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How Miko Branch Is Continuing the Crusade for Natural Hair Care

After more than a decade in business, Miss Jessie’s continues to separate itself from the competition.  With two dozen products on the market in major retailers such as Target and Walmart, the company has come a long way. CEO and co-founder Miko Branch created the brand -with her late sister Titi Branch- while sitting in the kitchen mixing products. After staying low and focusing on her business for a few years, the executive is back.

On January 15, 2018 — Martin Luther King Jr. day —  Miss Jessie’s is releasing two new products. A moisturizing finishing spray and an edge control gel will be added to the lineup as finishing products for women on the go.

“Being in the beauty business for over a decade, we’ve created many products — particularly for the woman with the tighter coil curl,” Branch told Atlanta Black Star. “There’s [sic] so many different textures … and quite honestly, there’s something for everyone. So at this point, Ms. Jessie’s decided we’re going to make a little bit of something for everyone, and I think everyone is happy.”

Privately owned with no investors, Miss Jessie’s, which is named after the Branches’ grandmother, began after the siblings opened a hair parlor called Curve Salon in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in 1997. Miss Jessie’s first product, Curly Pudding, was developed at Titi’s kitchen table, and now is joined by several more products — from cleansers to deep-treatments and moisturizing stylers — meant to hydrate kinky, coily, wavy and curly tresses. Since Miss Jessie’s launched in 2004, many other natural hair brands have waded into the market. But Branch says her company firmly separates itself from its competitors.

Miss Jessie’s is the first to come to market with a non-chemical Curly Pudding, a styling creme that helps women define their tight coil curl.

“You have to understand, Titi and I are pioneers, we are the first,” she said. “Being the first, it has its joys, but it also has its challenges. Later on, when the competitors come, you have to keep up that momentum.”

In the last few years, Branch herself has had to make some adjustments. Since losing Titi to suicide in 2014, things have stalled a bit as Miko figured out how to move forward on her own. She says the business she set up with Titi has eased the transition.

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“Carrying the business on with Titi not being here has had its challenges for me,” Branch said. “Just like the heartbreak of my sister not being here [has had its challenges], but because we built this business from scratch … I was able to understand. But it’s better with my partner, absolutely.”

Miko describes 2014 as a significant year. She said she got focused. She focused on what the brand means to consumers. Then, she decided what to do to move forward.

“Eventually [I had to] figure out what my new master plan would be because I needed one,” she said.

Miss Jessie's

The Baby ButterCreme is actress Lupita Nyong’o’s favorite product, Miko said. (Miss Jessie’s)

But even though Titi is no longer here, Branch says her sister’s presence is still felt.

In 2007, the siblings began partnering with local naturalistas who wanted to try out natural hair products.

“When I’m here speaking with you guys, I feel like this, too, is an extension of all of that early work that we put in [during] the early days,” she said. “So I feel really good and really welcome but I just feel — I feel quite emotional and a little overwhelmed.”

As a result of the siblings’ connection to Atlanta, Branch said during the interview that she felt her sister’s spirit.

“When I feel Titi’s spirit, her spirit comes over me in a particular form,” she said. “I usually feel heat and it starts from up here [places hands near forehead] and it comes down [waves down to shoulders] and it starts penetrating this area [waves hands over chest] and then it just subsides once it gets past my breastbone. … I just feel her spirit deeply and strongly right now. I think it’s an Atlanta thing. We did a lot here to build the Miss Jessie’s profile and also to build our relationship with our customers here.”

And with the company poised to release new products to serve those customers who have been waiting patiently for new items, it’s safe to say the company won’t have any issues keeping their customers in Atlanta and around the globe.

Miss Jessie’s new finishing products will be available in January. And the Branch sisters’ book, “Miss Jessie’s: Creating a Successful Business from Scratch — Naturally” is available now.

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