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Alumni News

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams CEO John Lowe ’98 and Jeni Britton Bauer, the James Beard Foundation-winning chef behind the Jeni’s brand and recipes. “Jeni and I often think of each other as co-conspirators,” Lowe said. “Jeni and I are incredibly different people, but we share one overriding characteristic: We are both ferociously competitive.” (Jodi Miller/The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law)

Meet John Lowe

person in the room. But, almost always, I’m the best-prepared.”

Born and raised: Park Forest South (now called University Park) and Flossmoor, South of Chicago

Bit o’ wisdom he picked up at Moritz: Whether working at a law firm or for GE Aviation, Lowe learned being the “young, inexperienced one who didn’t know much” had its advantages. “It enabled me to soak up a whole lot. Professor (Douglas J.) Whaley used to say that as a young lawyer the only thing you bring to the table is the actual technical knowledge. The older, more-experienced people in the room have already forgotten that. All they have is experience. If you can supply the technical details, you’ll be invited back to the next meeting. I thought that was fabulous advice, even outside the practice of law.”

Education: University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign, B.A. in political science; The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, J.D. Family: He and his wife, Catherine Strauss, have three sons – Jack, 7; Alex, 4; and Luke, 2. Is your freezer well-stocked when you run an ice cream company? You bet. Lowe adds, “My wife tells me that we will stay happily married as long as we continue to produce Askinosie dark milk chocolate.” Outside of work: Lowe enjoys coaching his sons’ baseball and basketball teams. He draws upon lessons learned on the court on a daily basis. “My dad taught me at a really young age a simple rule: Don’t let anyone outhustle you. … I’ve never thought of myself as the smartest


>> wed a lawyer at a competing law firm, Catherine Strauss. “I set up the company for them in exchange for a pint of salty caramel ice cream and a beer,” Lowe said. “They were in no position to pay the law firm rates at the time. I was helping out my two drinking buddies who had a dream.” As his dear friends worked toward starting up an ice cream stand in The North Market, Lowe was steadily building upon his successes as a labor and employment attorney at Kegler Brown. He loved working at the Columbus firm, but when GE called, it was too good to pass up. At the time, GE consistently ranked as America’s Most Admired Company by Fortune Magazine, and its renowned law department was ranked as the World’s Best by Corporate Counsel magazine. “During the recruiting, they showed me the list of former company GCs who went on to run Fortune 500 companies. That seemed pretty far-fetched, until I was inside the company and got to be around the amazing brains and training GE provided. It was as fast-paced and competitive as any environment in the world,” Lowe recalled. “Looking back, I got to do amazing things because of GE.” After a year and a half at GE, he was named the general counsel for Unison Industries, a $500 million GE subsidiary based in Florida that makes high-tech electronics for jet engines. Lowe then went on to be counsel for global operations, a $14 billion P&L


The transition from GE Aviation to a small business: The toughest part was adapting to a different culture where the team was comprised 100 percent of strong creative personalities. “As a manager at GE, you force-ranked your employees. You give the top 10 percent big pay raises. You give the middle swath

OK ones. You fire the bottom 10 percent. That high-performance culture was awesome. I loved it. But it’s not for every place,” he said. “We have an amazing team at Jeni’s. But it took me a bit to realize I needed to slow down a little bit and coach a little more after I arrived here.” Thoughts on outside money: The company, thus far, has shunned the classic business school model of inviting investors to the ice cream social. “We have given it a lot of thought. But I came from a world with a whole bunch of bosses, and it’s nice to not have any bosses. If we take outside money, I have to spend a lot of time on the phone talking with finance folks about what we’re doing. Bad things could happen. The quality of the ice cream could suffer. We could end up with people whose values are not quite aligned with ours. If we determine that a lack of capital is holding us back, and we find investors aligned with our values, we will take outside money. Until then, we are going to enjoy family-and-a-friendowned and -operated.”

All Rise Winter 2013  

All Rise Winter 2013 - The Creepy Factor

All Rise Winter 2013  

All Rise Winter 2013 - The Creepy Factor