Simply Soothing, Milkhouse Candles Light Wick on New Product

Ryan Horgan (left) shows Freda and Jim Sojka how candle containers are held stable while they’re filled with wax.

A popular Iowa-made brand of all-natural insect repellant now comes with a wick—thanks to a new union between two highly successful CIRAS clients.

Simply Soothing, the Columbus Junction maker of Bug Soother insect spray, launched a new line of 8-oz. candles this summer with help from Milkhouse Candle Company, a soy-based candle firm with factories in Osage and New Hampton.

The candles, which are being manufactured by Milkhouse but sold under the Bug Soother name, are the culmination of years of conversations between the two companies. It all began after Ryan Horgen, head of business development for Milkhouse, read an article on Simply Soothing in CIRAS News.

“They just contacted us out of the blue and wanted to know whether we were interested in doing a candle,” said Simply Soothing owner Freda Sojka. “That was about the time everything exploded with Bug Soother spray, so we had to put that on the shelf.”

Sojka eventually worked with Milkhouse to devise a lemongrass-scented candle that began hitting Iowa shops and supermarkets for the first time in May. Simply Soothing will expand it to other markets later, to the extent demand merits going through a variety of state-by-state regulatory processes.

“We want to kind of put it out there and test it,” Sojka said. “If there’s a big push for it, then we’ll register it in more states.”

Simply Soothing launched Bug Soother in 2008, sparking growth that quickly sent the company to CIRAS for help in upgrading its manufacturing processes. The company also worked to explore government contracts as a way to sell beyond the few months each year when pests are prominent in the Midwest.

Milkhouse likewise began as a family business—one that Eric and Janet Sparrow, with help from CIRAS strategy coaching and networking events, ultimately grew into a 10,000-candles-a-day operation. Eric Sparrow said the still-expanding company, which uses only soy wax and beeswax while shunning artificial dyes, is happy to produce the all-natural Bug Soother candles because “we love to connect with and help businesses who share the same values we share.”

Sojka said her company plans “to promote that part of it, that it’s a partnership of two Iowa companies,” and she sees broad possibilities ahead. Success may simply turn on the volume of mosquitoes pestering Iowa patios this year.

“It’s a great story,” she said with a smile. “It’s good for them. It’s a win-win…. I just hope it’s a buggy summer.”

> For more information, contact Sean Galleger at or 515-290-0181.


A version of this article was published in the Summer 2019 edition of CIRAS News. To read more of that edition or others, please explore elsewhere on our website.