School of Business Administration

Thinking Inside the Box

icon of a calendarJanuary 2, 2019

icon of a pencilBy Rachel Oakley

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Thinking Inside the Box

man in a suit sitting at a desk with a computer in a dark room
Christopher George, MKT ‘06, founded The Gentleman’s Box to equip men with stylish essentials and accessories. Photo by Adam Sparkes

Subscription services have evolved into one of the hottest trends. Forbes reports the market has more than doubled each year for the past five years. After successfully breaking into the market targeting a new niche, one company is also working to improve the industry.

Christopher George, MKT ‘06, entered the subscription box industry in 2014, when he teamed up with John Haji and Paul Chambers as co-founders of Gentleman’s Box, a curation-based subscription service that aims to effortlessly equip busy men with stylish accessories and essentials.

George, who serves as CEO, says getting into this industry fulfills an entrepreneurial dream he had since studying business at Oakland University.

“I always wanted to do something in the internet space, the internet was the future,” he says. “Launching Gentleman’s Box fit right into my goals and it fit in with where the industry was going in terms of e-commerce - people purchasing less in retail stores and more online.”

Thought Leadership

After establishing the lucrative niche service for men, George aspired to improve the network within the industry.

“An entrepreneur always needs to be learning,” says George. “We’ve got two ears and one mouth, so I always say listen twice as much as you talk. That comes with experience. A big part of that is looking at what other successful businesses are doing and evaluating how to incorporate that into your business.”

This is the mentality that drove George to seek a forum where members of the subscription box industry could meet and share information. “I wanted to network with others in the industry and meet brand partners to help us grow our business. Nothing like that existed,” says George.

Seizing the opportunity, George and his Gentleman’s Box co-founders created and hosted the first ever Subscription Summit, or Sub Summit, September 2016 in Detroit.

What started as a one-and-a-half day conference with 175 attendees, 12 sponsors and 15 speakers quickly grew to a three-day event with nearly 800 attendees, more than 75 sponsors and 80 speakers. Sub Summit is the first and only conference where those who work in or with the subscription box industry gather to learn about industry drivers, best practices, scalable business models, marketing, positive impact and profitability.

This evolution positions the Gentleman’s Box founders as thought leaders in the subscription space. “We started one business and pivoted to a role responsible for shaping an industry,” says George.

Industry Building Blocks

Building on the success of the annual conference, George and his colleagues launched a trade association called SUBTA, Subscription Trade Association. “We did it to maintain the networking and brand-building momentum throughout the year,” he says.

In addition, SUBTA’s goal is to govern the subscription commerce industry, a radical undertaking which aims to benefit e-businesses as well as their customers by creating an online community, knowledge hub and accreditation process.

“There’s no regulation or certification for the industry,” says George. “We’re building the trade association into something that is significant for members. We’re developing certifications and accreditation processes to benefit business and consumers.”

George’s pride in his business and industry is clear.

“Our biggest accomplishment is setting building blocks for the future of the industry, we’ve laid a foundation others can use. We’re running the trade association for a brand new industry and we’ve built the largest event for that industry.”

George credits the real-world marketing projects and rich core curriculum at Oakland’s business school for setting the stage for his entrepreneurial success. “Classes like statistics and finance were so important in understanding numbers, and accounting to prepare you for running your own business.”

Gentleman’s Box has been featured in Business Insider, Forbes and as Steve Harvey’s Father’s Day Gift of the year in 2016. It was named on Crain’s Detroit Business’ Cool Places to Work 2017. George was named on DBusiness’ 30 in Their Thirties in 2015 and recently become a member of the Forbes Young Entrepreneur Council, an invitation-only organization comprised of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs under 45 years old.

The Gentleman's Box

Gentleman’s Box is a subscription box service for the modern gentleman. Hand selected items are chosen monthly, inspired by specific gentlemen in popular culture, and sent out to members with literature that offers friendly tips and tricks on how to improve on all aspects of their lives. Each box includes items such as socks, ties, grooming products and clothing - with a focus on educating men on how to become a better gentleman.

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