LSU Alumnus Learns the Importance of Telling – and Wearing – Stories
"Wear Your Story." It's more than just a slogan for three-time LSU alumnus Josh Harvey; it's an expression of inspiration, one that he's built his post-LSU career around.
Storyville, which has t-shirt shops in Baton Rouge, Austin and New Orleans, specializes in original designs, locally made apparel and screen printing services. With a mission to celebrate local artists and designers, while encouraging individual expression, the first Storyville location opened Jan. 16, 2007, right outside the North Gates of LSU.
Harvey founded Storyville, a homegrown t-shirt store located mere steps from the LSU campus on West Chimes Street, in early 2007. Featuring designs from local artists, the store quickly boomed, prompting Harvey and his wife, Natalie, an LSU alumna with a bachelor's degree in mass communication, to open three additional locations – New Orleans, Austin and most recently, the Mall of Louisiana in Baton Rouge – in a little more than three years.
The concept behind Storyville was partially inspired by a customized t-shirt retailer in New York City, where Harvey lived and worked for several years. For Harvey, the New York store prompted fond memories of wearing shirts designed by local artists during his childhood in Monroe, La., and inspired him to offer a similar experience to the citizens of his home state. Bringing his dream to fruition, he returned to Baton Rouge in early 2007 and, with the help of his siblings, opened the West Chimes Street Storyville three days later.
"Wear Your Story," Storyville's slogan, cleverly reflects Harvey's desire for his stores to be an outlet for the often untapped creativity of local designers, artists and individuals. This affection for storytelling transcends the bricks and mortar of Harvey's successful retail stores and is closely linked to his experiences as an undergraduate at LSU.
Harvey has had close ties to the university since his youth, having spent a portion of his childhood living in the on-campus Nicholson Apartments – known then as "married student housing" – while his parents attended LSU. He and his family later relocated to his hometown of Monroe, but his affection for the university remained strong throughout his childhood and adolescence.
Harvey graduated from high school in 1996 with the intention of joining the military rather than enrolling at LSU. Although his long-standing love for the university led him to apply for admission, the cost of attending LSU was simply too high at the time for Harvey, who had not receive any scholarships or other financial aid when he submitted his application.
A few days before he planned to enlist, LSU selected Harvey to receive a last-minute, $1,000 scholarship. Though it may seem small, the award was a huge advantage for Harvey as it made attending LSU – previously a fiscal impossibility – financially feasible. Today, nearly 15 years later, Harvey still makes it a point to acknowledge the impact that the scholarship had on his life.
"I was one signature away from joining the Army when I was offered a scholarship to attend LSU," Harvey said.
Harvey enrolled at LSU as a freshman in fall 1996 and, thanks to an introductory-level English class, quickly discovered that he enjoyed creative writing. He continued to pursue his newly found interest and eventually graduated in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in English from the College of Arts & Sciences – now the College of Humanities & Social Sciences. A few months later, he returned to the university for his graduate studies, completing the four-year joint JD/MBA program in 2003.
When asked how his time at the university contributed to his accomplishments as an entrepreneur, Harvey instantly zeroed in on his time as an English major. Although he wholeheartedly acknowledged the role that his graduate education played in his success, he continuously touted the writing skills that he acquired as an English undergraduate.
"Being able to write really is a huge advantage," Harvey said. "If you want to sell yourself or your business, you have to be a good writer."
On top of being able to write clearly, Harvey noted, modern society's ever-increasing reliance on e-mail and other text-based communication technologies make it critical for professionals to be able to tailor their writing to its intended audience.
"You have to both know your audience and know how to speak with them," he said.
The College of Humanities & Social Sciences aims to prepare its students to live and work among the diverse cultures present in Louisiana and beyond. Harvey's commitment to quality communication paired with his work with the citizens and the communities surrounding his stores clearly exemplifies the college's mission.
A proud alumnus, Harvey touts the diversity – cultural, racial, gender and socioeconomic – within the university community and believes that LSU's increasing academic standards create a healthy competition among students that ultimately prepares them to become high achievers in their chosen field.
"The competition [at LSU] doesn't guarantee that you'll make a million dollars, but it does guarantee that you will be successful at whatever you do," Harvey said.
Speaking specifically about his time in the College of Humanities & Social Sciences, Harvey strongly feels that the well-rounded liberal arts education he received as an undergraduate provided him with much more than the skill and knowledge he needed for his business to flourish. It gave him the tools he needed for success in all aspects of his life.
"Other majors will teach you how to make a living," Harvey said, "but LSU and the humanities really teach you how to live. They prepare you for life."
For more information on Storyville, visit http://www.wearyourstory.com/.
The Department of English in the LSU College of Humanities & Social Sciences offers majors in four overlapping but different concentrations: creative writing, literature, secondary education in English, and writing and culture. Students who graduate with a degree in English from LSU typically go on to law school, secondary teaching, graduate study, technical writing, teaching English as a second language (or as a foreign language abroad) and various other careers requiring skillful reading and writing. For more information, visit http://www.english.lsu.edu.
The JD/MBA degree program is designed for students who intend to earn both a Juris Doctorate degree and an MBA concurrently. The degree is offered through the Paul M. Hebert Law Center and the E. J. Ourso College of Business at LSU. Students earn overlapping credit hours and complete both degrees in four years versus completing them separately in five years (three years for a JD and two years for an MBA). For more information, visit http://www.bus.lsu.edu/academics/mba/jdmba.asp.