Here at Air & Grace, we're passionate about supporting other small businesses.
We know how much goes into running a small business, and it's so important to lift each other up. When we were asked to be involved in The Prince's Trust campaign for International Women's Day, we were thrilled to have the opportunity not only to raise money for this amazing cause, but also to amplify the voices of Young Ambassadors.
We caught up with the wonderful Belocine Musolo, founder of Nephtali Couture, a clothing brand based in Scotland. Inspired by her double culture (French & Congolese), Belocine creates gorgeous clothing and accessories using mainly African textiles. Belocine took part in The Enterprise Program with The Prince's Trust, and is now a Young Ambassador, winning 'The Most Promising Newcomer' award in 2019.
Tell us about Nephtali Couture, What prompted you to start the business?
Sewing has been my hobby for years, and I was only making clothes for myself. When I came to Ayr, I realised that people were wearing dark colours a lot, and I also received many compliments on my colourful handmade clothes. So I decided that I would share my culture and love of African textile, with people of Scotland and anyone who'd like to, and started my brand in February 2018.
"My goal is to bring you JOY through our bold prints and colourful textiles."
Every product is handmade in my living room in Ayr. I create headbands, skirts, sweatshirts, and accessories.
Tell us a little bit about how The Prince's Trust has supported you? Are there any big challenges have they helped you overcome?
I was worried about the legal aspects of business, as starting a business in France requires paperwork, accounting notions, etc... What did I need to start a small business here?
The Prince's Trust gave me the answers to my questions, and reassured me in my business journey. They said that it was okay for me to start my business while having another job, as my side hustle will happen after my corporate working hours.
Then in 2019, I won "The Most Promising Newcomer Award" from The Prince's Trust Scotland. It made me very proud. I also appeared in an ad for the Trust in 2020, I did a few videos where I shared my story, and today I am a Young Ambassador.
"The Prince's Trust reassured me in my business journey..."
As a Young Ambassador with The Prince's Trust, what advice would you give to other young entrepreneurs who are looking for support as they get started?
I would tell them that no man is an island, so it's okay to ask for help. One thing that I was surprised with in my journey, is the amount of free information and help there is for entrepreneurs here in the UK.
Take advantage of it, get as much info and education as possible, and be mentored by people who have experience and can guide them in their journey. Lastly, I would tell them to be bold enough to believe in themselves and start their businesses with the resources they have now (and be patient as nothing comes overnight).
"No man is an island, so it's okay to ask for help..."
African prints and fabrics are a big part of your USP. How do you source your materials?
I have a supplier based in Cotonou (Benin, Africa). When I need fabric I call her, she goes to the market, buys the fabric from local stores and then sends it to me. I love sourcing my fabric this way, because it provides the local owners with an essential income and a fair price for their work. There aren't many intermediaries.
To prevent the importation fees due to Brexit, I also have another supplier based in London, who sources the fabric from Nigeria.
And for all the accessories (elastics, zippers, cotton fabric...), I purchase it locally from the Edinburgh Fabric store.
As an entrepreneur, you wear many hats in your business. From designer and seamstress, to photographer and model! What is your favourite part of running Nephtali Couture?
I love making the products! I pour my heart into each item I make, because I want my customers to receive a well made product and be happy with their purchase. Sometimes wearing all the caps can be overwhelming, especially when I have a 9 to 5 job, then work on my business on evenings and weekends. But, each design that I make, I do it with love and with the final customer in mind.
"I pour my heart into each item I make..."
I also love the marketing part, thinking of ways to promote my products, making videos, managing social media and being the customer service as well. The feedback from customers is amazing, my products have been well welcomed by Scottish people, but also English, Irish, Welsh (let's say all UK, haha), and I am very grateful and happy for that.
Do you have a favourite product? Which do you wear most often?
The Bokonzi headband. It's easy to wear and very comfortable (with an elastic in the back, so you don't have to bother adjusting it). It's perfect on bad hair days and I just love its colours.