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Thinking inside the box: Emily Lowe’s approach to innovating for the future

Founder of Lowegistics International, Emily Lowe, developed a love for shipping containers at a young age. At 17, she turned that passion into a business, launching a global supply chain data analysis company that leverages innovative solutions to transform the economics of construction, material and equipment logistics.

 

By Kristen Sears

 


 

Travel was a big part of Emily Lowe’s youth. By the time she graduated high school, she had lived in seven different countries, among them Qatar, Switzerland, France and Australia.

So much travel during one’s formative years leads some people to crave a permanent place to hang their hat. In others, like Emily, it inspires just the opposite. She developed a passion for both travelling and meeting new people, and… shipping containers.

“While I was growing up, my whole life was being transported from one country to the next, like a shipping container, so I guess it was very natural for me to take a liking to them very early on,” she says.

At 17, Emily turned that passion into a business. While watching an episode of the Discovery Channel series, Mega Builders, she was struck by the tediousness of loading and unloading a shipping container, and was inspired to come up with a solution.

“I took a business trip to China to be a part of the process from concept to creation for an invention called the IWS or Intermodal Warehouse System, and like that, my world changed forever,” she recalls. “I fell in love with construction and supply chain and logistics and all things that would eliminate material handling lifts.”

That trip marked the beginning of Emily’s consulting business, Lowegistics International.

By the end of 2017, after several iterations, the design of the IWS had been perfected thanks to a partnership agreement with Sea Box, a company with over 30 years’ experience in the design, customization and manufacturing of ISO containers.

The IWS is a steel cargo carrying platform that essentially slides into a shipping container. Fit for trains, ships and flatbed trucks, the platforms can be used individually or stacked to maximize cargo space, and, upon arrival at the destination, slide out and function as a cargo storage solution.

 

“I think we should really be innovating in ways that allow us to think inside the box as opposed to outside the box, and utilize what we already have instead of creating things that we want.”

 

The system provides significant procurement cost savings to the companies who adopt it, Emily says, by eliminating the need for cranes and break bulk ships, reducing labour, cutting down the time to unload and cargo, and maximizing space in warehouses and storage yards.

“I think we should really be innovating in ways that allow us to think inside the box as opposed to outside the box and utilize what we already have instead of creating things that we want,” Emily says, noting that her vision is to “transform the economics of construction material and equipment logistics through innovation, standardization, mobility and analytics.”

Such was the focus of some new innovations she began working on with the help of the Master of Management Innovation & Entrepreneurship program (MMIE) at Smith School of Business.

“I think the greatest takeaway I got from the program was definitely getting a new community of peers and like-minded individuals,” Emily says. “You go into the MMIE program and you have 70 people who speak your language… I have so many wonderful friends from that program and a lot of peers that I will probably start companies with one day, and we bounce ideas off each other.”

Her current project is an innovation first conceived while she was pursuing her undergraduate degree in Global Development Studies at Queen’s University.

“I took our course content, which primarily focused on the housing crisis in northern Canada, and tried to design a solution around that,” Emily explains. “So, within the past year, I’ve developed a home that can be transported pretty much anywhere around the world, but particularly Canada because it’s rated for negative –70 C, and it costs less than $100,000.”

She’s currently looking for investors and construction partners to pilot these homes. “All the engineering is done; we can start manufacturing it tomorrow,” she says. “I just need someone to come knock on my door and be like, ‘Emily, let’s get this going and see where we can take it.’”

In the meantime, she’s decided to stay in Canada — her company’s headquarters are in Houston — and is sharing her expertise and knowledge from the MMIE program with other startups and scale-ups in the Calgary area and expanding her professional network.

“I just want to be among people who also love what they do, but are also experts in their field,” she says. “I’m a big believer of it being not just what you know, it’s also who you know.”

 

It is a fact that almost 50% of all new ventures or innovations fail within the first three years. Smith’s Master of Management Innovation & Entrepreneurship is designed to provide the business acumen and practical support you need to greatly improve your odds of success. Learn more about the program here.