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Michigan Ross EMBAs Create Successful Subscription Box Business

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In recent years, the subscription box business has boomed. From Blue Apron for food delivery to the Dollar Shave Club for men and women’s grooming, there’s a way to get anything you want in a box delivered on schedule every month or week. And now there are two more subscription box options—Proudbox and CraftX—thanks to a few enterprising University of Michigan Ross School of Business Executive MBA (EMBA) graduates.


Developed by Carrie Thorpe, an ’16 EMBA graduate, Proudbox is a monthly subscription box for anyone who loves the University of Michigan. The concept is “Michigan Pride Delivered Monthly,” and each delivery provides clothing, gifts, and treats for Wolverine fans and students.

The key to success for Thorpe is found within the contents of her boxes. “You have to be careful that you really deliver an authentic experience,” Thorpe said in a blog post. “Anyone can throw a bunch of stuff in a box and ship it out. You have to think of the person receiving it.”

For Proudbox, the contents are all about making an emotional connection with Michigan fans. Thorpe fell in love with the University of Michigan when she came to Ann Arbor to earn her MBA, and she figured that other individuals would feel the same way. “I simply looked at what was happening in the market and applied it in an area it was not being applied,” she said. “It almost felt like the idea developed itself. It just made such good sense.”

Thorpe got help developing her idea from Len Middleton, her ExecMAP mentor, and the Zell Lurie Institute. They helped her think through her concept, determine how to turn a profit, and develop packaging, color, feel, design, placement, notes, and merchandise to make her subscription boxes a success. And so far it’s worked.

Already, Proudbox has expanded to also offer Michigan State merchandise, and she hopes to add a third Big 10 school this fall before eventually expanding to the entire league.


Developed by Steve Ezell, Ted Hamory, and Jordan Toplitzky—who met at Ross’s EMBA program in Los Angeles—CraftX is a monthly subscription box service dedicated to the craft beer boom. The idea was developed as part of an ExecMAP project, a rich immersion course where teams of students apply critical thinking to solve a complex issue for a corporate sponsor.

The CraftX team completed a feasibility study about whether a beer delivery service could turn a profit and help small craft brewers at the same time. They found beer membership services currently on offer disappointing, and they determined they could do better.

So, they set up a model where they worked directly with brewers, committing to buying a certain amount of product to reduce their risk. Then, they decided that each box would feature two specific brewers and give the consumer a choice of beer style.

As for how they choose the brewers, Ezell explained the process in a blog: “We want people who are dedicated to the craft,” he said. “We want to go for the underdogs.”

And so far, their plan is going well. “I think we’re in a good spot. I think it’s cool to see this come out of the EMBA program,” Ezell said.

To read the full blog, visit the Michigan Ross website.

Kelly Vo
Kelly Vo is a writer who specializes in covering MBA programs, digital marketing, and topics related to personal development. She has been working in the MBA space for the past four years in research, interview, and writing roles.