California native Jovie Belisle, 29, started her apothecary business by accident. She began working as an emergency veterinary nurse right after getting her Bachelor’s degree in biology. While she loved helping animals, it was a very emotionally and mentally draining.
Belisle was very artistic as a teenager and neglected her creativity over the years during her studies and career. She moved to Portland four years ago and accidentally discovered her true passion. She came across a recipe to make your own deodorant and decided to try it, since nothing in the stores ever seemed to work. Shocked by how well it worked and that it was made with all natural ingredients, she started making it for friends and family. This inspired her to go back to school for herbalism and holistic nutrition, and thus her shop, The Rex Apothecary, was born.
The Rex Apothecary uses only organic and vegan ingredients. She makes all kinds of grooming products and plant medicinal such as lip balm, soap, toothpaste and hair serum. The simplicity of older times is one of her biggest inspirations and is reflected in her label designs and product ingredients. She designs her products to look clean and classy while having a traditional feel.
Although The Rex Apothecary started out as an “accident,” it’s no accident it happened to Belisle. Not only is Belisle talented in multiple ways, she really does believe in the use of natural products. Her background in biology didn’t go to a waste – it has been very useful when concocting the products. Belisle couldn’t have found a more perfect career to combine her creativity and love for science.
How did you decide to name your business? I have a 9-year-old retired greyhound named King, who I adopted right out of college at my first vet tech job. He’s been there through all of my ups and downs, moves and breakups and fashion choices. Rex is Latin for King and an Apothecary is someone who offers concoctions and advice. It’s illegal for me to give any medical advice because I’m not a doctor. However, I do know an awful lot about the choices and transitions that can be made to support overall wellness.
What are your inspirations? Nature. The structural and functional design of everything from fungi to plants to the human body blows my mind. The synergistic nature of plants and the human body (the whole being greater than the sum of its parts) really forces me to always look at the bigger picture. People have asked why I don’t include fancier ingredients and charge more for products like the Tooth Powder, but I really believe that it’s more important to question the purpose of “fancier” ingredients. Just because toothpaste has always been squeezable and bubbly doesn’t mean that it works better. Just because nearly all deodorants come in a plastic twist up tube and has aluminum doesn’t mean it works better either. We’ve accepted these presentations as gospel because they’re the only options we’ve been given. If we can question their necessity, then we can begin to free ourselves from blindly following them.
What makes your line different from other organic products? I think the main difference would be that I don’t use any plastic containers. Sure most plastic is recyclable, but whether it actually gets recycled or not is a different question and I don’t want to be the one responsible for adding more to the world. I also don’t use beeswax, even though it is great as a skin protectant and moisturizer. I thought about incorporating it recently in order to support the bees, but when I asked local beekeepers whether it would be beneficial or detrimental to do so they said that bees want to focus on collecting pollen, so when they have to stop pollinating to keep rebuilding their hive when the wax is taken, it is detrimental. So I’ve stuck with the vegan line and people seem pretty happy with it.
Do you make all the products yourself? I make everything myself – top to bottom. From the infusing, blending and pouring to the design, printing and packaging. A lot of the herb combinations have been used in more or less similar ways for hundreds of years. For example, I can’t take ownership for putting cayenne, arnica, and ginger in a salve when herbalists have been doing it for so long. It does take some experimentation to get proportions down and the trickiest thing has been using coconut oil as an ingredient. It has such great skin benefits that I refuse to omit it, but since it becomes liquid at 76 degrees it has proven a challenge to provide a product that will be a similar consistency for a customer in the Pacific Northwest as it will be when shipped to a customer in Florida during August. But my products are from nature. And nature, like humanity, is constantly fluctuating and adapting. If we don’t allow for fluctuation and adaptation, but instead only focus on convenience then we are shutting out the opportunity for ourselves to fluctuate and adapt as well.
Where do you see Rex Apothecary in the future? As much as I’d like to see The Rex Apothecary as a household name, I’d always like to be a part of the hands on experience of crafting my line. I plan on getting more into consulting and assisting those who seek to transition to a holistic, more sustainable, less toxic lifestyle. I’m actually taking the shop on a two month long cross country RV tour this fall in order to visit artisan shops and street fairs.
The Rex Apothecary products can be found at a handful of local stores and also in Washington, Canada and Australia. The entire line is available at rex-organics.com and rexorganics.etsy.com. And this fall of course, it will be on the road.