6 minute read

This is the second interview by Lucy Linford, quizzing food and drink traders who have made their business boom despite the odds. Read the first interview with Seitan's Kebab here

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This week, Lucy is talking to owner of Neapolitan pizza van, Marley's Pizzas. Despite what you might think, he’s not called Marley - he’s called Dan. 😱
Let’s get into it...

Lucy: Hey, Dan. Since meeting at GRUB last year, we’ve worked alongside each other plenty of times. Aside from stuffing my face with your delicious pillow-like pizza dough, we’ve also chatted a fair bit which is why I just knew I had to rope you into this series.

Let’s warm up with a straightforward question. Like why you called your business Marley’s Pizza?

Dan: I named the business after my little daughter, Marley. She's 3, almost 4.

Marleys Pizza Dan And Daughter
Dan and daughter, Marley on Formby beach. Credit: @Marleyspizza/Instagram

Lucy: So was it lil' Marley that drove you to start your own business?

Dan: I was actually having an argument with Marley's mum outside the gym. She thought I could be doing something better with my life. I loved cooking but I didn't know how to channel that. Long story short, from that argument, I ended up down in North Wales a couple of weeks later paying a very large deposit towards the pizza van.

Lucy: No way. Isn’t it funny how life pans out? What were you doing work-wise before Marley's Pizza?

Dan: I was working in sales. I think most people that work in sales just fall into it and, if you get there and you start earning decent money, you just sort of stick around. But I felt like I had two identities - 'Corporate Dan' and then just my normal self. It was almost like I had to put on this charade. Zero creativity, zero time and zero drive to climb any corporate ladder. I'm surprised I lasted as long as I did, to be perfectly honest.

Lucy: I feel that. What did you want to be when you were growing up?

Dan: I just wanted to be someone that was great at whatever I was doing.

Marleys Pizza Margharita
Hubba hubba... here's a Margherita from Marley’s Pizza. Credit: @marleyspizza/Instagram

Lucy: Well, trust me, you are great at making pizzas. When did the pizza mobile go from being a spontaneous purchase to a putting-bread-on-the-table reality?

Dan: It was literally within a couple of weeks of putting a deposit down on the van. Then I was like: "F**k I'm going to be selling pizzas, what do I need to do?"

The guy who I bought the pizza van from, as much as he was really helpful in lots of aspects, he was very much about trying to make as much money as possible. He was like: "Why don't you just go to Bookers and buy all this frozen dough, cheap tomatoes, this and that. At the time, because I was just so worried as most people are when they've just bought a business, I was like: "Yeah, cool, that makes sense. I'll just go and do all of that."

It was only when I took a step back, I was able to think no - I want to do the best f*cking pizza I can! So I decided to make some real banging Neapolitan pizza; import all the ingredients from Italy, find the best vegan mozzarella supplier, master making the dough and really give people one of the best pizzas they’ve ever had.

Pepperoni Nduja Marleys Pizza
Lucy recommends the Pepperoni & Nduja from Marley’s Pizzas. Credit: @marleyspizza/Instagram

Lucy: All your pizzas, as well as your homemade pepperoni is vegan. Do you think having a completely vegan menu sets you apart or sets you back?

Dan: Where I live in the Ribble Valley, it's very meat and two veg culture. From the get-go, I had this idea of doing 'stealth veganism'.

One of the most famous pizzas in the world, the marinara, is vegan anyway. It's the second most popular pizza in Naples and it’s enjoyed across the whole entire world. It's only when you start putting dairy cheese and meat onto the top of the pizza that it becomes not vegan.

So the idea of 'stealth veganism' is just putting 100% vegan in really small writing somewhere in your menu. I'm at the point now where I don't just think I'm making really good vegan pizza, I'm making really good pizza, regardless of the fact that it's vegan.

Lucy: Are you vegan for the animals or for your health?

Dan: So I was on a moped in Vietnam. Went past the dog butchers shop and haven't eaten meat since.

Lucy: Fair enough. What scared you about starting a business?

Dan: Everything.

Lucy: What scares you most now you’ve passed the two-year mark?

Dan: I really want a pizzeria, but the running costs of actually having bricks and mortar is something that scares me a lot.

Lucy: What’s your trading pet peeve?

Dan: Event organisers lying about how many attendees they're going to get.

Lucy: What’s the best thing about being a street food trader?

Dan: The people that I get to meet! From traders to people buying my pizza, to random people asking if the van clearly marked 'MARLEY’S PIZZA' sells coffee. All of it. I absolutely love it.

Lucy: Last time, I asked Seitan’s Kebab who their favourite trader was, and they said you. What traders have recently impressed you out on the field?

Dan: At the last event we actually traded at (GRUB’s Extraveganza), I feel like that was, and I said this before, the best collection of vegan food bite-for-bite. It was on par with most vegan festivals for the quality of food that was getting served. To have four amazing food traders; yourself, the guys from Seitan's Kebab whose kebabs I cherish so much, and then the beautiful guys from Nina's Taco truck as well. The variety and the creativity in everyone's food.. It was amazing.

Marleys Pizza Wedding
Marley's Pizza loves a good wedding (and good wedding's love Marley's Pizza!) Credit: @marleyspizza/ Instagram

Lucy: That weekend was mega! You’re based in Clitheroe, but you do events around Manchester. Do you see yourself anchored around here or could we see Marley's Pizza popping up further out?

Dan: I love it here and eventually I want to open a pizzeria. I feel like branching out or going anywhere else would betray my loyal customers.

Lucy: When Marley grows up do you think she’ll work alongside her old man?

Dan: 100000000%.

Lucy: What’s the next year looking like for Marley’s Pizza?

Dan: Busy, busy, busy. I've got a regular spot in my hometown Clitheroe every Friday night outside a local pub. Plus loads of events, weddings and, fingers crossed, a pizzeria not too far away. 

Lucy: Right on! Good luck with all that and cheers for chatting, Dan.

Next time, Lucy will be chatting to newbies on the block Waffle Kart- the guys behind the fried chicken waffles that are everywhere right now. 

Follow Lucy Linford on Instagram - @desertislanddumplings

Read next: The Hot 50: the most popular restaurants in Manchester

Read again: 12 of the best vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Manchester

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