Miko Branch: Turning a One-chair Salon into a Hair Empire

July 15 - On The Dot
It’s a great day to be a woman! Melinda Garvey here as your voice, with the mission to give women everywhere a place to be heard and tell their stories. We’d love to hear from you!

FIRST THOUGHT: Redefining Iconic Beauty

What is considered beautiful is often based on trends, and some trends are crazier than others. Ancient Greeks were fans of the unibrow. Victorians would bite their lips and pinch their cheeks to create a natural pinkish hue. And before the 20th century, the Japanese would use an iron-based drink to dye their teeth black.

Needless to say, forget the trends! Being yourself never goes out of style.


A recent Nielson report discovered that African-American consumers have $1 trillion worth of buying power, and they buy nine times more ethnic beauty products than any other group.

As many women know, the traditional ideas of beauty, products, services and advertising are long gone. If businesses would just listen to who consumers are and what they want instead of who they want their consumers to be, beauty-based businesses would be more than just inclusive; they’d be wildly successful too.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Miko Branch, Founder and CEO of Miss Jessie’s

In 1997, hairstylist Miko Branch and her sister, Titi, started a tiny one-chair salon. But their fascination with all things hair began in their childhood. Their father was African-American and their mother was Japanese, and much of their interest in hairstyling was driven by their desire to deal with their own multi-textured hair.

Since most salons seemed to lack the experience with their type of hair, the sisters started making their own hair-care products that focused on curly, wavy and kinky hair. Their concoctions tapped into a market that businesses weren’t addressing. The only thing out there was gel and mousse, and it was usually designed for looser curls.

Soon after, they started a business called Miss Jessie’s, named for their beloved grandmother, who was a great cook known for her prowess in the kitchen. They named their go-to product Curly Pudding, in honor of their grandmother, and started packaging it in 2004. Demand was incredibly high, so they were able to upgrade from blending the product in a KitchenAid mixer to mixing it in a huge pizza-dough mixer.

While Miss Jessie’s was initially launched for “tighter, coarser ethnic hair,” Miko Branch realized customers of every ethnicity loved it. These days, the company offers all kinds of products, from cleansers to leave-in conditioners, as well as must-see tips and tricks for styling various hair types, and also has a thriving salon in New York City.

Early on, Miss Jessie’s got some good PR, and the sisters landed spots in several notable magazines, like O (as in The Oprah Magazine) and Elle. The folks at Target saw Miss Jessie’s products in these publications and gave the sisters the opportunity to sell their products throughout the country.

Last year, Miko Branch published a candid memoir called Miss Jessie’s: Creating a Successful Business from Scratch – Naturally, noting that without business school and mentors, she was able to find success by using common sense and trusting her gut.

But while the company’s growth was soaring, Titi Branch was quietly battling depression and, sadly, took her own life in 2014. Since then, Miko Branch has been an outspoken advocate of destroying the stigma of mental illness, and touts her sister’s influence for much of her success.

Branch isn’t afraid of doing what others shy away from. And with a self-built empire of hair-care products and services as her domain, this entrepreneur has created one heck of a beautiful business, naturally.


With the success of Miko Branch in mind, I’ll leave you today with a quote from musician India Arie, who said:

“I am not my hair. I am not my skin. I am the soul that lives within.”

That’s all for now. Be sure to share this so more women can have a voice! Thanks for getting ready with us.

To learn more about our conversation, check us out at OnTheDotWoman.com and talk to us @OnTheDotWoman on Twitter and Instagram. We’d love to hear your voice.

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