Miko Branch is the Co-Founder and CEO of Miss Jessie’s products for curly hair.
Under the tutelage of her African-American father, Miko Branch was raised to be an entrepreneur. Influenced by her Japanese mother and fascinated with her childhood beauty idols (Cher, Donna Summer, and Chaka Khan), Miko learned to appreciate and pay close attention to everything that was beautiful.
As she grew, she merged her love of beauty with her entrepreneurial spirit and in more than almost two decades she opened the now famous Miss Jessie’s hair salon together with her sister, Titi. Thereafter, circumstances and fate intervened and transformed Miko from a successful stylist to a style innovator and tastemaker.
MiLLENNiAL caught up with Miko to learn about the journey of launching the first curly-hair salon.
Share the story behind Miss Jessie’s and how it got started.
Miss Jessie’s came about at bath time with my son as he splashed around and got my hair wet. As a busy working Mother I didn’t have time to re-straighten my hair so I had to wear it in its textured/curly state as I serviced our clients in our home salon throughout the day and evening. I immediately knew we were on to something when our clients started complimenting my natural hair and asking me for styling tips. I realized then that there was a market of women looking for solutions to wear their hair curly and natural. I quickly became an expert at styling curls, kinks and waves, but couldn’t find products that supported my styling expertise. My sister Titi and I started mixing ingredients in our Brooklyn Brownstone which is how Miss Jessie’s was born and the rest is history.
How did you decide to focus your salon and product on a specific kind of hair?
Titi and I both were born to an African-American Father and Japanese mother, who gave us our beautiful diverse curls. After multiple requests from our salon clients on curly hair styling tips, after seeing my sister Titi and I embrace our curls, we realized the large amount of women out there that were itching to wear their hair in its natural and textured state. After much research we saw a gap in the industry for salons and products that catered to curly/textured hair that really worked.
What is the most valuable lesson you learned from your grandmother Jessie?
My parental grandmother, “Miss Jessie,” has always been the backbone and inspiration for how Titi and I run our business. My grandmother ran our entire family and her household like a Fortune 500 company. She set and managed a detailed budget, monitored her inventory and negotiated prices for everything that came into her household like a real business women. She was a true problem solver and was always fiercely independent, something that has always inspired me. Even when failures came her way she always kept her head high and found solutions. Titi and I always embraced her entrepreneurial spirit. Titi and I built our business from scratch, and we had the courage to do so, because we grew up under a woman, who showed us that anything was possible.
How did your working dynamic as sisters influenced your brand? What was it like to work together?
Titi was awesome! Being her younger sister I always idolized her from a young age. She was smart, resourceful, fearless, stylish, and so funny and beautiful! I was so fortunate to have Titi in my life as my best friend, sister and business partner – there was nothing more rewarding! Somehow, she managed to always find ways to make the difficult times smoother and really helped me 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.
Name your favorite memory of your sister for those who didn’t get to meet her.
My absolute favorite memory of my sister Titi was actually when we were kids growing up in Queens, NY. As children we were being bullied by a girl named Jeanine. Although terrified, Titi stood up for us and fought our tormentor using skills from her karate lessons our mother made us take. After Titi’s victory, Jeanine called our house every day to apologize which was a wonderful example of what standing up for what you believe in pays off. It was a powerful lesson that we both would have to tap into as we navigated the rough and shark infested waters later on in our careers.
Describe the customer experience at the Miss Jessie’s Salon.
Having a salon to accompany a product brand has always been a dream of mine since it allows us to get 1-on-1 time with our customers. We work with so many lovely women who come in seeking different services from the classic cuts and colors to more specialty services catering to curly hair like coiling, shingling and the Silkener (chemical service). The experience is filled with knowledge, expertise and love as care for our customers one head at a time.
What have been some of the challenges you have faced in the haircare?
As an innovator and pioneer in the haircare industry, I have had a unique challenge in adapting to others mimicking our formulas and brand personality. It has been a maturing process as I have ultimately realized that it is wonderful to be an example that others emulate. As an influencer in business, I am proud of the work that I have accomplished over the years and I am very thankful God gave me a special gift to share with the world through my wonderful partnership with my sister, Titi Branch.
Curly pudding was the first product you ever released, and it revolutionized the hair industry. What makes it so special?
It is soooo good! It’s transformational qualities, without the use of chemicals, were so groundbreaking particularly to a large group of mainly women who had curly hair but did not know it at the time.
In what forms did Miss Jessie’s changed the idea that textured hair is not “in” and that you should straight style your hair.
Most women who switch over to natural and textured hair, make it a lifestyle change not a trend that’s “in.” It’s usually an emotional change that women need to overcome to feel beautiful and confident wearing their hair textured and curly. When Miss Jessie’s launched we wanted to give women an easy tool to be able to style their natural curls and waves and feel confident doing so.
You’ve become a spokesperson for the natural hair movement. What has been the most rewarding moment?
What’s most rewarding is when I see millions of women all over the world sporting natural and textured hair! It wasn’t always like that we started in late 1999. Recently the support of women worldwide wearing their hair natural is so incredible and I can’t wait to see what’s next!
What is next for Miss Jessie’s?
More hair products of course!
These are our latest five:
- Hold Me Down – Edge control
- Gloss So Good – Shine spray
- Honey Curls – styling Gelee
- Mafura Hair Oil – Hair and scalp oil
- Curls So Fresh – Curl refresh