My favorite country is: Greece My happy place is: The small house I built in the countryside in Brazil
Making dreams of a delicious, healthier ice cream a reality
DISRUPTING THE DESSERT WORLD. When Rodrigo Studart decided to make the leap from the corporate world into launching a startup, he leaned into his childhood as a source of inspiration and courage. His company, Lowko, is a low-calorie, sugar-free, all-natural ice cream that builds on the legacy of his parents, who were once the proud owners of a local ice cream shop in his small hometown in Rio de Janeiro.
Lowko sees Rodrigo reigniting his passion for his favorite dessert while revamping it with healthier attributes without compromising on taste for an increasingly health-conscious world. "I grew up eating ice cream every day," Rodrigo reflects, "but my dad also had diabetes, so sugar was always seen as the villain in my house. Connecting these dots gave me the motivation to launch Lowko."
Before Lowko, Rodrigo worked in real estate, focusing on new business development for a company that builds malls across Brazil. After nearly seven years, he no longer felt aligned with its "closed" culture and decided to pursue an MBA at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business. "I realized that I wanted to work in something I truly believed in, where I could create a culture in keeping with my values."
While studying at Booth, Rodrigo noticed the low-calorie ice cream trend taking off in America and wanted to bring the concept to Brazil. Lowko's first investment came from Booth after Rodrigo's business plan won an accelerator program, giving him the boost to launch the business in 2018 officially. By closely watching his parents running their store as a child, Rodrigo used tangible experience to overcome a lack of expertise in the consumer goods industry. "I learned from them the importance of always being present in your business - the success of their shop was directly related to the amount of effort put into it."
The launch of Lowko has also played a pivotal role in Rodrigo's identity journey. Within the company's first year, having established an open-minded and inclusive culture, he came out as gay. "There isn't always a lot of support for the gay community in Brazil, but creating this culture of respect and empathy at Lowko gave me the confidence I would be accepted. I discovered some of my co-workers didn't have friends in the LGBTQIA+ community before, and it's good to see them now connecting to that world."
POWER IN UNDERSTANDING. While Rodrigo accepts fear of judgment and rejection from peers can make sexuality a challenging topic to broach, he's learned there's tremendous power in leaders who demonstrate vulnerability. "I understand it can be personal, but after I came out, I felt like I'd created a stronger relationship with my co-workers and even my investors. I used to hide that I'm married, but it's important to show everyone that it's just another regular relationship."
As Lowko continues to establish itself as the go-to brand for low-calorie ice cream, Rodrigo's vision for the company is to expand beyond ice cream and develop more products. "Once we've hit the limits of the ice cream category, I want to create more products that people love but don't frequently eat because they feel bad about the content. The concept of Lowko is making the impossible possible and creating a space where everything you want to see happen happens. I think we're only at the start of that journey."