The Edward Lowe Foundation Information Center Museum houses a historical exhibit of Ed Lowe’s business ventures and initiatives to support entrepreneurship.
“Ed was truly an American success story, and the exhibit helps tell his story,” says Darlene Lowe, who launched the foundation in 1985 with her husband and took over as its chairman after his death in 1995. “Although many people may know Ed as the founder of Kitty Litter, they may not realize this product sparked an entirely new industry.”
Launching a New Industry
Indeed, before Lowe introduced Kitty Litter in 1947, people with indoor cats used ashes or sand in litter boxes. Clay-based Kitty Litter was a cleaner and far more efficient alternative, and this simple product revolutionized pet products. Today annual global sales for cat-box filler total nearly $1 billion. In addition, by enabling more cat lovers to keep felines indoors, Kitty Litter helped alter pet demographics, with cats outnumbering dogs in U.S. households.
Early on, Lowe experimented with other pet products, ranging from cat toys to franchised pet stores. Yet he discovered that his real niche was the mineral business. By focusing on cat-box filler and other clay-based products, Lowe built a company that generated $165 million in annual revenue before its sale in 1990.
“The Information Center Museum gives visitors a quick look at Ed Lowe’s entrepreneurial journey, with a special focus on his business ventures in or near Cass County,” says Heidi Connor, manager of the foundation’s historical collections.
Within the exhibit, visitors will find videos, print materials, historical photographs and artifacts related to Lowe’s life, along with an 8-by-16-foot wall mural by South Bend artist David Blodgett. Specific display themes include:
- Marketing campaigns. Lowe accelerated sales for Kitty Litter through innovative marketing techniques. The Information Center Museum features advertisements, packaging and product displays that date back to the 1940s—many of which were cutting-edge for their time.
- Intellectual property. During his lifetime, Lowe secured more than 170 patents, trademarks and copyrights for both product and service innovations. Many of these were unrelated to the cat-box-filler business, such as pre-packaged firewood, a bird feeder and a method for plotting and disseminating data on the paths of violent storms.
- Real estate holdings. Lowe had a flair for finding valuable property—and improving it. Among the 11,238 acres he purchased was Big Rock Valley, which today serves as headquarters for the foundation. This 2,600-acre property also features numerous historical farmhouses and structures that Ed and Darlene Lowe restored.
Supporting Entrepreneurship and Land Stewardship
Information Center Museum exhibits also highlight Lowe’s efforts to support entrepreneurship, including the formation of the Edward Lowe Foundation. Structured as an operating foundation, the Edward Lowe Foundation conducts research, recognition and educational programs for entrepreneurs and entrepreneur support organizations. In particular, it focuses on second-stage companies—ones that have moved beyond the startup phase and are striving for significant, steady growth.
Reflecting Lowe’s great love and respect for nature, the foundation’s secondary mission revolves around land stewardship. Displays at the Information Center Museum highlight some of the environmental research and land-management practices conducted at Big Rock Valley, such as prescribed burning.
“I think Ed would be proud, not only of the entrepreneurship programs the foundation has developed, but also of the land stewardship work going on at Big Rock Valley,” says Dan Wyant, the foundation’s president and COO. “The property has become a living laboratory of sorts, allowing researchers to expand the knowledge base of conservation science.”
The Information Center Museum is located at the foundation entrance at 58220 Decatur Road in Cassopolis, Michigan. The building is open to the public on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (except holidays). For more information, call 269-445-4200 or contact Heidi Connor.