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For These Artisan Founders, Cute Small-Batch Goods Were Just the Beginning It's become a cliché -- the adorable little company making its cute, small-batch goods. But for some founders, that was just the starting point.

By Matt McCue

This story appears in the August 2016 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Photographs by John Clark
Ben Jacobsen with a single large salt crystal.

Morton's sells a perfectly suitable box of kosher salt. It's $2.49 for three pounds. Then along comes Ben Jacobsen from Oregon, whose salt's price is 650 percent higher. But his isn't just any ole salt: It is pulled from a handpicked spot in the Pacific Ocean and run through a complex process of purification. It is not salt to just salt things. His is a highlight -- a "finishing salt," the flaky crystals that chefs sprinkle on food right before serving to give it a pop of flavor.

Jacobsen launched his company in 2011 and called it Jacobsen Salt Co. He knew his price would make some scoff -- but that plenty of others would be willing to be impressed. "The challenge was to keep the product quality at the highest level possible and continuously improve quality over time," he says, "and to convey the story of how our salt is made and why it is so special."

You already know the precious word for businesses like Jacobsen's: artisan. As their businesses cross the threshold from hometown maker to national internet fodder, those who make handcrafted, high-quality goods -- the kind of pursuit we're seemingly losing in this digital, high-yield manufacturing age -- are an inspiration to many: They're living the dream! Following their passion! Sometimes it seems as if everyone stuck in the rut of a corporate job is ditching it for an artisan pursuit, like bottling soul-cleansing kombucha, hand-making organic mayonnaise or concocting another lowbrow-meets-upscale-meets-esoteric riff on an everyday item like beet horseradish.

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