Nkem Ngbeken Tonweh, the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Natty Cole Beauty Studio, is a Nigerian entrepreneur and hair care expert who has found success in the foreign land of Italy, doing hair business. She started as a maverick startup hungry for success and after so much toil and grand success came knocking at her door.
Sharing her success story, Nkem Ngbeken Tonweh narrated the battle she fought as a Black woman in a White man’s country.
“The hair business is a very lucrative business especially if you have good quality hair. With time you get the right niche and you are able to pick up. It’s a very competitive business but like I said you need to find your niche. Everybody can’t be your client. There are different qualities and grades of hair but first, you must find your niche and all will go on smoothly,” she advises.
Going down memory lane, she recounted an uphill journey that was fraught with challenges of all sorts. Challenges peculiar to a Black woman in a White man’s land.
“My entrepreneurial journey hasn’t been easy, especially being a black woman and a foreigner in Italy. Lots of obstacles but we broke through,” she recalled.
“Finding a job in Italy is a very difficult thing especially being a black-skinned person. From the outside it seems all roses but when you are really into the system you would understand how difficult it is. Even though you integrated so well. So after school I decided to look for jobs in which I was passionate about. Jobs where you are always in contact with people but no opportunity was given so I opted out doing my own thing and creating my own business,” she said
“I started out with a little lingerie shop which I later sold after two years. It was my first start up sale and I was really so proud of myself ,” she added.
“After the birth of my second child I decided to give it a try again but I needed to do something I was passionate about but different from others. Doing some research we found out that in Italy there wasn’t a place where you could learn about Afro hair extensions and braids. It took a while with all the necessary permits and we kicked off. It wasn’t easy but we made it. Just after 3 years we were offered a good deal seeing the potential of the business and I agreed,” she states.
In fact her struggle to establish her own business was a battle that caused her so much, even her marriage.
“I had a divorce because of the workload and my ex husband couldn’t understand what building a business was like. So, in the long run we decided to go our separate ways,” she reveals.
Nkem Ngbeken Tonweh debuted as an entrepreneur by starting a lingerie shop. After two years or so, she was done with and sold it out.
Her Natty Cole Beauty Studio was founded in 2014 after she had tested the terrain with Afro Hair School by Mimi which she later sold, in faraway Bergamo, Italy.
She specializes in hair extensions, wigs, braids and dreadlocks. The Natty Cole Beauty Studio also engages in training where courses are offered to people who wish to learn about braids, hair extensions and dreadlocks.
According to her, she decided to venture into the hair business when she discovered through a profound research that there was no place in Italy where all about Afro hair extensions and braids could be learnt.
For three consecutive years, 2016, 2017 and 2018 she was awarded the honour of the Most Innovative Black Woman in her region, the Lombardy region of Italy.
However,Nkem Ngbeken Tonweh’s biggest dream is to penetrate the Nigerian market.
Nkem Ngbeken Tonweh is from Delta State but born in Benin City, Edo State. She attended Lydia Primary School and Presentation National High School ( all girls Catholic boarding school) in Benin. She relocated to Rome, Italy immediately after her secondary school.