For The love of Coffee, 
Howard Schultz and His
Rags To Riches Story

Back in 2012, Howard Schultz was ranked by Forbes to be the 354th richest billionaire in the US with a net worth of $1.5 billion. Now in 2014, he's fallen way down the list, at #896—but that doesn't mean he's doing badly either. Business may have dipped slightly recently, but his net worth had increased to $2 billion, thanks to his coffee empire. 

But before the Starbucks success, Howard was just like any ordinary person in the US—poorer than most, but he was never the type to give up on his dreams. Find out how he did it all almost single-handedly.

Photo by Richard Eriksson / CC BY 2.0

Where It All Started

Howard Schultz was born in Brooklyn, New York on July 19, 1953. He was the son of Jewish parents, one time US Army Trooper Fred Schultz and Elaine, his wife. Fred later on worked as a truck driver to support his family of 3 children, of which Howard was the middle child. 

Love for Sports

He excelled in sports. Basketball, baseball, football, he did it all. It was his escape from being poor, and it became his bridge to an athletic scholarship in Northern Michigan University. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in Communications, the first ever in his family to go to and graduate in college. 

Finding Starbucks

Schultz worked as a salesperson for the Xerox Corporation. He did well in sales and was promoted as a full sales representative. After 4 years, he left Xerox to become a general manager for Hammarplast, a drip coffee manufacturer in Sweden. Schultz had a staff of 20 and was in charge of their US operations. 

His career paved the way to finding out about Starbucks Coffee in Seattle, where he found great admiration for the owners' and the staff's knowledge and dedication to coffee. A year later, he became its Marketing Director.

On a business trip to Milan, he observed how coffee shops were a big part of Italy's way of life. There were more than 200,000 of them in the country, and in Milan alone, he noted that there was one on almost every corner. 

Leaving Starbucks and Starting His Own Cafe

He persuaded the owners of Starbucks to include traditional espresso to the menu and even if the pilot of the concept was a success, the owners didn't want to venture into a restaurant business.

This led to Schultz to leave the company in 1985 to start his own business. However, he didn't have any money and his wife was due with their first child.

Luckily, there were a few benefactors who were willing to help him out and a year later, he was able to raise the $400,000 needed to begin his own cafe concept. He named it Il Giornale and it became a hit among the locals. 

Success of Starbucks

Deciding to go another path, the Starbucks management sold its Starbucks retail to Schultz for $3.8 million. With the help of some local investors, he was able to push through with the sale.

He then incorporated his existing Il Giornale coffee chains to Starbucks as well. From there, as they say, it was history. Under Schultz direction, Starbucks managed to grow into a multi-billion dollar coffee empire.

Schultz aggressively expanded Starbucks all across United States. He had a keen eye on real estate which helped his Starbucks empire and he also focused on rapid growth, pushing Starbucks to grow at a rapid rate.

Today, Starbucks have more than 20,000 stores all over the world. There are more than 13,000 stores alone in the United States. It won’t be surprising to hear that by the end of the decade, Starbucks would have reached 30,000 stores worldwide.

Failed Ventures

Howard also is an important shareholder of Jamba Juice, increasing his prominence in the beverages industry. He wanted to share his knowledge about the business, and co-wrote 2 books with 2 other authors. 

Not all of Howard's business ventures were a success though, as his purchase of the Seattle Supersonics of the NBA would proof to be. He was widely criticized by how the deal turned out.

But that didn't deter him from trying to make the deal work, but after a substantial effort to bring the team together, he sold his ownership for $350 million.

Thriving In Spite of It All

Millions of people around the world love the Starbucks brand, and it looks like it's going to continue this way. His success is apparent . Truly an inspiration to aspiring billionaires out there. Despite his failed ventures, Howard Schultz is still regarded as one of the greatest businessman in the beverage industry.

Lessons From The Life of Howard Schultz

  • Make poverty your driving force to success, just like what Howard Schultz did.
  • Never ever be too afraid to take risks when you believe in something.
  • Failing on a business venture doesn't make you a failure. Brush yourself up and try again.

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"If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants." Isaac Newton

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