* success on T here is muchadiscussiongenius. what makes creative Are they simply born that way or are they a product of proper parenting? Well, if the story of creative genius Miko Branch is any indication, her upbringing makes a strong case for the latter. Her creative genius was a consequence of her upbringing by two very strong leaders and parents. Growing up in Queens, New York, Miko Branch enjoyed spending time in Poughkeepsie with her paternal grandmother, Miss Jessie, because she made delicious food and ran the entire family from the kitchen table. During that time, Miko was able to observe a loving and independent woman who was very family oriented, decisive, and highly opinionated. “She was the perfect mix of strength and love,” says Miko. Miko always knew that she would become an entrepreneur, thanks to her father who raised them to become not just driven individuals, but leaders. “My dad never really coddled my sister and I as kids,” she says, “He encouraged us to work hard, but more importantly to work hard for ourselves. He didn’t want us to be just pretty faces in the crowd.” Miko’s father was determined to raise confident, do-it-yourself girls who would grow to become strong, independent women. He succeeded. The story of Miss Jessie’s hair products begins about two decades ago when Miko was a freelance hairstylist working and living in a Brooklyn loft that she shared with her sister, Titi. Titi had a small public relations agency that mainly represented photographers. “To my surprise and pleasure, she agreed to represent me as a stylist,” says Miko’s father was determined to raise confident, do-it-yourself girls who would grow to become strong, independent women. Miko, “Our “AHA moment” came when we realized that we were both working in the same industry: the beauty business.” Eventually the dynamic duo went on to open one of the best straight styling salons in Brooklyn. And then everything changed once Miko had her son. “I realized that straightening my own hair was becoming too much of a hassle,” she says, “At bath time, my baby would splash around and my hair would get wet, leaving it curly and frizzy. As a single mother, I did not have the time or energy to fight Mother Nature.” The two sisters quickly changed the focus of their salon and got serious about all things curly, kinky, and wavy, by offering styling techniques and real solutions for curly hair. “When we went to look for hair products for curly and natural hair, however, we could not find any that really worked. We were shocked!” Thus, the mission to make effective products specifically for curls, kinks, and waves began. It was the beginning of the Miss Jessie’s brand. At the beginning, it wasn’t easy, but the greatest challenge became clear. “Trusting your gut,” Miko says, “After you make the big decision to start your own business, it is really important but really hard to trust your natural instincts.” The internal conflict of knowing your business better than anyone in the world, but receiving a ton of well-intentioned advice from people who care about you became the greatest challenge. “At the end of the day, you must own all of your successes and all of your failures.” With a fast growth business where the products are gracing the shelves of Wal Mart locations nationwide, stress management has become key for Miko. “Staying ahead of the stress works best for me,” she shares, “I try to anticipate problems or potentially stressful situations in the early stages before things get out of hand.” It takes a bold leader to walk away from lucrative deals if they get too stressful, but Miko certainly has taken that step without hesitation.