Dan Cox & Sarah Lagden

Founders of The Sunshine Pizza Oven Sarah Lagden and Dan Cox share the School of Artisan Food’s belief that food produced using traditional methods not only tastes better, it also has an important positive impact on our wellbeing and our environment. Their mobile wood-fired pizza business is thriving, providing high quality street food using locally sourced ingredients in and around the Peak District.

The Sunshine Pizza Oven began in 2015. Using one large and two small mobile pizza ovens they have regular slots at pubs and cafes in local villages and cover a range of small festivals and events, as well as private bookings. They can also transform their offering to become the Sunshine Pitta Oven, using the fire to slow cook different meats to serve with pitta and salad. Sarah explains:

“We were inspired to set up the business after eating pizza from a mobile oven and thinking ‘we could do this and do it better!’. Once we’d had the idea, it seemed to take on a life of its own.

“We both had a strong interest in good, organic food. So, it was a given we would use fresh locally sourced, high quality ingredients to make our own dough and toppings, choosing organic produce wherever we could. Using fresh ingredients mean we get through far less packaging and we use all our food waste; Dan uses leftover dough balls to make bread in the pizza oven the day after. We try to be as eco-friendly as possible in everything we do, so we use sustainably managed wood for the ovens and pizza packaging.”

During the early stages of setting up their business Dan came to the School for the one-day Italian Baking and Pizza Making course, led by Emmanuel Hadjiandreou. He says:

“Emmanuel really knew his stuff, so it was interesting to pick up real knowledge from an expert. I’d already tried to teach myself about dough and read a lot of books, but nothing beats getting that tactile understanding of the dough and what it should feel and look like.”

“It’s great that more and more people are producing proper food and drink and the School is a part of that shift.”

Sunshine Pizza Oven started out feeding hungry climbers and walkers at Stanage, a popular outdoor activity spot in the Peak District. Two and a half years on, their business is going from strength to strength, but it’s not always an easy ride. Sarah and Dan explain:

“We’ve worked out that since we started we’ve made more than 10,000 dough balls in our kitchen at home! We’ve got a lot faster since we set out, now it takes two of us an hour to make 150 dough balls, but that’s still hours and hours of preparation before we jump in the van and go out to sell pizza. We’ve definitely learnt a few lessons. At first we said yes to everything, but now we’re getting better at being more selective, picking the events it’s worth going to. Over the summer we’re working six days a week, so it can be exhausting.”

“Running a business this way, doing things in a traditional and eco-friendly way, takes over your life, but we’re not just here to make money, we’re in it for the long-term. We’ve got great customers and it’s fantastic to see a growing demand for decent street food and so many people enjoying the fresh food we’ve made.”

Find out more about The Sunshine Pizza Oven.

Inspired to set up your own artisan food business? Take a look at our range of food start-up business courses designed to take your business from wishful thinking to commercial reality.