Faces of Iowa Industry –  Freda Sojka (Simply Soothing)

Name: Freda Sojka
Age: 65
Employer: Simply Soothing
Job Title: CEO/Owner
Family: Husband, Jim; four children and five grandchildren.

Every so often, CIRAS likes to take a moment and tell you a little bit about the people who make Iowa businesses better:

Freda Sojka was already retired when she turned her Columbus Junction candle shop into a popular maker of all-natural bug repellent. Here’s what’s buzzing through her mind:

Explain your job.

I run the company and make decisions about future growth.  I’m involved in almost every aspect of the company, from formulation of new products to manufacturing.


How did you get started in Iowa industry?

I worked at Monsanto for 23 years in various positions including as a lab technician. I started Simply Soothing as a side company in 2003 with candles, air fresheners and other products.  I retired from Monsanto in 2004, and created Bug Soother four years later. We now sell it in more than 6,000 locations around the world.


How has the business changed? 

Retail has become brutally competitive thanks to Amazon and e-commerce, while manufacturing is more expensive due to the increased benefits necessary to retain quality people. It’s more difficult for manufacturers to make money.


Boil it down. What’s the key to success?

Be versatile (but persistent) and have plenty of back up plans. Always look for opportunities to extend your peak business months, and be open to partnering with other Iowa businesses.


If you could change one thing about business in Iowa, what would it be?

I belong to a founder’s group in Cedar Rapids that has been extremely useful.  I would create an organization like this, but on a statewide level, where we could share resources and ideas. I wish there was something to connect Iowa businesses so we could reach out and help each other.

Also, there could be a website concentrating on Iowa made products, where people could get educated on what is made here.  We need to make it easier for people to choose local.


Know someone worthy of being recognition as a Face of Iowa Industry? Email CIRAS at eckhoffj@iastate.edu.

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