by: We Rise and Shine
It’s no secret that the natural hair care market has exploded in the last few years due to an overhaul which redefined beauty standards. The emergence of natural hair care brands has fostered a sense of pride which encouraged black women to embrace their curls, and built a community of women who share tips about products and styles, as well as their personal journeys with textured hair. One of the pioneers in the industry is Miko Branch, CEO of the coveted brand Miss Jessie’s. Through her salon and hair care products, she has revolutionized a market which helmed straight hair as the standard for beauty.
Miko Branch was born to an African American father and a Japanese American mother in the early 1970’s. As a child, Miko was captivated by visual presentation and beauty. She enjoyed tea parties, dressing up, doing make up and experimenting with different hairstyles. Miko adds, “I thought my mother was very stylish and beautiful. Although I saw my mother in me, I did notice that our hair was extremely different. Her hair was really long, straight and black. Mine was multi-textured, kinky and shrunk up. I wanted my hair to look like hers and did everything I could to slick it down.” Miko’s grandmother, Jessie Branch, always made sure to get Miko’s hair washed, conditioned, braided or blow-dried straight whenever she came to visit. When Miko had to go back home to Queens, she found herself experimenting with different products. Fascinated with hair, Miko perfected her craft and became the "go-to" stylist for friends and family.
Miko went on to study Fashion Design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City but immediately realized that it was not the path for her, due largely in part to the time invested in the projects and her desire to receive instant gratification in her finished product. Recognizing her talent for hairstyling, she enrolled herself in beauty school the day after she graduated from FIT. After working in a variety of salons, she launched her own hair practice in her Brooklyn studio. In 1997, Miko opened her first storefront salon with her sister TiTi, using the capital raised from freelancing gigs, photoshoots and advertising campaigns.
In 2000 Miko welcomed the birth her son, which altered the way she maintained her hair. She began to experiment with wearing her hair in more textured styles because of the challenge of keeping her hair straight while caring for her baby. The more she wore her hair in textured styles the more her clients noticed and started requesting the look. After awhile the salon started to attract natural haired clients and triggered an idea in Miko’s head. Miss Jessie’s Salon formerly known as Curve Salon, was the first salon to specialize in BLACK CURLY HAIR. She developed an innovative strategy to showcase textured hair and the styles that could be achieved by sharing “Before and After” photos on the website.
After discovering there were simply no products on the market that catered to their clientele’s hair type, Miko and Titi began experimenting with products and recipes in creative ways, which they tested on their customers. In 2004 Miss Jessie's Natural Hair Products were introduced consisting of styling cremes, moisturizers and deep conditioning treatments. Miko spearheaded key marketing and positioning decisions to make Miss Jessie's a coveted brand. Using detailed instructions on the packaging has given women an organized game-plan and language on how to maintain and sustain their Curls, Kinks and Waves.
Although Miko was initially focused on BLACK CURLY HAIR, what was learned through Miss Jessie’s Salon and Miss Jessie’s Products was that, it’s no longer about BLACK CURLY HAIR, it's about CURLY HAIR. She believes that texture is something that unites us together with a common set of issues and it's more about texture and less about race. Miss Jessie’s products have won awards from Allure, Essence and Redbook for being the best in the industry.
In a newly released memoir and business guide, "Miss Jessie's - Creating a Successful Business from Scratch - Naturally," Miko shares inspirational life lessons and unique business advice. You can purchase your copy here!