Miss Jessie’s Miko Branch: From Failure To Fandom

Miss Jessie’s Miko Branch:

From Failure to Fandom

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Their’s was a fairytale story.

Coming from humble beginnings in Queens, New York, Miko and Titi Branch never once took a loan nor investment from anyone, and now their brand, Miss Jessie’s is firmly indented as one of the world leaders on the natural haircare map.

We spoke to Miko, Co-Founder and CEO of Miss Jessie’s about the beginnings of the brand and how her and sister Titi were bestowed the entrepreneurial urge from within the very home they grew up in.

Miko remembers her grandmother Miss Jessie fondly – a steadfast in the kitchen, a comforting but stern presence in her and her twin sisters’ lives, and a monumental piece of their entrepreneurial journey. A one-armed lady who taught the girls all they needed to know about life, business, and how to survive in the world once you’ve failed. She prepared them for their struggles, but also their rise to fame as the sisters who re-invented haircare for the African-American woman. “She was the first CEO we ever had contact with.” she muses, “My grandmother rared our family from the kitchen table.”

“All we had was an idea, all we had was each other” – Miko

Miko and her late sister Titis’ father also trained the twins to be entrepreneurs. Between their father and their grandmother, the girls were quick to start their own business. Their first foray into entrepreneurship however did not go so well, and the business failed in 1999. Miko recalls her and sister “made some decisions that resulted in us losing our business.” It was to be the first major setback that would ultimately pave the way for the multi-million dollar Miss Jessie’s brand we know today.

It was while bathing her son one evening when Miko developed the idea for the haircare brand. Her then-straightened hair frizzed up upon contact with moisture and got Miko thinking about why she was muting her big natural curls. Why not embrace her unique hairstyle? With a likeminded and extremely capable sister, and their salon at the ready, Miss Jessie’s begun.

When the conversation shifted to allowing your natural hairstyle, and embracing your roots, Miko wondered whether people would be hesitant to move away from straighteners and curlers. The fashionable thing was not to be au naturale, rather, was to be styled or pulled in one way or another, so your hair did not resemble its natural state. People actually wanted to wear their hair in its naturally curly, kinky or wavey state, but just didn’t know how.  “To my surprise” she says, “it created a conversation that was favourable. It took me no time to understand that this was our opportunity to get our business back.” 

“We learned how to mix things from scratch” – Miko

The sisters took to the kitchen and began working to find the best recipes, dedicating themselves to coming out with products that “perform and work.” They were to become specialists in everything curly, kinky and wavey as their was nothing in this range at the time lining the shelves of CVS or Walgreens.

“It was Titi who cracked the nut” – Miko

“Titi stayed up later than me” Miko recalls, and it was Titi that cracked the nut.” Miko’s sister was the one to come up with recipe for what is now called ‘curly pudding,’ and there they had it. Miss Jessie’s, Miko believes, came “out of necessity,” but it was the twins’ drive to meet this necessity that produced this whirlwind journey they would embark on from the first ‘curly pudding.’

From there, they began to put a premium on their services in their salon to come up with the capital needed to expand the brand. Not once did they receive an angel investment or a familial or friendly loan, building their business as they went.

Their ability to captivate – unrivalled; their marketability – seamless; and their devotion to the home-grown brand – personal.

By 2001, Miss Jessie’s was launched and by 2004 they had become product innovators with the ‘winning formulation’ for Miss Jessie’s, with the first of its products circulated on to supermarket shelves. The business has only gone from strength to strength since then. Titi tragically died in 2014, but Miko has continued to push the legacy and popularity of the brand, having penned a harper-collins bestseller Miss Jessie’s: Creating a Successful Business from Scratch – Naturally, with her sister before she passed, and now has another book on the way. 

The Miss Jessie’s sisters grew their brand from the ground up, and on the back of hard work, grit, determination, and failure. Miko chimes that if there was anything she could tell aspiring female entrepreneurs, it would be “have no fear, and embrace your failures. They will become the stepping stones to your success.” 

Amy Corcoran

The Associate Editor of SWAAY: Amy is an Irish writer, avid foodie and feminist with an insatiable appetite for novels and empowering women's writing. She has enjoyed calling Dublin, Paris and now New York her home.

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