of significant suffering from a mental health perspective, not being in control of my action and being a prisoner to drugs and alcohol.”
Knowing he needed to get clean and get control back into his life, Tom embarked upon the agonising journey of breaking the cycle of addiction to drugs and alcohol, after he was admitted to a South African Christian rehabilitation centre. “Getting clean and going into recovery was the most amazing step,” he explained.
Describing the long difficult journey of rehabilitation, Tom said: “Getting clean is when you’re so connected to your mental health, you can’t get away with it, you’re present in your mind constantly and you have to work to improve that.”
With the help of the centre and its Christian principles (he stresses he is not a Christian), Tom managed to master his recovery and stop using drugs and alcohol altogether.
Since his rehabilitation, Tom has been clean from alcohol and drugs for the best part of 15 years.
By sharing his story, Tom has helped raise awareness around addiction and mental health, struggles that affect millions across world, including families and individuals in his local area.
“I’ve helped so many people in my local area who are friends of friends or friends of the family and just seeing first hand, sharing my story has been enough to help people change the direction of their lives,” explained Tom.
Over the last 10 years, Tom has built a global brand, but he’s continued to share his story and help the lives of other people at the same time, with both his story and the story of Gozney becoming woven together as one.
Talking about plans, Tom revealed the company’s immediate plans for the future: “We have a line of products coming in the consumer space for home ovens and we’re also continuing to lean into helping deliver quality products in the commercial space. Our commercial oven business has been UK bound so in the future, we will be looking to expand it overseas and continue to offer great products and service to people commercially outside the UK as well.”
For anyone struggling with addiction, Tom said: “To anybody struggling put your hand in the air and go and speak to someone. There’s lots of amazing places to get support and help now, and I think it’s not something to be ashamed of.”