Who is responsible for helping the cat replace the dog as the most popular pet in America? Many people would point to Edward Lowe, the man who originated the cat box filler industry in 1947.
With his first product, Kitty Litter Brand cat box filler, Lowe ushered in a new era for cat owners, allowing them to bring their cats indoors for good.
The industry Lowe started continues to grow: retail sales of cat box filler will top $400 million in 1987. As the founder and chairman of Edward Lowe Industries, Inc., Ed Lowe presides over the industry's largest manufacturer, with sales over $100 million annually.
Lowe's Midwestern roots are one of his keys to success. He was born July 10, 1920, in St. Paul, Minnesota, to Lulu and Henry E. Lowe. His family later moved to Cassopolis, Michigan, where he attended public grade schools. He graduated from Cassopolis High School and served four years in the Navy, from 1941 to 1945.
After leaving the Navy, Ed joined his father's company which sold industrial absorbents, including sawdust and absorbent clay. One day in 1947, Ed was approached by a neighbor who was tired of using ashes in her cat's box and dealing with sooty paw prints. She asked for some sand; Ed suggested clay as a replacement. Soon the neighbor would use nothing else. She found the clay was much more absorbent and didn't track all over the house.
Betting that other cat owners would love this new cat box filler, too, Ed filled 10 brown bags with clay, wrote the name "Kitty Litter" on them and called on a local pet store. With sand available for next-to-nothing, the shop owner doubted anyone would pay $.65 for a five-pound bag of Kitty Litter Brand. "So give it away," said Lowe. Soon customers were asking for more - and were quite willing to pay for it.
Ed then started visiting cat shows. In exchange for a booth to display his new product, he would clean hundreds of cat boxes a day, refilling them with Kitty Litter Brand. He criss-crossed the country, stopping at local pet shops to sell Kitty Litter Brand from the back of his 1943 Chevy Coupe. Cat owners loved its odor control and absorbency, and they bought the product, says Ed, "like crazy."
Ed Lowe prospered with his company. In Cassopolis, his 3,000-acre farm compound includes several private homes built in the 1800s and named for their original owners. These homes, which serve as guest quarters for compound visitors, have been carefully restored and decorated by Darlene Lowe, Ed's wife and an accomplished interior designer. The Lowe's themselves live in a renovated barn at the top of a hill. They also maintain homes in Sarasota, Florida; Paris, Indiana; and Chicago.
Ed's success can be attributed to many factors. One is his continual push for innovation - he is constantly seeking new ideas. He has patented a system to make his cat box fillers 99% Dust Free, a convenience and health improvement for cats and their owners. Soon, Kitty Litter Brand will include Healthguard, and ingredient that helps control bacteria growth in the cat box.
Quality is always uppermost in his mind; Ed Lowe strives to have his products set the standards for the industry. At Edward Lowe Industries' Cat Care Center in Cassopolis, researchers are continually testing and refining products. And Lowe's Cattery is equipped to be home to more than 120 cats, housed in great style, who give Lowe's products their toughest testing. "I love cats," says Ed, "and I want people to know the cat box filler industry business is serious business."
Ed is as devoted to serving cats and their owners today as he was in 1947. Each bag of Lowe's cat box filler contains a money-back promise of satisfaction from Ed. To him, that's not just good business, it's a personal responsibility.
The success of Lowe's has increased Ed's desire to expand his interest. He is still an entrepreneur at heart and is currently working to establish the Edward Lowe Foundation and the Business Opportunity Center (BOC). The center will act as a clearinghouse to bring together other entrepreneurs, investors and financial institutions for the mutual benefit of all.
The Center is just one of many plans Ed has for the future. And with his track record of innovation and success, any goals he sets - for himself or his company - are not out of reach.