For the past few days I’ve had the pleasure of reading the memoir and business guide from Miko Branch – co-founder of leading curly hair brand Miss Jessie’s. Together with her sister Titi, she built a booming salon business whilst developing a line of hair products that since 2004 have helped revolutionise curly and afro hair care. Miss Jessie’s: Creating a successful business from Scratch – Naturally tells the sisters’ story from childhood to the present day, packed with personal and professional anecdotes that candidly detail the highs and lows of running family businesses. The Miss Jessie’s brand has come a long way since its inception, and the lessons Miko and Titi learnt along the way make for a useful and inspiring read. Here are six standout snippets.

Starting small

“You don’t need money to transform an industry, you don’t even need privileges or contacts. My sister and I did not train or go to school to build a multimillion-dollar company from scratch. We don’t have MBAs, and we didn’t get bank loans or find angel investors. What we had was the seed of an idea, an entrepreneurial fire in our bellies, and a solid foundation of family and influences to learn from and observe.”

The uncertainties of entrepreneurship

“Here’s the thing about success – you can never assume its going to continue. An entrepreneur’s life is complex and full of moving parts that include both the personal and professional, especially when family is involved. Just when things seem to be going well, other pieces can fall out of sync. Working hard every day to expand the bottom line can lead to neglecting your happiness and a healthy life balance. It can lead to bad decision-making.”

Hiring the right staff

“Of course, we interviewed carefully, asking probing questions and paying just as much attention to attitude and body language as we did to applicants’ words. But we weren’t interested in a laundry list of qualifications. A small consumer-product business doesn’t necessarily need a bunch of employees with MBAs or strong pedigrees. We needed people who were passionate about what we did, eager for a chance to prove themselves, and willing to try anything. Skills and experience counted, but members of our team needed to share our entrepreneurial spirit and drive.”

Making smart business moves 

“Many young businesses are tempted by the large amount of up-front cash that can be one of the immediate benefits of doing business with a large distribution partner. But you have to consider the longer-term costs of such short-term gains. Those percentages could ultimately kill the business. Besides, there’s power in saying no. It frees you up for the next opportunity. You just have to believe that something better will come along; if you continue to work hard and build your brand, it almost always does.”

Connecting with customers

“People loved the fact that our products had already been road-tested and enthusiastically endorsed by salon customers. At this stage of product and business development, it was necessary to have both elements in place: The salon connoted expertise and gave us unique credibility. Even today, it’s through our salon services that Miss Jessie’s maintains its intimate relationship with our customers and gets a direct line on their needs, which in turn generates more ideas for product development.”

Thinking outside the box

“Figure out what works, regardless of conventional wisdom. Just because something has been done a certain way doesn’t mean that it should continue. The most successful business owners are also the greatest nonconformists. Think Sir Richard Branson; Def Jam and Phat Farm founder Russell Simmons; Steve Jobs; Body Shop founder, the late Anita Roddick; BET founder Bob Johnson; or designer Betsey Johnson. In many respects, these leaders reinvented their industries.”

Find out more about the book here. LLY

Posted by:Carly Lewis-Oduntan

One thought on “Six standout snippets from: Miss Jessie’s: Creating a successful business from Scratch – Naturally

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