Hail entrepreneur! — a salute to Ed Lowe

Much has been written about Ed Lowe, who invented Kitty Litter in 1947. With his “dirt in a bag” Ed launched not merely a new product, but an entirely new industry and enabled more cat lovers to have indoor pets. Even more important, Ed left an enduring legacy to support entrepreneurs, whom he believed to be the backbone of our country’s economy. As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of Ed’s birthday (July 10, 1920), we’d like to share some of the traits that contributed to Ed’s success and made him so memorable.

Entrepreneurial DNA

“Ed was a real entrepreneur’s entrepreneur,” says Dan Wyant, president and chief operating officer of the Edward Lowe Foundation. “He believed being entrepreneurial was something he couldn’t turn off, like a beagle’s innate tendency to chase rabbits. In fact, Ed even referred to an entrepreneur’s instinct for pursuing opportunity as ‘beaglism.’ He was constantly coming up with ideas, watching for opportunities and acting on them.”

Even from an early age, Ed Lowe displayed an unusual amount of initiative. Growing up during the Great Depression, he found ways to generate pocket money, such as selling scrap metal and magazines and trapping nuisance animals. He collected discarded popsicle sticks after summer concerts in a local park, trading them in for prizes (40 for a jackknife and 250 for a pup tent). He built his own scooter, fashioned from recycled buggy wheels.

During his lifetime, Ed secured 32 patents, 115 trademarks and 36 copyrights. Many were related to Kitty Litter and Tidy Cat products, but others were not, such as a packaged firewood business, a black bay horse program and an artisan glass company. Heidi Connor, who served as the foundation’s archivist for many years, refers to a list of some 75 business that Ed owned. “It shows the diversity of all he did,” she says. “Ed’s unrelenting nature drove his success. Even when he was relaxing, his mind never stopped.”

Ed initially envisioned that Edward Lowe Industries (ELI) “would go on forever.” Yet in later years, this desire shifted into a greater legacy: to support entrepreneurs facing the same challenges he had experienced. As an entrepreneur, Ed strongly identified with the mountain men who pioneered the American West. “I realized I couldn’t perpetuate myself, but what about the breed?” Ed wrote. “What can my life do to help perpetuate the breed called ‘entrepreneur’? How can I help him and her along, make it easier to be a success, to gain strength and recognition?”

“All entrepreneurs start out as small business owners, but not all small business owners are entrepreneurs.”  — Ed Lowe

 

Ed began developing plans for different types of assistance, including a “cell system” that would help entrepreneurs tap expertise they did not possess to continue growing their businesses. To execute these programs, Ed and his wife, Darlene, launched the Edward Lowe Foundation in 1985.

 

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