Howard Schultz, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Starbucks, first walked into Starbucks in Seattle’s Pike Place Market in 1981. Schultz was invited into conversation with these connoisseurs who took great care in not only finding and roasting the highest quality coffee, but also sharing their passion with others. Drawn to Seattle and its extraordinary coffee culture, Schultz moved from his native New York and joined Starbucks, in 1982, as director of operations and marketing when Starbucks had only four stores.
A year later, in 1983, Schultz traveled to Italy and became captivated with Italian coffee bars and the romance of the coffee experience. He had a vision to bring the Italian coffeehouse tradition to America. He wanted to create a place for human connection, conversation and one that fostered a sense of community—a third place between work and home. He left Starbucks for a short period of time to start his own Il Giornale coffeehouses and returned in August 1987 as chief executive officer to purchase Starbucks with the help of local investors. Today, Starbucks is the premier purveyor of the finest coffee in the world, with more than 18,000 stores in 62 countries, serving nearly 70 million customers each week.
From the beginning, Schultz set out to build a different kind of company. One that brings a sense of humanity and demonstrates respect and dignity. In these early days, Schultz created two landmark programs that form the foundation of Starbucks culture. First, Starbucks offered comprehensive health coverage for eligible full- and part-time workers, among the first in the retail industry. Schultz remains committed to health benefits despite the rising health care costs of the past two decades.
Second, Starbucks offered partners (employees) equity in the company in the form of stock options, called Bean Stock. These early investments in people have proven that you can build a business that is profitable while sharing its success with Starbucks partners as well as the community.
Chairman since 2000, Schultz resumed the role of president and chief executive officer in January 2008. Since his return, he has led a transformation of the company, bringing the company to sustainable, profitable growth with a renewed focus on Starbucks coffee heritage, innovation and the customer experience. He has also galvanized leaders both inside and outside the company to take action to help local communities, including the effort he spearheaded in 2011 called Create Jobs for USA, a campaign designed to stimulate and preserve small business job creation.
At the heart of the Starbucks Experience today, just as it has been from the beginning, is Starbucks mission to inspire and nurture the human spirit—one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.
Schultz has been recognized for his passion, his leadership, and his efforts to strengthen communities. Schultz received the 2013 Kellogg Award for Distinguished Leadership at Northwestern University for his commitment to employees and communities. He was named Fortune’s 2011 Businessperson of the year for delivering record financial returns for the company while leading an effort to spur job creation in the U.S. He has also been honored with the Horatio Alger Award for those who have overcome adversity to achieve success; the Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh Award for Business Ethics given by Notre Dame University’s Mendoza College of Business; the Botwinick Prize in Business Ethics from Columbia business School; and the first-ever John Wooden Global Leadership Award from UCLA Anderson School of Management. He has also been included in Time magazine’s “Time 200,” a list of the most influential people in the world.
Schultz is the best-selling author of Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul (2011), and Pour Your Heart Into It (1997). The profits from the sales of his books are donated to the Starbucks Foundation, which supports the company’s commitment to community; and the CUP Fund, which provides financial relief to partners facing emergency situations.
Schultz earned a bachelor’s degree from Northern Michigan University. He spent three years in sales and marketing with Xerox Corporation. Before joining Starbucks, he was Vice President and General Manager of Hammarplast U.S.A., a Swedish housewares company. He is co-founder of Maveron LLC, a venture capital group.