Dapper Black Box features specialized subscriptions

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UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS — A UI graduate student started a company which is getting attention from all over the country.

Aaron Barnes founded Dapper Black Box a couple years ago. It’s a subscription service tailored toward millennial black men who want to dress well, but it’s a lot more than that. This is something he’s put a lot of passion into.

When he looked at what those subscription services were selling, he felt like there was something missing. So his marketing mind went to work and this is what he’s come up with.

The UIUC Business Instructional Facility is full of bright, young students. Barnes is one of them. About a year into his doctoral program, he went to the Black and Latino Male Summit at the University of Illinois. Then he got an idea for a business plan which filled a gap.

“I thought, ‘Hmm. I’m in this environment where we’re taking about black and brown issues. I’m getting ready to sign up for this business where I don’t see representation. What’s up with that?'” said Barnes.

Barnes wanted to meet that need, so he created the Dapper Black Box. Each product comes from an African-American business owner. Barnes wants to teach, so he says real-life experience will give him credibility in the classroom.

“I built a brand,” said Barnes. “I managed suppliers and consumers that I generated. So the concepts I’m talking to [my students] about, I had to apply.”

Inside each box is a piece of history, featuring an influential member of Black America.

“This month, we’re highlighting Clarence Avant, who’s known as the father of African-American music,” said Barnes.

All that could also be part of his future long after he leaves the University of Illinois. Barnes manages each of the brands personally, so he only sends about 150 boxes a month. His wife helps too. He says he doesn’t consider himself to be that fashionable, but his big idea has certainly caught on.

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