In January of 1948, an enterprising young man named
Ed Lowe, the heir apparent to his family's coal, ice, and sawdust supply company, gave the name "Kitty
Litter" to a product manufactured by his family, known as Fuller's Earth.
The product consisted of kiln-dried clay, and its intended use was as a
non-flammable, industrial absorbent. Ed aspired to expand his family's business
by marketing the tiny nuggets of
clay to chicken farmers as nesting material for their chickens, but failed in
his attempts to do so.
At the same time, Kay Draper, of Cassopolis, Michigan, sought sand for her
cats' litter box, as the pile she drew from had frozen solid in the cold,
Midwest winter, and the ashes she used from her fireplace, out of sheer
desperation, proved to create quite a mess. The sawdust she tried, though much
tidier, did not work much better.
A frazzled Kay opted to visit the Lowe factory, in hopes of obtaining some
sand, where she encountered the eager and youthful Ed Lowe. Sensing an opening,
Ed gave his pest sales pitch on the merits of using Fuller's Earth as an
absorbent for cat waste instead of using sand. Kay bit, loved the product, gave
Ed free word-of-mouth advertising,
and came back for more. She also sent Ed a faithful following of feline owners
requesting Fuller's Earth for their cats.
Ed took the initiative, packaged the dried clay in ten 5-pound paper bags,
which he labeled "Kitty Litter." Even at the bargain basement price of $0.65 per
bag, Ed could not sell his bags, so he decided to give them away for free to a
local pet shop. The shop owner's customers so liked their free samples of Kitty
Litter that they were willing to open their change purses to pay for it.
Enterprising Ed took his feline phenomenon on the road, targeting pet shops
and cat shows in hopes of promoting his pet project. Eventually, the seed that
he planted in Cassopolis, Michigan took root, and Kitty Litter sparked a feline
frenzy. Sales boomed, and a private investment group by the name of Golden Cat
made Ed an offer he could not refuse…$200 million dollars plus stock options.
Naturally, Ed accepted the offer, retired, and generously established a
foundation bearing his name to help other entrepreneurs achieve the same fame
and fortune he did with his granules of clay.
Ed died in 1995, leaving behind a legacy of cat litter that dominates the
market at 55%, and sparking an industry of cat foods, toys, and other
paraphernalia catering to the cat
lover. His persistence, ingenuity, and flexibility should serve as a lesson to
all that even nuggets of clay can be transformed into nuggets of gold with
perseverance, patience, and a positive attitude.