Aziz’s business is Blooming

21 Aug 2023
Launching a floating dog deli in East London is proving to be a voyage of discovery for Aziz and his Jack Russell pup Bloom. Founding his business – the Papion Store – with few funds and no practical experience left Aziz with little income or direction. Now with support from the government’s Restart Scheme and a team of expert self-employment advisors, he and Bloom are heading for calmer waters and establishing a boutique clientele amongst London’s dog owners. 

Based in Aziz’s home – a 50-year-old traditional narrow boat moored on Regent’s Canal in Victoria Park – the Papion Store Floating Dog Snacks Bar sells all-natural dog treats and upcycled dog accessories including handmade leads, collars, bandanas, and bowties. Inspired by Aziz’s joint love of the water, and dogs, the business is a world away from his initial vocation. 

Originally intent on a mariner’s life, Aziz studied marine transportation at university in Cyprus and embarked on a career manning cargo ships. Three years later, he realised long haul travel wasn’t for him and, acknowledging his lack of English language skills, moved to the UK in 2016 determined to find his niche. He studied a language course, then worked in food service, administration, and retail before redundancy in late 2021 ignited his passion to start his own business.

“I love bow ties and began upcycling old clothes to make them for friends,” explains Aziz, who now speaks fluent English. “It quickly morphed into making dog accessories, then sourcing natural treats, selling them at local markets. Sitting on my boat one evening, I realised how many dog walkers were passing by and the Floating Dog Snack Bar was born!

“I was learning from scratch as I went along, with no real budget, and it got tough at times to keep going.”

Struggling to turnover a living income from his fledgling business, Aziz was referred by Jobcentre Plus to the government’s Restart Scheme, which gives employability support – including self-employment advice – to people receiving Universal Credit. Delivered in Central and West London by Ingeus, Aziz met with Restart Advisor Jacqueline at Ingeus’s Hackney branch. As well as providing suggestions on how to harness social media to build interest with dog owners, she encouraged Aziz to set up an online store for when the Great British weather restricted walkers past the boat. She then arranged for Aziz to speak with RIFT Social Enterprise; its specialist partner for self-employment services.

“It was clear that Aziz was enthusiastic and resourceful but was struggling on his own and needed practical help to boost sales, develop a professional online presence, and plan cashflow,” says Jacqueline. “RIFT has specialist knowledge of supporting start-ups, especially those from humble beginnings, so it was great to be able to channel help from their 12-month self-employment support programme.”

Jemma and Lucy, Business Start-Up Advisors at RIFT Social Enterprise, began working with Aziz in October 2022. Together, they helped get Papion.Store online, set up social media profiles, and developed a business and financial plan. With ongoing support, Aziz is now looking into the potential of a mobile dog treat van, extending his range of treats for other pets, and finding additional help to man the decks. He has a loyal following on social media, where the location of the floating dog snacks bar around Hackney is regularly posted.   

“I love being self-employed, but by its very nature it’s difficult to do everything yourself,” acknowledges Aziz, 31, who enjoys yoga and scuba diving to help unwind. “Having Restart Scheme support now is amazing. I’ve been given lots of practical information, creative ideas, and encouragement. It’s motivating me to build the business and when I see my happy dog customers and owners, it’s all worthwhile.”

Here’s to a ‘fairy-tail’ ending for Aziz and Bloom! 

Watch Aziz's story


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