By Johnny Griffith
Yes, Soap. If you’re like most people, it’s something you use multiple times a day yet never stop to think about where it came from, who made it, and what’s in it. In fact, if you ask the clerks at most “big box” stores, even they couldn’t answer those questions for you. Luckily, Stefanie, Stephen, and the rest of the crew over at Moon Rivers Naturals (MRN) can answer all three of those questions for you, and more. MRN is a local business here in East Texas that makes natural soaps, oils, scrubs, and moisturizers.
A regular at local farmer’s markets for several years, MRN has persevered through hard work, sacrifice, and commitment to a product made with more than just a little love. What started out as a hobby has turned into a national adventure with five current employees, and the story is still writing itself into everything they make.
We caught up with Stefanie to get the full scoop on the wholesale soap and everything else going on at MRN:
Johnny: Give us some history on your background and how you came to found Moon Rivers Naturals.
Stefanie: I grew up in Florida, near Tampa, and Stephen grew up in East Texas, not far from where we live now. We met when we were 15, dated long distance, and married when we were 19 and 20. Moving away from home was pretty hard on me, so I started to make soap while we were in college nine years ago as a hobby. It was a connection with a close family friend in Florida who made soaps and was a bit of a role model for me. I made soaps on and off for a few years for personal use but never thought of it as a business opportunity. We were both finishing school at UT Tyler at the time and were planning to be teachers: math for me and English/Lit for Stephen.
In 2012 we had our first baby, Rivers Emerson. When he was around a year old, I wanted to contribute financially and be able to stay at home and be a mom. Stephen really encouraged me to start back with soap making and expanding into other products after I made him a beard balm for his birthday. We started super small, dragging Rivers around to the farmer’s markets in Tyler and selling a bit here and there through our website. The first year of the company was riddled with personal trials, which made it difficult to focus completely on growing the company, but in the end, I believe made us stronger and more resilient.
Johnny: What is your guiding philosophy with the company and product you offer?
Stefanie: When starting MRN, we really wanted to stress the importance of family, community, and natural ingredients. Stephen works a lot behind the scenes with graphic design and copy, and I develop the recipes and vision, and Rivers keeps us laughing. As we grow and add employees we never want to lose touch with that family aspect: everyone working together to achieve our goals.
Small batching our products is one of the most important aspects of MRN. Since we work with ingredients like freshly roasted Porch Culture Coffee, herbs, and essential oils, we want to ensure that our customers and retailers get their apothecary at their peak. They don’t necessarily have a short shelf-life (soap can continue curing into eternity), but there is something intangible yet unmistakable in receiving products a day or two after it’s been produced and packaged.
Johnny: How has the response been so far to the business?
Stefanie: Amazing. Every day I look at Stephen and tell him how proud of this little company I am. We have accomplished so much in the 2-3 years of being in business all while going through various trials, growing a family, and being broke. We have had to take risks that don’t always go the way you’d like, and we have taken some that have really benefitted the business and allowed us to grow. We’ve grown our wholesales to more than 120 retailers and being in two nationwide stores, and expanding internationally. It’s been pretty exciting and terrifying.
Johnny: What have been some of your biggest challenges?
Stefanie: Juggling everything. I really struggle with juggling life, business, mom, and wife. It’s hard. I go through a lot of mom guilt now that the business has grown. Stephen is my rock and he is continually encouraging me that I’m not completely failing at everything I’m doing, and I’m sure he gets tired of it. Stephen works full time with the business now, and I don’t think I would be able to do it without him. Another big struggle would be growing pains. Keeping up with inventory has become an issue since we moved into the brick and mortar. It’s a good problem to have, though!
Johnny: What have been your most memorable successes?
Stefanie: Oh man. When we first started Moon Rivers and we were hand cutting our labels and gluing them onto our glass jars with glue sticks, I created this “bucket list” for us. One of them was to do a certain show in New York City and get the attention of some big time buyers. We worked our butts off last year and used every penny we made and then some into going to that show. It was emotionally exhausting to put so much pressure on something like that, but we made it there, and I couldn’t stop smiling. We received orders with Free People, Madewell, and a bunch of amazing small retail store owners. I left New York totally drained but full of hope. (It was actually nice to get back into the east Texas country, for once!) That show really helped us get to a new level, and I’m still so proud of us for working so hard to get there. We were actually able to do the follow-up show in September, which was another bucket list checked off for the company.
Johnny: Artisan products have become increasingly popular with the growth of farmer’s markets and a renewed interest in natural products. What sets Moon Rivers Naturals apart from other options in the market?
Stefanie: I love how people are becoming more aware of what they use and where it comes from. I have met so many people through farmers markets and social media that do what we do. They have a passion for it, and they work hard too. Thankfully there’s enough business to go around, and we love the growing “artisan” community. Small businesses are what gives our town culture, uniqueness, and puts food on our plate. What sets us apart from other apothecary companies? That’s always a tough question for me to answer. I know that we don’t do everything right, but I do believe that our products are unique. The scent profiles are different. The ingredients are fresh and sustainably sourced. Most importantly, each product has a little bit of us in it. Our culture. Our brand is pretty transparent. We are just putting ourselves out there with things that we like and we are hoping some other folks will see the benefits as well.
Johnny: What products do you currently offer?
Stefanie: Oye! I believe we have around 50 products, which include 11-12 different soap types, sugar scrubs, bath soaks, face masks, and more.
Johnny: Where can Moon Rivers Naturals products currently be found?
Stefanie: Locally, we have a storefront in downtown Tyler next to the Austin Bank Building, El Guapo Records, and near The Foundry Coffee House. You can also find our products at Moss in south Tyler. We are in about 120 retail stores nationwide and you can find us at any Madewell stores. Check out our website moonriversnaturals.com for a full list of locations or to do some shopping.
Johnny: What is next on the horizon for MRN?
Stefanie: We are extending our Moon Rivers family with a new addition in January. Little Baby Rhodes! We are beyond excited to have another team member, but other than that, we just want to keep moving forward, to keep developing our brand, and to keep growing our retailers. One big goal of our’s is to really connect with our community. We have an open studio downtown where we want people to come in and see us making our products, shipping our products, seeing Rivers throw temper tantrums, and also where you can purchase our products in our retail area. We are also starting to carry other brands in our studio that we have really connected with over the years. They are all an inspiration to us.
Johnny: What do you hope the legacy of MRN will be?
Stefanie: We want the legacy of MRN to be one that people see as a company that values family, simplicity, nature, and the importance of how we interact with the people around us day to day.
I also want my kids to grow up and see how hard their parents work toward those ends: not striving for financial success, but seeking fulfillment in life.
Moon Rivers Naturals is located at 265 S. Broadway, Tyler.
Amy Holden Concert Benefiting Children’s Miracle Network, Aug. 24th
For one night only, east Texas singer-songwriter Amy Holden is set to perform live in concert at Liberty Hall on Friday, August 24th at 8pm.
Amy’s friends, Cole Risner, Meredith Crawford, and Milo Deering are also set to perform.
Fresh off her single release, “Best Time” on Texas Red Dirt Radio, Amy brings a new soulful twang with her style and flavor of upbeat country music to Tyler. Amy, a Nashville and Texas recording artist, has performed from New Zealand to the House of Blues. Bring the whole family to this family-friendly event and be prepared to be thoroughly entertained.
100% of proceeds from ticket sales will benefit the Children’s Miracle Network. This fundraising event is sponsored by Texas Strong Promotions, Fire Dog Records, and Amy Holden Music Group.
Liberty Hall is located at 103 E. Erwin, Downtown Tyler. Tickets are available at libertytyler.com.
“Yesterday, The Las Vegas Beatles Tribute” Brings Tour To Tyler Sept. 14th
Capture the raw energy and sheer excitement of the most historical music group of all time, when “Yesterday, the Las Vegas Beatles Tribute” hits the stage for one night only at Wise Auditorium at Tyler Jr. College on Friday, September 14th at 7:30pm.
“Yesterday” is a full two-hour show rich in memories portraying musical icons “The Beatles.”
“Yesterday” transports its audience to a bygone era of magical innocence. Featuring some of the most finely written songs ever performed, this production is a spellbinding enactment of the best-loved pop group in the history of modern music.
“Yesterday,” encompasses all eras of the Beatles music from the Hamburg days through Shea Stadium and into pop history’s magical Sgt. Pepper’s and beyond, with superior showmanship, flawless voices, and exceptional musical abilities, this is one not to be missed.
Complete with Beatles boots, drainpipe trousers, authentic costumes, musical instruments, and singing songs in their original key, “Yesterday,” performance is spot on in every way.
“Yesterday” is featured with other Las Vegas celebrities on giant LED video walls at McCarran International Airport, welcoming all to the “Entertainment Capital of the World” …Las Vegas! Of all the Beatles Tributes, “Yesterday” is Sir Paul McCartney’s favorite as he asked to come backstage for a photo with the band.
“Yesterday” has toured Japan seven times and performed worldwide on five continents. With superior showmanship, flawless voices, and exceptional musical abilities, this band is finally coming to East Texas and is not to be missed.
Here’s what the press has said about “Yesterday’s” performances:
“Don Bellezzo portraying John, bobbing with Lennon’s cheeky mannerisms, had a voice that was so accurate, it sent chills down my spine.” – Union News, MA.
“Outstanding vocals during Nowhere man. Everybody clapped and swayed with Lennon during ‘Revolution.’ McCartney sang ‘Hey Jude’ as the audience joined in the chorus and began waving lights in the air.” – Rockford Register, IL.
“‘Yesterday,’ which just opened at the Tropicana, is an explosion, a wonderful blast from the past. A thrilling and reverential tribute to the Fab Four, ‘Yesterday’ gets it right!” – New York Daily News.
“The audience jumped to their feet giving these four lads a standing ovation even at intermission.” – The Independence, IL.
“‘Yesterday’ was spot on in every way. By the time they reached the encores, the packed house was on their feet dancing and singing!” – Atlantic City Press.
“Yesterday, The Las Vegas Beatles Tribute” will be performing one show only at Wise Auditorium at Tyler Junior College on Friday, September 14th. Doors open at 6:30pm and show time is at 7:30pm.
Reserved seat tickets are $25, $30, and $35, inclusive of all credit card and ticketing fees.
Tickets are available online at markbellpresents.com or by calling the “Yesterday” tickets hotline at (817)896-3652.
Summer Wraps Up at Tyler Public Library
Any year-round weekly programs, like story times, will be temporarily suspended during movies week, but will return on Monday Aug. 6. These programs include:
- Mondays at 10:30 a.m. Léeme Un Cuento, Spanish preschool story time
- Tuesdays at 10:30 a.m. Panera story time, only Aug. 7 and 14 at Panera Bread on S. Broadway
- Wednesdays at 9:30 a.m. Lap and Play time for Babies
- Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m. Toddler Time
- Thursdays at 10:30 a.m. Read Aloud Crowd for Preschoolers
Maker Space events will continue throughout the coming months on the second and fourth Saturdays of every month. Upcoming events can be found on the Library’s website under Maker Space.
- Saturday Aug. 21 2 p.m. Hydraulics 101
For more information on any of these programs, please contact the Library at (903) 593-7323, or find us on the web at TylerLibrary.com. The Library is located at 201 S. College Ave. in Downtown Tyler.
EGuide Magazine’s Gig Guide
Make a Splash This Summer at The Waterpark at The Villages Resort
Blue Moon Gardens: More Than a Family Nursery
Fall Fun in East Texas: Fall Festival Guide 2018
Off Road Biking: Hitting the Local Trails
It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over
August 18th Lance Lopez Live @ XL’N Pool Hall & Club
August 18th: A Rock ‘n Roll Summer of CESSE Fun
Amy Holden Concert Benefiting Children’s Miracle Network, Aug. 24th
East Texas State Fair Returns Sept. 21st-30th!
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Free Stuff To Do
Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Story Times
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