In a world full of wannabes, copycats, and fakes, every now and again, you come across a true original. Someone with that special something that comes so naturally, so effortlessly, and just about stops you in your tracks.
And for me, an ultra-motivated, success-obsessed entrepreneur gal in year two of growing and building a content marketing business in Miami, nothing fills up my cup more than finding other like-minded women to learn from.
Enter, Miko Branch. The latest to make my #girlboss loving heart skip a beat, and grab my attention in that stop-and-stare, solar eclipse kind of way.
Self-made? Yes. Dedicated? Absolutely. Authentic to her core? Like no other.
And she’s not just a one-hit wonder. Miko Branch, Co-Founder, Creative Director and Co-CEO of Miss Jessie’s, the all-star line of hair products designed to keep curly hair naturally beautiful, has been around since the early 2000’s. After recognizing that the hair care market was pushing too many make-your-hair-straight products and not enough, embrace-your-natural-curls products, Miko and her sister, Titi, cooked up a recipe all their own. Inspired by their grandmother Jessie’s can-do attitude, there was no hesitation when it came time to choosing a name for their new product.
From local New York City specialty shops to over 400 Target stores across the country, Miko’s Miss Jessie hair product line has blown up just in time for the natural hair trend to take center stage. As a curly haired New York girl myself, you can imagine why I’m crushing as hard on the product as I am with the creator. And as fate would have it, I found myself on the same speaker line up as Miko, at the upcoming Women Empower Expo in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
(She’s officially my #bossbabe soulmate, there’s no doubt.)
Hungry to know more from this awe-inspiring gal (and giddy with excitement to meet her in just a few days), I was pleased to hear she was willing to let me pick her brain a bit. And in the interest of always wanting to inspire others, I just had to share what I learned, so that you, too, can crush as hard as me.
So, there’s no denying it or avoiding the issue – you’re the goddess of all things curly hair. Give us the rundown on how this became your claim to fame.
Wow! I do appreciate the compliment, because honestly, my sister, Titi, and I worked very hard to pave this path and create an entirely new line of hair care products for natural and curly hair. Like most great inventions, we started Miss Jessie’s out of necessity. In the early 1990s, there were virtually no hair care products that were specifically formulated to address the particular needs of wavy, curly, or kinky hair. That included me! The idea of Miss Jessie’s really sparked when one evening I was bathing my new son. He loved bath time and would always splash about. That night he splashed just enough water to get my straight-styled hair wet. And that was that. My hair shrunk, frizzed and curled up and as a new mother I just did not have the time or energy to keep fighting Mother Nature, so I just started to wear my hair natural and curly. I did the best that I could, and I was shocked when women started to compliment me on my hair, and were eager to know how they could get the same look. I immediately switched gears. Titi and I changed our business approach, and we became the experts in styling natural hair. To maintain the look, we were forced to make our concoctions that we used in the salon right in our apartment. Over time, clients asked if they could have some of our kitchen table concoctions to hold them over in between salon visits. Before long, we were selling more product than we were styling hair. We would style hair during the day, and then make product all night long. Literally, mixing the product by hand at our kitchen table in our Brooklyn brownstone. The success grew, because we posted before and after photos of our clients. Many were amazed with how beautiful natural hair could be. Women started coming to the salon from all over the country all hours of the day and night. That was too much. We lived in the brownstone and we could not have strangers just show up. That’s when we branched into a few local trendy shops in Brooklyn, and we distributed our product through small stores.
Then, one day, we got a call from someone saying, “Listen. Target has been trying to reach you. Target wants to carry Miss Jessie’s.”
We could not believe it. We were two women minding our business and styling hair in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. We could not understand how we landed on Target’s radar. But, we did. Within in a few years, we were sold in WalMart, CVS, Walgreens, Sally's, and thousands of other beauty supply stores. I am not sure that a Goddess would need to work that hard!
How did your grandmother, the infamous “Miss Jessie” influence your success?
My parental grandmother, “Miss Jessie,” was the first CEO who I saw up close and personal. She ran our entire family and her household like a Fortune 500 company. She set and managed a budget, she monitored her inventory, she negotiated prices for everything that came into her house or landed on her table, and she gave directions and delegated from her perch in her kitchen. She was a problem solver and was fiercely independent. She could always find a way to get what she needed, and when that failed, she just made it herself. Titi and I embraced her spirit and we did the same. We built our business from scratch, and we had the courage to do so, because we grew up under a woman, who showed us that all things were possible.
What would you say scared you most about putting your idea out into the world?
I was not scared to place our handmade hair concoctions in the market place because I had nothing to lose. There was little to nothing in the market for natural and curly hair so as pioneers, we had to create the market ourselves. Had we known what we were about to attempt to accomplish, I imagine I would have been terrified! Luckily we were too busy making jars and jars of curl magic in our Brooklyn brownstone.
How did you overcome that fear?
I wasn’t fearful because we were very busy making the product from scratch. The phones kept ringing so I had little time to allow the fear to set in, given the new volume of business we had - a result of a brand new market created with a new need for styling solutions and natural and curly hair products. This market did not exist prior - we had to create it.
Name three reasons why you believe you’re successful.
Easy. First, I love what I do. Second, I am good at what I do. Third, my passion is profitable. These three important things do not always come together.
Let’s talk about Titi. What did she mean to the brand as a powerful co-founder and what legacy does she leave behind?
Titi was awesome! Growing up, there was nothing that Titi could not do. I literally idolized her. She was smart, caring, stylish, and so funny and beautiful. I just loved her, and she loved me. I was so fortunate to have Titi in my life. Somehow, she managed to keep me feeling protected, but at the same time, allowed me to be myself without any fear of judgment. Her legacy definitely lives through me and the Miss Jessie’s brand, because Titi was responsible for cracking the nut and making our very first, revolutionary product, Curly Pudding. She used every bit of her God given talent to make Miss Jessie’s a success. At the same time, she lent her generous nature and desire to help others lead her in both her personal and professional life. Her good intentions are evident in every single jar and tube of Miss Jessie's products. I carry her legacy with pride every single day.
You see, Miko Branch’s success story proves what I’ve always known to be true: when strong women get together to inspire one another and grow together, only the best can come from it.
Check out Miko (and myself) on Saturday October 7th at the Women Empower Expo where Miko is a keynote speaker for the event and I will be sitting on a panel to educate about the benefits of using social media to grow your business. Click here to buy tickets and for more schedule information!
About the author:
Michelle Dempsey is an internationally published author, President and Founder of her Content Marketing business, Michelle Dempsey Very-Well Written, Vice President of Fort Lauderdale-based female professional networking group, ProFemmes, mom to one amazing toddler babe, and all around #girlgang advocate. Connect with her here: