Over 17 years ago, my daughter Nikki and I started Simply Soothing in downtown Muscatine, IA. We wanted to have a store that would encompass all things “soothing.” We met people in that little shop so many years ago that are still customers of ours today. We were very inexperienced, and did not do well financially, but we learned a lot and started building relationships. It is so exciting when someone reaches into their wallet to pay for something you’ve created. Even more exciting when they tell their friends and family!
It’s about being blessed to create something that makes an impact on lives
I remember the first time Nikki and I went to Muscatine Hy-Vee and talked them into buying some of our products (pre–Bug Soother). We would stop back in just to see them displayed on a shelf. Years later Hy-Vee became one of our biggest accounts with Bug Soother, particularly that store. We have a picture of an 8-foot section just of Bug Soother, with a worker restocking. That picture tells the story of Bug Soother.
There were many times throughout those early years when it seemed easier to give up. We were dumping lots of money into the business and it seemed like we would never recoup that money. I came up with Bug Soother in 2008, when the town flooded, and the bugs were awful. I wanted to make a safe alternative to DEET for my 5-month-old grandson, with no idea that a bug spray would change our lives forever. That little batch of bug spray would take us from Columbus Junction, IA, to Panama, Colombia, Scotland, London, and beyond. We would meet people all across the US through social media, shows, emails, and pretty much everywhere we went, with stories of how much they loved Bug Soother. People would come up to hug us and share heartwarming stories about how much Bug Soother meant to them and their family. They’ve always loved telling us how many bottles they have, and they can tell us exactly where they keep each of their bottles, as well as all the folks they’ve given bottles to, from friends & family, to strangers at a baseball game.
These stories are what Bug Soother is really about; It’s about being blessed to create something that makes an impact on lives.
As the business grew and we were able to add more family members, we were able to share those experiences with the people we love. Our kids and grandkids became a part of a family business, learning the value of hard work.
Fulfilling a lifelong dream
I have always called Jim and I second wind entrepreneurs, but I believe that may need to be changed to third wind. As we start our 70s, Jim and I have purchased a beautiful 53-acre property (formerly a church camp) in Letts, Iowa. We are converting that camp to a family resort and event center called Cedar River Ranch, opening this May 2021. Additionally, we will be fulfilling a lifelong dream of mine to start a women’s recovery house, Cedar River Haven. Our family firmly believes in hope and service to others, and through the success of Bug Soother, we are finally able to fulfill a dream that I have had in my mind and heart for over 35 years.
Our eldest daughter Nikki and her husband Lee are moving on with us, as well as our youngest daughter Stacie. The grandkids have already picked their jobs and have even put in a request for personal side by sides. Future entrepreneurs, all of them!
Staying true to our vision
As this new chapter of our life begins, we are very excited to pass the Bug Soother torch to another great Iowa family business, Eco Lips. Steve Shriver (Founder and CEO of Eco Lips) and I have gotten to know each other well through various SE Iowa entrepreneurial groups. I have always admired Steve’s energy, innovativeness, and passion. When we first entertained the idea of selling the company, we knew Eco Lips would be a great fit. They are another passionate Iowa company who started small, but through hard work, perseverance, and integrity, have grown their business rapidly, which is so very important to us. We knew that although we had grown our business across the US and beyond, it was a struggle to meet the true potential. Steve and the team at Eco Lips have the structure, drive, and capacity to meet that potential, while staying true to our vision. We are very excited that our son Justin will also be staying on with the Eco Lips in his sales role.
This is not goodbye
We are so very thankful for all of the people that have supported us over the years; you have all been a big part of our growth. Every customer that bought one of our products, every partner that gave us a chance, and all of the folks who have worked for and with us for these many years, we couldn’t have done it without you. This is not goodbye, it’s just see ya later. We know that you will continue your love and support of Bug Soother, and the pride that we Iowans have for hard work, family, and success for “one of our own.” We hope to see you at Cedar River Ranch soon for a visit, and don’t forget your Bug Soother!
With love and gratitude,
Freda Sojka & Jim Sojka, Nikki & Lee Salek, Justin Scheef, Stacie Sojka-Davison, and the rest of your Bug Soother family & friends
For more information on our new endeavors, please visit:
For more information about Eco Lips, please visit:
You can continue to find Bug Soother info at: