A sea of natural hairdos–freshly chopped, mini-to-large ‘fros, golden locs, and wavy tresses–filled Brian Farrell’s Art Studio at Chelsea Modern Sunday for Curly Girl Collective’s Collective Expressions: A Celebration of Textured Beauty event. Sponsored exclusively by Miss Jessie’s, in partnership with Heart & Soul magazine and liquor sponsor Hypnotiq Harmonie, the event drew 100+ women, both young and old, who participated in a bevy of activities from product swaps and raffles to beauty makeovers and hair consultations. There were even two brave young ladies who underwent “the big chop.” BlackEnterprise.com caught up with Titi and Miko Branch, the founders and CEOs of Miss Jessie’s, to chat about their brand power, possessing a universal product, and why these sisters are each other’s greatest business partner.
As pioneers of the natural hair care and beauty movement, what makes your brand stand out amongst all the others?
Titi: The inception of the idea for Miss Jessie’s started from a place of sharing. That’s really important to us. When the natural hair care movement kind of exploded there really wasn’t much information out there, [or] many products, so Miss Jessie’s really kind of spawned an idea [that] we want to share with women–the types of techniques, the rituals, the information in terms of how to make their natural hair really beautiful.
Would you say that’s what has allowed y’all to stay at the top of the market?
Miko: It continues to be our mantra. We continue to want to share. There’s never enough information about hair and as we share we’re getting more information from the customer. As she’s going natural she’s giving us feedback and then we’re processing and giving back. So it’s an exchange and it just keeps growing and growing.
There are other natural hair care lines that have chosen to target a certain type of woman of color, which is fine with some and a concern for others. You ladies have instead taken the broader approach. Why did you both choose to go that route?
Miko: Because hair is universal. It’s not just for mixed gals. It’s not just for Black girls. It’s not just for White girls. That’s the commonality that we all share. We all have hair on our heads. Whether you’re Japanese, whether you’re Jewish, Latina, African American some of us share a similar head of hair, so in terms of product, one jar of product can bring us all together. It would be unfair and probably not the truth to just single out and segment one portion of it, so we’re really talking to everyone who has hair challenges and who wants to find some solutions.
Titi: Not to knock our competitors, everyone focuses on the segment of the market where they feel comfortable and I think Miko and I owning a salon together, we’ve had the good fortune to touch upon many different hair types. We saw the commonalities in those hair types and we addressed it by coming out with products that can really address a whole genre of curl–kinky, curly, wavy.
What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received?
Titi: I think the best business advice is to do what you love and do what you have a passion for because if you have a passion for it in those early days when the money isn’t coming in; you know, you can still sustain yourself. That and choose a great business partner like my sister.
Miko: I would definitely say do what feels right. If it doesn’t feel right, whether it’s business, whether it’s personal, it’ll never work out. So, always do what feels right.
What are some tips for running a business with family?
Titi: I think you have to have a real love and respect for the family member you’re in business with. That’s very important. I think organizing your strengths and your weaknesses is going to be important, too. In business there are a lot of different roles that one has to play so you have to know where your strength and where your weakness is.
Miko: Continuing that dialogue. You have to talk. Communication is key. There are going to be some days where you don’t feel good, there are going to be some days where you’re not getting along, but you got to talk through that and most of the time it works itself out.
What new business ventures can we expect to see from you ladies in the future?
Titi: We’re always bringing out new products. We’re always experimenting with new products. This natural hair movement is just but a few years old so the innovation has to continue and that’s really what we’re focusing our business brains on.
Miko: Well for us, because we have a salon and we also have a product line, there’s so many different ways and directions we can take this business so it’s not just hair, it’s not just product. We’re often talking about how Miss Jessie’s can really grow in other ways outside of hair.