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Soy's Making Waves Among Smart Business Owners This little bean is making a big difference in dozens of industries.

By Karen E. Spaeder

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The jolt you get from Marina Kushner's Soyfee has nothing to do with caffeine. In fact, it's just what it sounds like: a coffee substitute made from soybeans. So what exactly is that feeling you get when you take a gulp of Kushner's concoction? "My product tastes almost identical to coffee, if not better," says Kushner, 39, founder of Soy Coffee LLC in Royersford, Pennsylvania.

Naturally, only the die-hard coffee drinker can be the judge of that. But the point is, Kushner has made it her business to provide an organic coffee substitute made from soybeans to people who need or want to cut caffeine out of their diet, or just add some extra soy. Kushner, who started her company in 2001 and is also the founder of the Caffeine Awareness Alliance, became a soy advocate when she found she could not drink coffee anymore because the caffeine and acids upset her stomach. "I suffered difficulties with concentration," she says, "and I was looking for a brain support formula." Five years and plenty of soybeans later, Kushner has what she-and her customers-consider just the right formula, and that has added up to $1.2 million in projected sales for 2006.

The soy phenomenon is extending its reach into just about every consumer sector imaginable, from house-hold cleaners and laundry soap to clothing and beauty products. No longer just for eating in a tofu stir-fry, soy-particularly organically grown-is stepping into the spotlight for those looking for healthier or more environmentally friendly alternatives. In the clothing category alone, experts predict that products made from materials like soy, hemp and bamboo will follow in the footsteps of organic food and beauty products, which have quietly become a $15 billion industry.

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