Harvard Student Agencies, Inc. (HSA) is the largest student-run company in the world, employing more than 650 undergraduates annually. Founded in 1957, HSA is a multi-million dollar non-profit that provides Harvard students with meaningful opportunities for employment and hands-on business education. Student managers lead all aspects of the operations and strategy behind HSA's 12 businesses, which range from publishing to tutoring to bartending, including Let's Go (the leader in student travel), HSA Cleaners (a laundry and dry-cleaning service), and The Harvard Shop (a storefront and web retail business).
“...to conduct and supervise enterprises for the benefit of students of Harvard University who are in need of financial assistance to defray the expenses of their education; to provide opportunities for such students to be gainfully employed; to study, cultivate, promote, and encourage new business ventures to afford additional employment opportunities for such students; to provide experience for its members.”
— HSA CHARTER, DECEMBER 13, 1957
HSA was founded in 1957 on the ideal of financing education through student employment. With Harvard's tuition on the rise, members of the Financial Aid Office were concerned that the increased cost of higher education would adversely affect the social and economic make-up of those applying to Harvard. At the same time, some ambitious students were running small-scale businesses out of their dorm rooms. By using Harvard's facilities to operate their businesses, these entrepreneurs jeopardized the university's real estate tax exemption. John Munro '35, Dean of Financial Aid, assigned Dustin M. Burke '52, Director of Student Employment, to investigate student businesses as a possible source of financial aid and to begin developing the idea that would become Harvard Student Agencies.
Later that spring, a meeting with student managers revealed considerable interest in the idea of a corporation, and more concrete plans began to emerge. With an initial capital investment of $7,000 and the acquisition of the rights to provide the weekly linen service traditionally offered by the university, HSA was equipped to carry its corporate overhead. The remaining pieces quickly fell into place. In August 1957, the papers authorizing a new company were filed. On September 10, the new corporation's first meeting was held. On December 13, 1957, the charter was signed recognizing the six original incorporators: John Munro, Dustin Burke, Greg Stone, John Giannetti, Theodore Elliot, and Harold Rosenwald.
Since 1957, HSA has experienced astronomical growth. Today, HSA employs more than 500 students, Let's Go publishes 50 titles, and The Harvard Shop sends products around the world. While the emphasis for the management team has shifted from an entrepreneurial experience to a more managerial mindset, new HSA programs are continually conceived and implemented to help foster the innovative and creative spirit so many Harvard students possess. HSA has remained dedicated to financing education through student employment while, at the same time, ensuring the quality of the jobs offered at HSA.
Each of our 12 agencies is run by a team of student managers who are responsible for the budgeting, sales, and everyday operation of their agencies. Our permanent staff gives advice and assistance in managing the corporation.
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