Shoayb Ajmal serving a customer at The Burger Joint at the Ripe Market in the Dubai Police Academy Park in Dubai. Image Credit: Angel TesoreroGulf News

Dubai: Strategically located in the middle of the pop-up Ripe Market inside Dubai Police Academy Park is a sister-and-brother food business that has flourished amid the pandemic.

It’s actually two food trucks combined into one. The elder sibling Faizah Ajmal, 29, an entrepreneur and full-time mum, has set up The Sweetie Shop; while Shoayb Ajmal, 26, who has a regular job as a relationship manager, has established a burger joint called The Burger Stop.

Chef Marco, Faizah Ajmal, Samiran Ajmal and her husband Shoayb Ajmal at the Ripe Market Image Credit: Angel Tesorero/Gulf News

Together, the British siblings offer feel-good, family-friendly dining options. The Sweetie Shop provides a range of freshly-baked massive stuffed cookies, cookie dough slabs and other selection of childhood sweets mainly shipped in from the UK. The Burger Stop, meanwhile, serves handmade smashed burgers, hotdogs, chicken fillet burgers, crinkles and their own recipe of sausage bun and shakes.

There’s something exciting about their beginning and how they made their business tick. They shared their story with Gulf News as first-time entrepreneurs who launched new food ventures in the time of COVID-19. With strong family support, their business flourished and they opted to inspire others and offer a new feel to the Dubai fast food scene.

Started on social media

It was at the height of the pandemic, while quarantined at home, that Faizah came up with the concept of launching an online store selling various colourful and freshly-baked cookies as well as a selection of pick and mix sweets that evoke childhood nostalgia.

The Instagram page soon became a hit and within months she found herself delivering across Dubai and neighbouring emirates. She developed a good following and she decided to do something bigger and better. Meanwhile, Shoayb was also developing a dream to launch a burger concept in Dubai. Unlike most of the existing burger joints, Shoayb said he “wanted to bring a classic feel to the burger scene – no fuss, just great taste and all washed down with a range of creamy milkshakes and sides.”

Brick and mortar shop

In September last year, the duo heard about the Ripe Market at Dubai Police Academy Park. With support from their parents, they launched a successful bid to secure a key unit in the Ripe Market food street. They acquired a 40ft shipping container and they designed its interior and exterior for their brands, reflecting images of fun and happiness.

Their concept was to run the two brands next to each other but with individual styles – one used black as dominant colour while the other was painted pink. The Sweetie Shop took care of the sweet cravings while The Burger Stop supplied the need for protein.

Strong family support

Faizah and Shoayb claimed their brands have proven to be a runaway success. “We have both quickly established ourselves as the talking point of the market not only because of our concepts but mainly due to our strong family support,” the siblings said.

They added: “In the background, our mother creates new cookie recipes and prepares the specialist dough. Every Friday and Saturday, we are all working at the outlet. Our father also prepares the food, serve, banter and have fun with the customers. Many people admire our energy and personalities which have become an inspiration to others.”

Ripe Market customers enjoying a meal from the Sweetie Shop and Burger Joint Image Credit: Angel Tesorero/Gulf News

The siblings also thanked the Ripe Market for providing aspiring entrepreneurs like them an opportunity to launch their brands. The pop-up market, which is open every Friday (9am-7pm) and Saturday (10am-7pm) is home to local businesses loved by the community.

Another store in the pipeline

Faizah and Shoayb said their success can be attributed to hard work, creativity and a desire to provide quality food. They said their story “is not one of just another new business but one that has flourished during challenging times.”

They added: “There’s always an opportunity and we want to encourage other people to create businesses and become successful. This year, we are planning to expand our concept with a new store in Dubai, an outlet that will bring a fresh new feel to the Dubai fast food scene.”