Why Miss Jessie’s Book Is A Must Read for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

There is a lot of romanticism around entrepreneurship in America, and among African Americans in particular, as evidenced by the fact that black women continue to be among the fastest growing population of business owners. The heroic story of the everyday person with an innovative idea, but little or no financial resources, overcoming long odds to build a successful company by sheer passion, hard work, faith and determination alone, is the dream of many aspiring entrepreneurs.

As a mentor/advisor to entrepreneurs, a judge of business plan/pitch competitions, veteran business journalist and an entrepreneur myself, I’ve been a major promoter of the benefits of starting and growing a viable business. In the same vein, I’ve always been concerned that not enough attention is paid to the very real challenges and sacrifices necessary to create a product or service and to build a viable, profitable business model to bring it to market. That’s why I love books like Miss Jessie’s: Creating A Successful Business From Scratch—Naturally by Miko Branch with Titi Branch.

Miss Jessie’s is the story of Miko and her late sister Titi’s journey to become pioneer heroes of the natural/curly hair movement, rooted in the lessons and experiences of family, especially the example and wisdom of Miss Jessie herself, the sisters’ paternal grandmother Jessie Mae Branch. The book is written with obvious and abundant affection to the entire family, and is clearly a tribute to Miko’s sister Titi, who died in 2014.

But the true value of the book is the unflinching candor with which Miko describes her and her sister’s journey from being raised in the Borough of Queens in New York City by an African American father and Japanese American mother, to becoming a pioneering brand in the nascent natural hair products industry, to Miss Jessie’s triumphant retail deal with Target. Miko addresses the valleys of their experiencesincluding a lawsuit between her and her sister that nearly destroyed their relationship as well as their companywith as much honesty and detail as she does the high points of opening their first successful salon and creating breakthrough products.

It is this clear-eyed, practical truth-telling, in addition to the helpful business tips clearly broken out throughout, that makes this an invaluable book of instruction for aspiring entrepreneurs, especially those in desperate need of a reality check about what it really means to build a business with no money to start and little to work with along the way. Miss Jessie’s Book not only shows that it can be done; it also shows, step-by-step, what it takes to do it.

This blog is dedicated to my thoughts about money, entrepreneurship, leadership, mentorship and other things I need to get #OffMyChest. Follow me on Twitter at @AlfredEdmondJr.

Miss Jessie’s Miko Branch Shares How To Create A Successful Business In New Book

Miss Jessie’s co-founder and CEO Miko Branch has a new book out that provides  an honest look in the life and lesions she learned along with her late sister, Titi, in building their natural hair care line from the ground up. Titled Miss Jessie’s: Creating a Successful Business from Scratch—Naturally (Amistad, $24.99), the book is part business guide, part memoir. For instance, it recounts the sister’s historic meeting with Target, securing nationwide distribution. It also tells touching family stories.

[Related: Tiffany Foxx Talks Fearlessness, Faith and Love and Hip Hop]

What’s more, the passing of Titi at age 45 was an event that shook their family, the business, and the hair care community. It was also an event that happened right as the galleys for the book were being printed.

The sisters grew Miss Jessie’s from their kitchen table in Brooklyn into a multi-million dollar company.  “We had hands-on experience every day with women who were transitioning to natural hair care,” Miko told Black Enterprise. Frustrated by the lack of products for their customers and themselves, they decided to create their own product line.

The duo launched the Miss Jessie’s line in 2004, named after their paternal grandmother, whipping up homemade hair concoctions. They started selling products in the salon and online. The Branch sisters capitalized on the Internet’s reach by showing before and after photos on their website, letting women see what Miss Jessie’s products could do for them.

“We showed people the possibilities—what you could look like if you were to wear your hair natural,” noted Miko. The company enjoyed steady growth, with their products being sold in retail chains such as Target and CVS, as well as salons.

They sisters credit in part their father for encouraging them to become self-reliant and not to depend on their looks to get ahead. Taking this message to heart, they soaked up the entrepreneurial and creative culture of the early hip hop era on the streets of Brooklyn in the late 1990s and in the high-end salons of Manhattan.

Takeaways from the book include:

  • How to go with your gut feeling
  • How not to dismiss opportunities that may seem too good to be true
  • How to know when to a grow a small business and how to go about do it
  • How to go into business with family and keep church and state separate
  • How to keep personal issues at home and work issues in the office
  • How to build your dream business using a 13-step simple small business recipe

Psychiatrist Dr. Janet Taylor Gives Advice on Women Dealing with Depression

Dr. Janet Taylor is a professional when it comes to helping people heal. A community psychiatrist, her work in confronting mental health will be featured as a  panelist during the discussion, “Enough is Enough! Moving from Pain to POWER” at Black Enterprise’s 2015 Women of Power Summit. “We need to have  a conversation as a topic of the panels about pain,” says the University of Louisville Medical School graduate. “All of us get sad throughout or lives at some point. But usually sometime it can last a minute, sometimes hours, a day, or go away. If you have sadness or depression that lasts more than two weeks, feel helpless or hopeless, or like you want to kill yourself, or not sleeping or eating, you may have a major depression.”

After the December 4, 2014 suicide of Miss Jessie’s co-founder Titi Branch, typical conversations simmer in silent quiet about the epidemic of mental illness in the black community. Holiday time often brings dark feelings that can bubble up to the forefront as work slows and life comes into focus. But when experiencing depression and pain among women of color, Taylor sees a difference. “We’ve been told we’re so strong, sometime it can be a blessing and a curse. Because when we feel tired, I’m talking tired emotionally, we have a hard time saying ‘no.’ And we also have this legacy that we can carry the burden and weight of the world on our shoulders. So I think that in terms of coping,  I think black women will carry a heavier burden and are less inclined to ask for help and to say, ‘no,’ then white women. If you overload a glass plate or table, it can break. So can we,” says Dr. Taylor, a recipient of the 2008 Woman in Medicine Award from the National Medical Association’s Council of Women’s Concerns. “Men are less likely to talk about being depressed and more likely to complete a suicide. Women, even though we are treated at higher rates, it’s because we will talk about how we fell. And I think as black women, we have to willing to take off that cape and say, ‘I can’t do it all.’”

RELATED: 3 Signs You May Need To Seek Counseling

But self-identifying depression can be a path of self-awareness that some women aren’t on, ready to face, or simply accept. “You need to pay attention to the inside. Because one of the traps that we fall into is as long as I can afford my house or make my mortgage payment, pay rent, dress a certain way, or have a certain job, then everything is ok. For black women who have good jobs, or seemingly have power and all these resources, the feeling that they ultimately have about depression are the same as someone from the inner city. I like to say, ‘You just may have on nicer shoes.’” she says.  “But once you know that your life is not how you want it to be. Once you know you’re not as fulfilled or frankly unhappy and hate to wake up and face the day, it’s your responsibility to get help for it. So we have to stop feeling isolated. We need to go to professionals for help.”

Naming a multitude of physical and health factors that can also contribute to depression including diabetes, thyroid disease, HIV, and hypertension, Taylor points out that even certain medications can cause depression. “When you’re feeling that you have no energy, helpless, or hopeless, sad, overwhelmed or you can’t sleep. Or you sleep too much, may under eat or overeat, or you’re just not happy, get a physical and make sure there’s nothing medical going on. And then if you’re clear that way, go and  talked to therapists. It’s great to talk to your girlfriends. But they’re not therapists. That’s not a substitute for talking to a mental health professional,” says Taylor, who’s also appeared on CBS This Morning, NBC’s The Today Show, and ABC’s Good Morning America. “I’ve had therapy before. So I think it’s a healthy experience. Major depression is treatable. But  despite what we know about major depression, we still miss up to 70% of people who may have major depression because they’re either untested or under treated.”

Supportive family and friends can be key in helping someone who is depressed seek the help they need to save their lives. “If a friend or family member reveals to you they’re feeling sad, listen. Don’t try to say, ‘You’ll be ok.’ Don’t minimize it. If someone says they’re not happy, say ‘Maybe you should talk to somebody,’” says Taylor. “There are websites in terms of the Alliance of the Mentally Ill, for families who need to support someone. There’s the National Institute for Mental Health. And also in NYC and other cities there’s 1800 Lifenet. So encourage them to talk to someone. Support them. If you know someone is already on medication or already depressed, one of the worst things to say is, ‘Oh, you need to take your medicine.’ But a better way may be, ‘Have you been taking your medicine? Would you like me to go to the doctor with you? How can I help you? But you need to see someone.’ And certainly if someone says they feel like ending their life, don’t try to talk them out of it. Call 911. And let professionals assess their safety, assess their dangerousness and get them in a safe place.”

Celebrating 10 Years of POWER! Join Black Enterprise at the Women of Power Summit hosted by State Farm, March 2 – March 5, 2015, at Fort Lauderdale Harbor Beach Marriott, Fort Lauderdale, FL. This exciting, executive leadership summit is designed to train, equip and encourage women to become industry leaders, learn career strategies, and discover proven work–life balance techniques. Register Now for your Early Bird Discount http://www.blackenterprise.com/wps. It’s time to Embrace your POWER. The Moment is Now!

Miss Jessie’s, Miko Branch, Releases Touching Video Dedicated to her Late Sister

Image: Youtube

Earlier this month, the natural hair community suffered a tough loss with the unexpected death of Miss Jessie’s co-founder Titi Branch, who was 45-years-old.

Titi along with her sister, Miko, started their natural hair care line in 2004 with the mission to meet the needs of textured hair women. Named after their grandmother, the brand quickly expanded beyond its New York home-based market and into national retail chains such as Target, Wal-Mart and several other stores.

Following Titi’s untimely death, which was made public via an obituary published by NV Magazine, her sister has released a tribute video dedicated to the natural hair guru’s life. In a touching clip, Miko shares intimate family photos of her sister as Stevie Wonder’s hit song, As, plays in the background.

Check the moving tribute piece below.

 

 

Miss Jessie’s, Miko Branch, Releases Touching Video Dedicated to her Late Sister

Image: Youtube

Earlier this month, the natural hair community suffered a tough loss with the unexpected death of Miss Jessie’s co-founder Titi Branch, who was 45-years-old.

Titi along with her sister, Miko, started their natural hair care line in 2004 with the mission to meet the needs of textured hair women. Named after their grandmother, the brand quickly expanded beyond its New York home-based market and into national retail chains such as Target, Wal-Mart and several other stores.

Following Titi’s untimely death, which was made public via an obituary published by NV Magazine, her sister has released a tribute video dedicated to the natural hair guru’s life. In a touching clip, Miko shares intimate family photos of her sister as Stevie Wonder’s hit song, As, plays in the background.

Check the moving tribute piece below.

 

 

Miss Jessie’s Co-Founder Titi Branch Dead At 45

The fashion and beauty world lost an influential leader, as 45-year-old Miss Jessie’s co-founder, Titi Branch, has died.

According to an obituary by NV Magazine, Branch passed away on Dec. 4, but there hasn’t been any confirmation from her family or medical professionals that she committed suicide. A family friend confided to The Washington Post that Branch, a graduate of the University of Maryland, had indeed died.

Miss Jessie’s was founded by Titi and her sister Miko. The duo ran a popular salon in New York City. The company was preparing to have their annual holiday party when it was abruptly canceled without notification. There have been subsequent tweets from Miko and the official Miss Jessie’s Twitter account, which pay tribute to the fallen entrepreneur.

Prep School Negro director and producer, Andre Robert Lee, posted a video tribute to Titi Branch set to Frankie Beverly and Maze’s “Before I Let Go.” The moving clip concluded with a shot of the funeral program from Branch’s wake. He also retweeted Miko’s short tribute to her sister. Miss Jessie’s was one of the first major hair care lines to be found in national chain stores like Target. The company, which followed the success of Lisa Price’s Carol’s Daughter, experienced explosive praise, and expanded into Wal-Mart and several drug store chains.

The beautiful and down-to-Earth Titi was instantly recognizable by friends and fans by her bountiful blonde curls. Founded in 1997, the sister opened up a salon in Brooklyn, which was dedicated to curly hair, and launched their product line, named for their grandmother, in 2004. Titi Branch told Ozy last December about the line’s emotional resonance, saying, “It’s just a hair product but to them it’s so much more. It has such an impact.”

Check out social media responses to the news of her sudden passing on the next pages.

SOURCE: The Root