How one student turned a lesson in failure into a successful LA career

Image: alumni Jordan Harvey sitting at his desk while at work

Jordan Harvey, BS BA '20, followed his dreams to Los Angeles where he works as an account executive for a successful startup called Ghost, which is a business-to-business marketplace that helps retailers find buyers for surplus inventory. 

Jordan Harvey, BS BA ’20, was on a roll. It was his junior year at the Trulaske College of Business where he was hitting all his goals, making the grades and dabbling in a streetwear business on the side. The 21-year-old from St. Louis could almost touch his childhood dream: an apparel career in Los Angeles. 

Then, he dropped the ball. 

“I was out with friends on a Saturday night when I got a notification that a paper was due that day,” Harvey recalled. “I had done everything but write the paper. I knew I was in trouble.”

J. Scott christianson
J. Scott Christianson

Harvey raced home to finish the paper but quickly realized he couldn’t meet the deadline and would receive an F on the paper. Angry and frustrated with himself, Harvey swallowed his pride and emailed his instructor in hopes of securing an exception to the no-late-work policy in exchange for a lower grade.  J. Scott Christianson, associate teaching professor and director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, granted the exception with a catch, Harvey also had to read “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big” by Scott Adams and give Christianson an oral report on what he learned.

The book changed Harvey’s life. 

“What I learned is you’re not failing if you learned something from the experience,” he said. “In life, you’re going to fail – and you’re going to fail a lot. That’s the one thing I didn’t understand, that it isn’t really failing as long as you’re learning from the experience and keep growing.”

Harvey, who focused his business degree in management, took that lesson to heart. Today, he is living the dream in LA, where he works as an account executive, handling some of the biggest clients for Ghost, a business-to-business enterprise that serves as a marketplace for excess consumer goods and helps retailers solve the problem of surplus inventory. 

From boy to man

Harvey and friends
Harvey, center, surrounded by his nephew, Donteice Harvey, left, and friends, Jaida Aquino, behind and center, and Dre Lewis, right. The group has launched several streetwear brands. 

But Harvey’s journey to LA first began in St. Louis, where he and his big sister, Alexis, were born and raised. Their mom worked at the elementary school they attended, and their dad had a career in computers. They were a close family, and Harvey enjoyed going to school and playing sports, especially basketball. 

His life turned upside down, however, when he was 16 and his dad was diagnosed with cancer. Unfortunately, within months, he died with Harvey and the rest of the family at his side.

It was a pivotal moment for the teenager. Harvey often likens the experience to the storyline of one of his favorite childhood movies, “The Lion King.”

“Growing up, I was the prince and Dad was the king. Then he passed away, and I had to become a man on my own,” he said. “It really hit me. Overnight, I became the man of the house. I knew Mom would need help, and that’s what I wanted to do.”

Harvey took a job at a gas station and worked hard to avoid asking his mom for money. There were a few rough patches, but Harvey managed to steer clear of any serious scrapes. After all, he had a dream to move to LA and make it big with his nephew, Donteice Harvey. 

Next stop – Mizzou

With an eye on the prize, Harvey graduated from high school and set his sights on business school. While he considered a few options, the obvious choice was the Trulaske College of Business at Mizzou. 

“I was mindful of the cost, and I still wanted to be close to my family while in college,” Harvey said. “It just felt right for me.”

Harvey on campus
Harvey, pictured with His sister's son, Jayden, was a student at Mizzou during the COVID-19 pandemic, an experience that taught him the importance of being able to shift gears and adapt.

Mizzou is where Harvey, along with his nephew and a friend, first ventured into the business of peddling hype gear and upcycling. Some of their ideas were short-lived, but there were always lessons to be learned as Christianson had taught him – and Harvey was always willing to improvise and try new endeavors, such as the podcast he hosted that gave artists in Colorado, where his nephew lived, a platform to talk about their work. 

“It’s like they say, ‘Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars,’” said Harvey, who eventually gained traction with two streetwear businesses: Lovely 8’s and 8 Out of 10. These startups are still operating with a platform on Instagram.

Harvey was a student at Trulaske during the COVID-19 pandemic, when much of the campus shut down and classes pivoted to remote delivery. He was impressed with his instructors’ ability to shift gears and adapt to the new reality, modeling the importance of being flexible and open to change. 

“I learned to embrace change,” he said. “That’s how you stay on top.” 

Go West, young man

After graduating, Harvey completed a marketing internship at MFA Oil in Columbia. Then, he packed his bags and Xbox and headed west – first stop: Colorado, to join his nephew and other business partner, Dre Lewis. Not long after, the trio was on the road to LA, where they settled in a one-bedroom loft in the heart of the city. They each rotated for a month on the bed while the other two slept feet-to-feet on the couch.

“It was the true moving-to-LA hustle story,” Harvey said. 

While juggling jobs at a coffee shop, Door Dash and Uber Eats and an internship at a record label, Harvey worked the angles, making contacts in the apparel industry. He also kept up on the latest trends. Prior to his move to LA, one of Harvey’s go-to podcasts for inspiration and news about the apparel business was The Group Chat, which featured movers and shakers in the industry. One of his favorite guests was Dee Murthy, who later founded Ghost along with his partner, Josh Kaplan. 

Harvey at the ghost office
Harvey has been working at Ghost for more than two years, joining the startup as a sales manager. 

Once in town, Harvey reached out to Murthy and eventually worked his way into an internship at the podcast. Once he had his foot in the door, Harvey proved his worth and was hired fulltime with Ghost. Since then, the company has grown and Harvey has advanced to full-time employment, along with his nephew and Lewis. While they still maintain their streetwear brands, the trio is now focused on Ghost and finding apartments of their own. 

“Our goal is to learn as much as possible and someday down the road, we can bring our brands back even stronger,” Harvey said. 

The student becomes the teacher

Christianson, who has remained in touch with Harvey, isn’t surprised by his former student’s success, recognizing early on that Harvey possessed something special. 

“Jordan has taught me a lot about the culture his generation is creating around these streetwear products. He was a natural entrepreneur, constantly testing his ideas, building networks and finding new opportunities,” he said. “It’s been fun to see him achieve his goals, continuously setting higher ones and finding creative ways to get his foot in the door. Jordan is still my go-to mentor on streetwear trends and marketplaces, and he has helped several of our students get their start as well. He is now a trusted colleague and friend.”