The perfect concoction for creating a successful business is hard work, dedication and setting the right values. Miko Branch, CEO and co-founder of Miss Jessie’s natural hair care line has perfected the proper ingredients in creating just that — from scratch.
In 2004, Miko Branch and her late sister Titi Branch, created Miss Jessie’s hair products. Since then, the brand has been taking the curly hair industry by storm. From their signature products of Curly Pudding to Baby Buttercreme, they’ve paved the way for many natural hair care lines today.
Miko recently moved the business from New York to Miami. The entrepreneur was not only looking for a change for her business, she also wanted a change for her personal life as well.
“I’m pleased with the talent Miami has to offer,” Branch shared. “I am approaching the relocation of our company as if I am starting the business from scratch again. I get a chance to tweak areas that need tweaking, throw away the stuff I don't like and keep all of the things that work well.”
While adjusting to her move to Miami, Branch is currently working on her second book that she hopes to release in 2018. The book will focus on how entrepreneurship is continuously evolving. Branch said there are values that she still holds true but there are also instances where she has completely different philosophies after being in the business for over two decades. She wants readers to understand that a variety of changes can occur when building a business.
“In my second book, I also talk about my singular experience running Miss Jessie’s without my beloved partner and sister Titi Branch,” Branch said. “Sharing the experience of running a business alone and the knowledge and wisdom that I’ve gained along the way will be very helpful to others. The lessons I've learned and my new understanding in business is going to be very important to the reader because as we know, anything can happen. There's a large message in the book about perseverance once unforeseen tragedy hits.”
Branch thinks it's important to shine a light on exactly what it takes to create something successful from scratch. Branch also pointed out the importance of maintaining one's self during the journey and growth process.
Like each product, the sisters’ business was built with love, originality and the strong influence from their grandmother, Jessie Mae Branch and their father, Jimmy Branch who taught the sisters early on the importance of creating their own and being their own boss. The curly hair brand is named after their grandmother, Miss Jessie.
“They came out of the civil rights era so they understood the importance of being in a position of choice,” Branch said. “They saw many people fight for the rights we are able to enjoy today. Our father was blessed with two daughters and he thought that exercising our rights and freedoms were the most important part of our upbringing for becoming independent women. He couldn't think of a better way for us to do it than for us to be our own bosses.”
It was their grandmother who taught them how to mix concoctions with great consistency, aroma, color and texture. She taught them everything they needed to know at her kitchen table which later influenced them to name products for curly, kinky and wavy hair after their grandmother's delicious food. That’s where the trend of food references in the natural and curly hair industry started.
“When it came time for us to make our Curly Pudding, Baby Buttercremes and Curly Meringue from scratch at our kitchen table, we were thinking of our grandmother, Miss Jessie,” Branch reminisced.
In the midst of its success, the creation of Miss Jessie’s like other businesses did not come easy. It took time and there were setbacks and sacrifices to build the brand.
Early on, the sisters lost their first business and salon. They also shared clothes, were roommates and didn’t party like most in their early 20s in order to save money. Through their process, they took manageable steps of teaching themselves administrative principles in business. Negotiations, operations, production and marketing were areas they learned as they built their business brick by brick. While they were learning and working in their industry, they were also taking the time to create and perfect their hair products, creams and lotions at their kitchen table in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.
“There wouldn't be a Miss Jessie’s if Titi and I had not lost our first business and salon,” Branch said. “We would not have had to think outside the box to create a solution for women and their curly, kinky, wavy hair had we’d been successful and comfortable in our first business. Because we experienced failure early on, I’ve learned to look at setbacks as wisdom which I acknowledge for the next go around. With all of the hard lessons learned, I am now able to be bigger, stronger, better and faster and I don’t want to duplicate the same mistake from the time before.”
Branch emphasized that the real success of the brand came from the partnership with her sister, Titi. They both created Miss Jessie’s with their God given talent from their hearts with love. Although they were both good at many things individually, their partnership brought out the magic that would propel their business to its fullest potential.
“When I first went into business with my sister, I thought I would only be doing what I loved,” Branch said. “I imagined I would be styling hair all day. I also thought my sister was going to handle all of the business. But, once the business started to take form, I realized that it was not practical for me to just do the creative part of the business. It became clear that I needed to understand basic business principles. Particularly for two girls who didn't go to business school, I had to become an equal partner to my sister and my sister had to become an equal partner to me. Titi learned how to do hair and I learned more about administrative and operations in business. Together, we learned about things like negotiations, boot strapping, supply and demand and many other aspects of business.”
The mogul’s advice to young entrepreneurs is to keep the brand manageable while in build mode. In times of setbacks or failure, the chances of someone being able to recover, are greater rather than taking big leaps that are hard to bounce back from in the beginning. She also suggests that entrepreneurs forgive themselves if they make mistakes along the way.
“We as business owners tend to be really hard on ourselves if we make a mistake,” Branch said. “Some of us have lost our business like Titi and I did early in our partnership. Being able to work through the challenges are key. Stay focused and keep your eye on succeeding while plowing through the failure. There are no rule books when it comes to creating your own business. We can follow what we may have learned in business school or from the advice of a mentor, but real life will take form and its best to be agile when those moments kick in. If you make a mistake, forgive yourself and try again!”
Branch also stated that their brand stands out because Miss Jessie’s is truly the original. They became trailblazers and innovators that created the business from scratch by blending their own personalities into the brand.
“You can't pick up a jar or a tube of Miss Jessie’s Curly Pudding, Baby Buttercreme, or Pillow Soft Curls without feeling the heartbeat of my sister, my grandmother or myself,” Branch said. It’s all there in every product that we ever made.”
With the New Year ahead, Branch has a strong desire to get a deeper understanding of the business she created with her sister. It is safe to say, Miss Jessie's is here to stay after it weathered so many storms. She also continues to remind us curly haired sisters that what God gave us is a gift. He truly wanted us to have something special.
“Once you have what God gave you, it's yours to do whatever you want with your hair,” says Branch. “If you want to wear it natural, relaxed, straight, braided, loc'd or blonde, you can! Why? Because it is yours to do whatever you'd like. Just have fun and enjoy yourself while doing so.”
Speaking of exploring different hairstyles, look forward to trying something new in the New Year. Miss Jessie’s has five new products that they’ll to be sharing with everyone in 2018. "Hold Me Down" is one of them. A super soft hold, non flaking edge control gel is coming your way! You can get it directly at www.missjessies.com
“We made some amazing new products for your hair and we are so excited!” Branch shares.