Aziz’s journey to self-employment and starting his own business, the Papion Store, grew from a simple idea to reality. By having a clear vision and setting realistic goals along the way, Aziz was able to focus on what he wanted to achieve and bring his business to life.
Originally intent on a mariner’s life, Aziz studied marine transportation at university in Cyprus and set his goals on embarking on a career manning cargo ships. However, 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.
One of the biggest challenges for Aziz was discovering what his next vocation could be. Aziz began to set specific targets to help support his new life in the UK, one being to enrol on an English language course. Although Aziz was ticking off steps towards his goals, he was made redundant in late 2021.
The setback of redundancy led Aziz to consider self-employment and it was his creative hobby that inspired his business idea.
“I love bow ties and began upcycling old clothes to make them for friends,” explains Aziz. “It quickly morphed into making dog accessories, then sourcing natural treats, selling them at local markets.”
Sitting on his houseboat one evening, he realised how many dog walkers were passing by and the Floating Dog Snack Bar was born! Launching a floating dog deli in East London is proving to be a voyage of discovery for Aziz and his Jack Russell pup Bloom.
“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’ Hackney branch.
Aziz sat down with Jacqueline to discuss a plan with achievable goals and the steps he would take to get there. Having a structure allowed Aziz to tackle things one stage at a time. A main goal was to make the business profitable and expand it further. As well as providing suggestions on how to harness social media to build interest with dog owners, Jacqueline 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.
“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.” says Jacqueline.
Jemma and Lucy, Business Start-Up Advisors at RIFT Social Enterprise, began working with Aziz and together, they helped get ‘Papion.Store’ online, set up social media profiles, and developed a business and financial plan. With ongoing support and actions in place, Aziz now benefited in having a long-term vision for how to develop his business further.
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.
“I love being self-employed, but by its very nature it’s difficult to do everything yourself,” acknowledges Aziz. “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.”