The Entrepreneurial Journey of Ed Lowe

From his birth in 1920, Henry Edward Lowe was destined to leave his own mark on the world. Through hard work, determination and a little luck, little Eddie grew up to create a whole new industry with his product, Kitty Litter.
Along with countless others helping over the course of his life, this timeline is dedicated to Ed’s entrepreneurial journey. We hope that it helps to inspire the next generation of inventors and tinkerers to keep going in the face of adversity. Maybe you will be the next person to invent an industry by seeing an opportunity before all others?

blank During his lifetime, Lowe secured more than 170 patents, trademarks and copyrights for products and services. 1920 Every great story has a beginning. Ours starts with Ed’s birth. From an early age Ed showed a curiosity for life that would later turn entrepreneurial. 1930 Ed was a thinker and a tinkerer. As he matured he was keen to spot opportunities around him. Never afraid to hustle, his work ethic and moral compass were setting him on a path for future business success. 1940 Ed Lowe entered the Navy in 1942 and continued his entrepreneurial journey by selling labeling stamps to his crewmates while in the service. After leaving the Navy Ed returned to work for his father selling grease absorbents to local industries. Everything changed in 1947 when a new opportunity came knocking. 1950 As his success continued with the cat box filler Ed looked to expand his product portfolio to include a whole range of cat-related products. During this time, Ed bought his first plant for the sole purpose of processing the Fullers earth. Vertical integration was part of the key to Ed’s success. 1960 Business was good for Ed and warranted the construction of a new corporate headquarters in Cassopolis, Michigan. During this time Ed was also busy securing patents and trademarks for the assortment of new ideas he was bringing to market. 1970 Being number 1 in a number 2 industry was not something that Ed took lightly. Investing heavily in equipment, research, development and marketing, Ed aimed to stay at the top. More patents and trademarks were filed during this time in addition to some other grand ideas that never made it commercially. 1980 The 1980s saw the reinvention of his original product under the name Tidy Cat 3–a great commercial success that owed a lot to his marketing efforts. Continued product innovations kept his competitors at bay while he started thinking about what the future would hold, specifically the creation of a foundation in his name. 1990 When Ed Lowe died in October 1995 the groundwork had already been laid to ensure that his entrepreneurial legacy would live on. Through his philanthropic activities both with the foundation and elsewhere, he established a template for paying it forward, so that others could benefit from his generosity. 1990 1980 1970 1950 1920 1960 1940 1930
Founder of Kitty Litter, a simple product that sparked an entirely new industry, Ed Lowe distinguished himself not only for his business prowess, but also his initiatives to support entrepreneurship.

The Start of the Big Idea

After his Navy duty, Ed Lowe returned to Cassopolis, Michigan, and joined his father’s company, which sold industrial absorbents, including sawdust and an absorbent clay called fuller’s earth. In 1947 Ed was approached by a neighbor who was tired of using ashes in her cat’s litter box and the resulting sooty paw prints. She asked for some sand, but Ed suggested clay instead. Soon the neighbor would use nothing else, noting that the clay was much more absorbent than sand and didn’t track all over the house.

Product Quality

Quality was always a priority with Ed, and his products set the standards for the industry. Edward Lowe Industries was the only company of its kind with complete innovation and product-development centers. This included a “cattery” at Big Rock Valley, which was home to 120 felines who “worked” to assist in the development of new products. The cattery also boasted a fully staffed cat-care clinic, as well as an animal-behavior facility that permitted 24-hour television monitoring of resident cats. In the late 1980s, this operation relocated to Cape Girardeau, Missouri, where company scientists at a modern research and development center continually worked to upgrade existing products and develop new ones.

Creating the Market

Ed had a hunch that other cat owners also would love his new cat-box filler, so he filled 10 brown bags with clay, wrote the name “Kitty Litter” on them and called on the local pet store. With sand available for next to nothing, the shop owner doubted anyone would pay 65 cents for a five-pound bag of Kitty Litter. “So give it away,” Ed told him. Soon customers were asking for more — and they were willing to pay for it.

The Edward Lowe Legacy

After creating a billion-dollar industry that established the cat as the nation’s most popular pet, Edward Lowe set his creative sights on another goal — fostering and nurturing the American entrepreneur. As a result, Ed committed a good part of his fortune to create “… a whole campus for entrepreneurs” at a private 2,500-acre complex outside his boyhood hometown of Cassopolis, Michigan. In 1991 he donated this estate for the headquarters of the Edward Lowe Foundation.