Last month hundreds of people gathered inside Brooklyn's Brown Memorial Baptist Church on an uncharacteristically warm winter day to celebrate the short life and legacy of Titi Cree Branch. Titi was the second inventor and co-founder of natural hair care giant, Miss Jessie’s. She was 45-year-old entrepreneur who left her family, friends and the world much too soon.
One-by-one, family members, friends, acquaintances and those inspired by Ms. Branch took to a mahogany podium to sing songs, share reflections of the childhood, adolescence, and lasting impact of Ms. Branch’s life. There were tales of adventure, school yard scuffles, selflessness and victory through struggle. Most striking, however, was the way in which the values planted in her formative years gave rise to an entrepreneurial spirit and self-determination that allowed so many women – scores of whom she never met – to see themselves through new eyes. This was more than evident as several women fought back tears while describing the impact the Branch sister’s products and story had on their sense of self.
On its face, some may see what appears to be a hair story, but at the root, it is her story; which makes it our story. This chapter of our story is a firm reminder that the seeds of owning one’s identity will continue to yield a harvest. Armed with a beautiful smile, warm voice, loving spirit and a particularly precious purpose, Titi Cree Branch left behind well-watered seeds. Her gifts reach beyond her forty-five years, changing and in some ways creating the very industries, legacies and possibilities upon which others will be inspired to stand. Her chapter has enriched and inspired us for generations to come.
The story of Miss Jessie’s, Titi and Miko Branch will be shared in a forthcoming book, Miss Jessie’s: Creating a Successful Business from Scratch – Naturally, due out in April 2015.