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 →