An important message from Scott Turnage
By REX L. TROUTE firstname.lastname@example.org
COLUMBUS JUNCTION — Freda Sojka comes across as good Iowa stock with an outgoing personality rather than the founder and CEO of a fast-growing company.
One of her inventions, Bug Soother, has taken her small company, Simply Soothing, from being a local retail store in downtown Columbus Junction to becoming a manufacturer whose product is being sold overseas.
Back in 2003, when she first founded the company Simply Soothing, she set up her first store in the Pearl Plaza in Muscatine, but within a few months wound up having to move that business back into her home. That experience, as well as the experience of other businesses, helped illustrate to her one of the pitfalls of business ownership — growing too fast too soon.
“That can be the death of a lot of businesses,” Sojka said.
However, time, good advice — and a wildly successful product — has led to steady and increasing growth for the family-owned company, which now includes her husband, Jim, and two of their children, among other family members. With the company’s continued nationwide growth, Simply Soothing has now begun to do business outside of U.S. borders.
The successful product in question is Bug Soother, a natural gnat and bug repellent Sojka developed in 2008 to combat the tiny bugs so often present around the Mississippi River area. They were especially present that year, when extensive flooding sent the banks of the Iowa River into the streets of Columbus Junction.
Since that time, interest in the product has grown along with the business. By 2013, the company was selling more than a quarter million bottles of Bug Soother from 3,000 different locations, including grocery and convenience stores throughout Muscatine and Louisa counties. Even Iowa’s governor took notice of the company and toured its Columbus Junction facilities a little more than a year ago.
Simply Soothing’s international growth began in 2013 when United Kingdom-based entrepreneur and business owner Willie Petrie, who read an online article about the company, contacted them with his interest in selling the product there. Simply Soothing now makes the concentrate ingredients for the Bug Soother and sends it to the UK, where it is bottled and distributed through the UK company Body & Face.
After going as part of a trade mission to Central America last year, Simply Soothing is also working on getting its product into markets in Panama and Colombia. Sojka said those tropical markets would allow for there to be more of a year-round demand for Bug Soothing product.
“We’ve about got it done,” she said. “We need a longer season than here in the Midwest. It’s an ideal situation for us.”
Sojka also credited programs, such as those sponsored by the Iowa Economic Development Authority and the U.S. Department of Commerce, in helping Simply Soothing navigate the ins and outs of doing business in other locations.
“Iowa’s got excellent programs,” she said.
In addition to new areas, Bug Soother is now finding new customers interested in protecting pets and horses from gnats and biting flies. Sojka noted that horses cannot use traditional DEET-based repellent products, and that swarming gnats can even kill chickens.
With all of these new plans, however, Simply Soothing is continuing to make sure that its growth remains sensible and well-planned. Being able to meet customer demand is always an issue with the company; as Sojka recalled, it ran out of Bug Soother product by the end of Iowa’s summer season two years in a row.
Ever wondered how Bug Soother, the DEET free insect repellent, is made?
Here’s an overview of Simply Soothing, the makers of Bug Soother. See behind the scenes of our production, and meet the creators and makers of Bug Soother!
By Dan Howell
COLUMBUS JUNCTION, Iowa (KWQC) – Summer weather is on the way, we’ve even had a taste of it this month, but as temperatures warm up and this wet weather stays, you can expect to see a lot more bugs.
A local business that specializes in controlling these pesky pests is expanding, sharing its recipe with a company abroad.
“We’ve grown tremendously,” co-owner and CEO for Bug Soother, Freda Sojka said. “We’ve gone from hand pumping it into bottles to, right now, they can do about 16,000 bottles in a shift.”
The Simply Soothing Company has been keeping busy since last year, producing Bug Soother, an all natural repellent safe for humans and pets.
Sojka said they are working now to ship the product to Panama and Colombia after a trade mission in February, and working to produce it in new locations thanks to a trip last month.
“In 2013 we got a call from a guy by the name of Willy Peatree from Scotland who was interested in getting the product overseas,” Sojka said. “So we’ve been working with him the past couple years. We were able to go over there a month ago and we actually saw him make the product and we started selling it.”
Last year, the product was so popular locally, the company actually ran out and had to play catch up the rest of the season.
The CEO says they are working to make sure there is enough supply to go around this year… Read more →
August 28, 2014 8:30 pm •
COLUMBUS JUNCTION, Iowa — A locally founded and owned business was the last stop on the statewide tour of Iowa’s chief executive Thursday afternoon.
The business, Simply Soothing, hosted Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, who toured the company’s manufacturing, warehouse, and retail facilities in downtown Columbus Junction.
The city was the last stop on Branstad and Reynolds’ annual tour of all 99 counties in Iowa. This is the fourth year that they have completed the full tour, according to Branstad’s office.
“I’d like to say we saved the best for last,” Branstad said to a group of more than 20 Simply Soothing staff and community members.
Part of the statewide tour has involved visiting Iowa-based businesses, most recently West Liberty Foods, Riverside Plastics in Bonaparte, and Kness Manufacturing in Albion, which makes mousetraps.
“What we’re looking at is, how can we help your business grow?” Branstad said.
Simply Soothing is a family-owned business run by Freda and Jim Sojka of Columbus Junction. Freda began the business in 2004, but it really started to take off four years later, when Freda developed the company’s best-known product, Bug Soother. An-all natural gnat and bug repellant, it has proven to be a very popular local product selling a quarter-million bottles from 3,000 retail locations in 2013 alone. The company also sells other cleaning and skin-care items.
As they toured the facilities, Jim Sojka told Branstad and Reynolds about how they were surprised at the growth of the business, even as they attempted to get ready for more demand this year.
“After Memorial Day…” Sojka said.
“It really takes off?” Branstad said.
“It was deja vu all over again [from last year],” Sojka replied.
They also discussed how groups such as the Cedar Rapids-based Entrepreneurial Development Center, state agencies, and other groups have been a big benefit to helping grow and expand Simply Soothing. Branstad touted the efforts of those groups, as well as his administration’s efforts to lower property and corporate taxes.
“It’s just such an entrepreneurial ecosystem flourishing in this state,” Reynolds said.
The company is continuing to search for more markets overseas as well, which might be able to open up other opportunities for Simply Soothing. When Freda Sojka mentioned that much of the company’s Bug Soother business is seasonal in nature, Branstad noted that might change if efforts to get into the Central and South American markets pay off… Read more →