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        College, Executive Programs

        Harbert EMBA program gives professionals a career boost

        August 25, 2023 By Troy Turner

        All News


        Rebecca and Toby Stowe Design Supply Doors

        Rebecca and Toby Stowe implemented the recommendations of an Auburn EMBA case study to expand operations of Design Supply Doors in Kansas City, Missouri.

        Rebecca and Toby Stowe were enjoying the success of their commercial door subcontractor business in Kansas City, Missouri, but realized their growing company could benefit from a helping hand. They turned to a group of Executive MBA students at Auburn University’s Harbert College of Business.

        “We are so very grateful for the expertise, hard work and time of the Auburn EMBA group for allowing us to be their case study candidate. This type of research is invaluable to small businesses who otherwise may not have sought out formal market research from an outside firm due to this being cost prohibitive,” said Rebecca Stowe.

        Rebecca and Toby co-own Design Supply Doors LLC, where Rebecca serves as CEO and Toby its president.

        “We supply, install and service all things doors, frames, hardware, toilet partitions and toilet accessories for commercial properties,” she said.

        The company started in  in 1985 and transitioned ownership to the Stowes in 2021.  The 40,000-square-foot facility is located in the heart of Kansas City and stocks more than 1,400 units of inventory and offers licensed fabrication services for wood doors and hollow metal frames and doors,” Rebecca said.

        The Stowes had no previous connections to Auburn until a member of their professional networking organization began searching for a case study project.

        “One of the members in our Kansas City Vistage network was completing his executive MBA through Auburn. He sent out a request to the broader Kansas City Vistage network asking if anyone had a potential expansion and business acquisition project that his group could use for their final case study,” Rebecca recalled.“Our business had been discussing the potential launch of a new division of our company, so I pitched the general expansion idea to his team. We were thrilled when they selected our project for their case study,” she said.

        A capstone course

        Michael Wesson, associate dean of graduate and executive programs at Harbert praised the work of the students involved in the Stowes’ project and those of similar projects overseen by the EMBA program’s faculty leader, LaKami Baker, the Russell Foundation Associate Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies.

        The Executive MBA program is a 21-month program designed for mid- to late-career business professionals with eight or more years of work experience who are looking to put themselves in a position to further their careers, Wesson said. The hybrid program blends online learning with short on-campus residencies each semester, which provides the cohort a tight professional network of peers from around the country.

        “As part of a capstone course,” Wesson said, "students are put on project teams and assigned a company to work with that allows them to utilize the skills they have developed throughout the program.”

        Success in Kansas City

        Rebecca explained the challenge presented to the EMBA team in its business case.

        “Our vision was to purchase a large wood door machine which would allow us to automate and expedite the fabrication of wood doors. Long term, we would like to offer quick-ship wood doors as a more standard option to all our customers,” she said. “This would potentially allow us to expand our product offering and differentiate ourselves from competitors in the market.

        “We met with the team from Auburn several times to provide some basic information on our business, our current core competencies, pricing, general industry facts and the local construction market. We also shared our basic research on machinery options and the capital investment to purchase, install and operationalize the machinery.

        “The team independently did extensive research on the industry, our key competitors, and the machinery,” Stowe said. “Their final presentation to us was a thorough case study of the opportunity and a full ROI (return on investment) calculation as well. Their recommendation to us as business owners was to purchase the machinery and go for it!"

        That was almost two years ago. The results today?

        “In the end, we did!” Stowe said. “We did some additional research on two separate machines and manufacturers. We also were able to use the case study document to present to our lending partner to secure funding for the machinery since the case study proved out the expansion along with the ROI calculations.

        “The bank said that document alone helped to secure some flexible funding for that machinery with minimal questions asked by their loan board.”


        For more information about the Auburn University/Harbert College of Business Executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA) program, visit: