Family and friends of Tiwanna “Koko” Hagans gathered Monday evening at Johnson C. Smith University to remember the lively young businesswoman who died unexpectedly at her home last week.

Hagans, 37, was a 1994 graduate of JCSU and was owner of KoKoMo’s Coffeehouse in uptown Charlotte. At the time of her death she was preparing to open a second shop, this one on the campus of her beloved alma mater. Family and friends gathered Monday to remember Hagans inside the small, ground-floor space she had begun to paint and decorate.

Her sisters of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority held a private memorial in the university chapel.

Family members recalled a determined woman who encouraged others and loved entrepreneurship. Friends described a fun-loving person whose Fourth Street coffee shop became a hub of social activity.

“Tiwanna was my inspiration,” one of her younger sisters told the crowd in an emotional tribute. “Because of her, failure was not an option in my life. Everything she did I aspired to be.”

A JCSU student who worked for Hagans recalled a firm but loving boss who demanded nothing short of professionalism in her business, requiring employees to greet each customer with a smile and the words, “Welcome to KoKoMo’s .”

“She had a process for everything,” the student said in one of the evening’s lighter moments.

Hagans’ mother, Arlene Hagans, later told Qcitymetro that her daughter, though diagnosed with a serious brain condition that caused seizures, was not thought to be terminally ill. The Mecklenburg medical examiner has not determined the cause of her death.

The oldest of five siblings, Hagans worked hard to be a role model for others in the family, her mother said.

“She’s very competitive,” Arlene Hagans said of her daughter. “She didn’t shy away from anything. She loved to compete, and she loved to win.”

Hagans’ funeral will be held today at noon at University Park Baptist Church. Family hour is set for 11 a.m. Interment will be at Oaklawn Cemetery.

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