Titi Branch (left) and Miko Branch (right)

I was shocked and deeply saddened today when I heard that Titi Branch died. I have known Titi, who co-founded the Miss Jessie’s line with her sister Miko, since the early days of NaturallyCurly. She was an incredible woman and a spirited, passionate entrepreneur. Over the years, over many cups of coffee and glasses of wine, we forged a friendship. I can vividly remember the first time we met in person. She was hard to miss, walking into the restaurant with her amazing head of caramel curls and her gorgeous smile. I have such respect for what she and Miko built. Together, they were key pioneers that helped create the natural hair industry.

Titi and Miko opened their salon 17 years ago in Brooklyn with one thing in mind: to respond to the need for experts in texture in all of its forms. Originally named Curve Salon, they used their savings and did the renovation themselves, right down to stripping the floors.

The salon quickly got people's attention, with customers flocking from around the country for expertise from Miko, the head stylist. With the new SoHo salon, the sisters recreated the feel of their original salon in a brownstone Brooklyn, with its high ceilings, chandeliers and wood floors. The focus is on elegant comfort. Even the bathrooms feature chandeliers.

Born to a Japanese mother and an African-American father, Titi and Miko spent their early years fighting full heads of textured hair. With the help of their grandmother "Miss Jessie"— a no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners woman who created homemade concoctions to help her granddaughters control their crazy curls. Titi and Miko would watch their grandmother create mixtures using ingredients found in the kitchen, such as eggs and castor oil. Those nourishing treatments evolved into the Miss Jessie's product line for wavy, curly and kinky hair—Holy Grail products such as Curly Pudding and Baby Buttercreme.

In 2004, after a year of testing and tweaking, the sisters proudly launched the Miss Jessie's collection. The first product to hit the shelves was Miss Jessie's Curly Pudding. Six months later, they launched Curly Meringue, followed by Curly Buttercreme and Baby Butttercreme. Today, the Miss Jessie's line, which includes a full range of shampoos, conditioners, treatments and styling products, is available at a wide range of locations, including CurlMart and Target.

Titi, you will be deeply missed. You left us too young.

Watch this touching tribute to Titi on Miss Jessie's YouTube channel: