Reading the Miss Jessie's book brought back many vivid memories of my childhood growing up in Newark, NJ. Some of the scenarios and narratives were very similar to my upbringing, so it immediately grasped my attention because I could relate. This was probably one of the most dynamic business books I’ve read. The writing is vivid, like gazing at an illustration of their upbringing and seeing the family members that raised and molded them into the successful business women they became. It made me take a closer look at how I'm raising my son. How will he recount his childhood and what impact will I have on his memoir some day?
Miss Jessie’s was one of the first natural hair products I used many years ago, long before there were many products to choose from for curly hair. When I first learned of them I did a lot of research and even tried to book a few salon appointments, but their salon stayed booked. Once there was finally an opening, I was taken aback by the $25 deposit; I had never heard of such a thing so I never got a chance to visit the salon. However, I had the pleasure of meeting the founders twice, once when I lived in Atlanta at the “For Sisters Only” event in 2008/2009 and in 2012 at the Nzuri Natural Hair Show in Houston, TX shortly after I began working on Naturally Happy Hair Magazine. The Miss Jessie’s brand has been very supportive of Naturally Happy Hair, sponsoring products for several of our events and even including us in the #missjessiesbook tour. We are very appreciative of their continued support.
Reading the book was truly like a full circle moment for me and I am so thankful for all of the opportunities being a “natural” have afforded me. Our business and growth is because of the community, the same community that has helped Titi and Miko Branch grow their business into an empire and household name. The valuable lessons that they have shared in the book will help us transform our business and brand further. There were many valuable takeaways throughout the book; here are a few lessons I gathered.
1. You don’t need money to transform an industry, you do however need fire, passion, perseverance and the right people around to help you get to the top.
2. Whatever you make, do it with excellence. Don’t cut corners to save on costs, focus on the end user experience at all times.
3. Your time and talents are very valuable. When you know your worth others won’t mind paying for it especially if it’s quality.
4. Allow your children to be a part of the process. Give them responsibility, it creates work ethic in them early and teaches them how to survive by doing and not just by receiving.
5. Don’t overlook people in your circle. Reach out to your family and childhood/high school/college friends and associates who have skillset to help grow your business.
6. Start with what and who you know locally and grow as the demand for your product and service request increase.
7. Remain a part of the process of growing your business it’s your vision so your input even the smallest amount is worth its weight in gold. You are in control of your own success.
8. Do what comes natural; you don’t have to change the essence of who you are to become great. Polish what may be hindering you but keep everything that makes you “you.”
9. Success does not come without trials, so don’t give up in the face of adversity. Remember why you started and really try to learn from your mistakes.
10. Sometimes you have to relocate to a different area/city/state to grow yourself and your business. Don’t find yourself stuck in one place if it’s not taking you where you want to grow.
The most important takeaway that stuck with me personally is the importance of character and reputation. People will always remember how you made them feel, those you make feel great will tell others and most times become your biggest cheerleaders and lifetime friends, and those you made feel bad will do the same thing. Sometimes you won’t get a second chance so you have to make sure your first chance is done right.
If you are in business or thinking about starting a business, beauty industry related or not, there is so many nuggets to learn from this very successful home grown brand affectionately known as Miss Jessie’s. RIP to it’s co-founder Titi Branch, you left a solid legacy behind.