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When In Doubt, Make Soap 

That's not a motto most of us would live by, but it's been a boon for Jordan Horst and his business partners, James Burgess and Austin Sather. When Burgess was having trouble landing a job in early 2013, Horst began exploring their entrepreneurial options.

"I don't know why, but soap just really interested me," says Horst. He attributes part of that interest to his mechanical engineering background (by day he makes waxes for companies like 3M). Another impetus was the birth of his son, River, who ultimately inspired the name of the company: Rocky River Soaps.

"That was one of the big reasons why we chose castile soap in particular." Castile is an olive-oil-based soap that can also include healthy moisturizing oils like hemp, coconut and jojoba — "stuff that I might drink or eat," Horst says. "And so I felt really confident about washing my son with it."

Dr. Bronner's has long had a corner on this market, but the Rocky River trio aims to distinguish their line of all-natural, all-purpose soaps through an impeccable eye for design. "We went through a lot of experimenting to get to the point where the soap was actually clear, that it was really beautiful to look at," Horst explains. "We don't add any colorants, but the way you mix the chemicals and cook them affects the color. We got it to where it looks like honey. We want it to be almost appetizing."

That attention to detail extends to every aspect of the product: the traditional glass bottles with cork tops, the elegant simplicity of the label, and the classic shirt-and-suspender outfits the three of them wear at farmers markets. The bottles are made of recycled glass and are themselves recyclable; there's also a $3 discount on a new bottle when you return your previous one. "We're serious about creating lifetime customers," Horst says.

Rocky River Soaps come in scents like eucalyptus, peppermint, lavender and citrus. Eight-ounce bottles cost $8 and are available from the Spokane Public Market, the Main Market Co-op and farmers markets throughout the Inland Northwest. Find out more online at www.rockyriversoap.com.

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