secretleaders | Myprotein: How to bootstrap a £500 overdraft into a £350m exit, with Founder Oliver Cookson

Myprotein: How to bootstrap a £500 overdraft into a £350m exit, with Founder Oliver Cookson

“I was a keen gym goer and I used to buy protein powder from what was the leading sports nutrition company in the UK at the time. And about six months in I looked at the back and thought, ‘what actually is this?’”

Oliver Cookson founded the sports nutrition business Myprotein in 2004 with just a £500 overdraft, selling it to The Hut Group seven years later having kept 100% equity. The deal ended up being worth north of £350m for him. So how did he pull it off?

“I don’t live with regrets because some people said to me, ‘should you have held onto Myprotein longer?’ If I did, I’d be a billionaire now. There’s no doubt about it. It is always growing. However, you can only make a decision at that moment, where you are now.”

Oliver has written a book about his experience – Bootstrap Your Life – and hosts a podcast of the same name (links below).

“If you want to create a leading brand, a national leading brand, or an international brand, there’s no work life balance, especially if you’re bootstrapping. It’s impossible.”

From students with an idea to FTSE 100 CEOs, this is an episode no entrepreneur should miss.

“Stick to your guns. One thing private equity will do is they will try and ship you. So call their bluff early. I did. They will try and get you on bits and bobs of what comes out of the due diligence. Don’t be bullied in that situation.”

We chat about:

  • Handling growth and achieving £1m EBITDA, still fully bootstrapped
  • What you have to sacrifice for success
  • Selling Myprotein to The Hut Group
  • Working on the board with people he’s in litigation with



The Secret Leaders podcast features interviews with key figures from the UK tech and creative ecosystem. From entrepreneurs (both early and latter stage), to journalists, VCs - and even royalty - the series profiles those who have helped shape the nation's culture of innovation and growth.

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