Miko Branch recently released Miss Jessie’s, a refreshingly accessible memoir and business guide. Here, exclusively for ESSENCE, the cofounder of the natural hair behemoth remembers Titi, her older sibling and guiding light, who lost a battle with depression last year.
No matter where we went, my sister and I were always known as Titi & Miko. For forty-plus years, she was always by my side. From latchkey kids to the founders of a curly hair empire, we literally raised each other. Although she was only 15 months older than me, Titi took her role as big sister seriously. We learned many lessons by each other’s side, and as a team we navigated the new territory of the natural hair movement and the global hair product business.
Miss Jessie’s: Creating a Successful Business From Scratch—Naturally (Amistad, $24.99) is as much about how we built our business as it is about how anyone can build her own business and brand without having an M.B.A., investors or extensive personal contacts and connections. We made something out of nothing, and we want to share our story and encourage others to do the same. Miss Jessie’s is more than a product. We are a living soul, a heartbeat that has changed the lives of many in a positive way. When I consider my sister’s life and death, I believe that what people saw on the outside was very different from what she felt internally. My sister was an amazing woman who possessed beauty, talent, generosity, innovation, a strong business acumen, courage, love, kindness and compassion. She was a family-oriented protector, best friend and so much more to me and others. While Titi was widely recognized for revolutionizing the hair care industry through and her huge contributions to the natural hair movement, her true greatness lay in her ability to accomplish so much and master all her God-given talents in the face of the very significant, but not often discussed, challenges of depression.
Her untimely death provides an opportunity to focus on the causes of and find possible solutions for managing depression and mental illness.
Titi was a little girl who became a dynamic, high-achieving Black female entrepreneur. Her conflict may have been trying to understand how she could also be a sad and lonely girl who couldn’t connect the dots in the way that others seemed to do so easily. Titi was proud of our business and our shared success. I also think this very success made it harder for her to reveal that she was unhappy and depressed, and battling a mental illness that was not getting better. I think at a certain point she concluded it would never get better—the battle would be lifelong.