Howard Schultz is CEO and chairman of Starbucks, the highly successful coffee company.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, on July 19, 1953, Howard Schultz graduated from Northern Michigan University with a bachelor’s degree in communications before becoming director of retail operations and marketing for the Starbucks Coffee Company in 1982. After founding the coffee company Il Giornale in 1987, he purchased Starbucks and became CEO and chairman of the company. In 2000, Schultz publicly announced that he was resigning as Starbucks’s CEO. Eight years later, however, he returned to head the company. In 2014, Starbucks had more than 21,000 stores worldwide and a market cap of $60 billion.
After graduating from the university with a Bachelor of Science degree in communication in 1975, Schultz found work as an appliance salesman for Hammarplast, a company that sold European coffee makers in the United States. Rising through the ranks to become director of sales, in the early 1980s, Schultz noticed that he was selling more coffee makers to a small operation in Seattle, Washington, known then as the Starbucks Coffee Tea and Spice Company, than to Macy’s. “Every month, every quarter, these numbers were going up, even though Starbucks just had a few stores,” Schultz later remembered. “And I said, ‘I gotta go up to Seattle.'”
Howard Schultz still distinctly remembers the first time he walked into the original Starbucks in 1981. At that time, Starbucks had only been around for 10 years and didn’t exist outside Seattle. The company’s original owners, old college buddies Jerry Baldwin and Gordon Bowker and their neighbor, Zev Siegl, had founded Starbucks in 1971. The three friends also came up with the coffee company’s ubiquitous mermaid logo.
“When I walked in this store for the first time—I know this sounds really hokey—I knew I was home,” Schultz later remembered. “I can’t explain it. But I knew I was in a special place, and the product kind of spoke to me.” At that time, he added, “I had never had a good cup of coffee. I met the founders of the company, and really heard for the first time the story of great coffee … I just said, ‘God, this is something I’ve been looking for my whole professional life.'” Little did Schultz know then how fortuitous his introduction to the company would truly be, or that he would have an integral part in creating the modern Starbucks.