Last month we gave you the inside scoop on new the book, “MISS JESSIE’S: Creating a Successful Business from Scratch — Naturally“, detailing the journey of sisters Titi and Miko Branch from Brooklyn, New York to founding a salon and the infamous Miss Jessie’s hair care line that catapulted the natural hair movement. We were able to attend the DC stop of the Miss Jessie’s book tour earlier this week and hear first hand from Miko Branch how Miss Jessie’s became one of the first and most iconic natural hair line of the millennium. But if you thought the book would be solely about natural hair and products, you are mistaken. The novel shares the story of the sisters growing up in a strict home raised by a strict African American father, Japanese American mother and wise grandmother, realizing their gifts while enduring growing pains and mistakes TOGETHER.
Miko was very candid in sharing that the Branch girls came from humble beginnings and those humble beginnings played a huge role in how their salon and product line came to fruition. Miko and Titi had a loyal following from the beginning, doing hair out of the family home in “the hood”.
They would have to come to the hood (crowd laughs). Through Bedstuy, past Fulton lol. And they came lol.
She shared how a combination of being a single mother and not having time to perm her own hair and not having money to buy products just about forced them to create their own. But another major motivating factor was wanting to encourage women of color to embrace their natural hair.
We have been made to believe that our hair is not good hair, but I think we can all agree that we have the best hair.
So they took to the kitchen, mixing and experimenting with ingredients until they found the right balance to get the result they wanted. The products caught fire and had the community buzzing. The word spread so much so that they got a call from Target wanting to sell Miss Jessie’s products in their stores.
Target called us. We were two girls in Bedstuy, Brooklyn working. Natural hair, yall know natural hair is not easy. Just really honing in on our skill, coming up with more product. But we had limited distribution before Target called us. Because of Curly Pudding, because of women like this sis over here who really thought that it was helpful, because it was, that word of mouth was so tremendous. People were talking online and Target heard about Miss Jessie’s… And finally they called us. We didn’t know anything about getting into Target. Normally it’s the other way around lol. You have to convince Target to sell your brand, but I think it was God looking out for us ultimately.
It may seem crazy to some, but Miko still does hair in the salon on Saturdays despite the huge success of Miss Jessie’s products which keep her pretty busy. But there’s a method to the madness.
We reference what was going on in our salon in order to come up with our product. There would be no way we could have pulled a Curly Pudding or a Baby Buttercreme out of our hat without understanding the needs of our clients. Our salon was our lab. Every head of hair that I touched, when you guys went home and we did the last client, we talked about everything that we saw. We talked about what we didn’t have to make your hair look better and that’s how we figured out what our next product would be. The salon meant everything to Miss Jessie’s and we wouldn’t be where we are without it.
But the salon owner’s biggest tip about styling is simply learning your hair.
Experiment with every product that you’re interested in. You practice with every comb, every tool that catches your eye. You look at every video that catches your interest. Then you find something that works for you and once you do, stick with it. And then when you’re ready to try something else, try it. It’s hair, it’s gonna grow back (crowd laughs).
With the steady success of both the salon and Miss Jessie’s products, Titi and Miko thought it was time to work on their next product…knowledge. They decided to package it in the form of a book.
We were busy in our business. We were learning everything right there together. We didn’t have the time to share all the things we knew that were so wonderful about what we discovered and what we’ve learned along the way. So around 2012, my sister called me in October and said now is the time. Let’s write our book. We wanted to tell our story because it’s a funny story and it’s an honest story. When we wrote the story we didn’t want to tell yall how great we are. We didn’t want to tell you how we get along all the time (laughs with sarcasm). We wanted to really share our story in the most authentic way and the larger story is if we can do it, you can do it too. We knew we could influence people. We knew we could change the way women felt about their hair. We saw that, so we thought if we could change the way you felt about your hair, we could influence you to be your own boss, being independent, be free in your mind to do things your way. We thought we could influence you in the same way by sharing our story in the same way we shared our story through a jar of Curly Pudding.
Titi Branch passed away in December of 2014 before the release of the book under circumstances that are still under investigation. Miko made it very clear that Titi’s impact is one that will last a lifetime.
I don’t think everyone knows how generous and how kind Titi was. I’m here to tell it. She was extremely kind. She was extremely generous. And it wasn’t because of me, it was because of Titi. Titi wanted to share with the public how to do their hair. Now you gotta understand, I was the stylist. What do stylists do? We hold you guys prisoner with our know how and our expertise. Why? So you can come back and we can get you with that two-week appointment because we knew something you guys didn’t. But it was Titi..this was when we got our product, Titi who thought it was important to that we share with you how to use the product. I said Titi now you’re gonna blow our business lol. And she put her foot down and she said no, me and you know so much about this hair and we can help these ladies. And Titi had the last word on that one.
Miko hinted around to more volumes of the book because the Miss Jessie’s brand and the Branch family has so much more to offer the world than Curly Pudding and hair products. The lessons learned and wisdom gained through their journey is just as valuable.
Check out more photos from the DC tour stop below.
“MISS JESSIE’S: Creating a Successful Business from Scratch — Naturally” is available for purchase at Amazon.com.