The unofficial “President of Coffee” is now considering a run for President of the United States, as he steps away from the company he helped transition into an empire. Howard Schultz, the outgoing Chairman (and former CEO) of Starbucks teased a presidential run when he spoke to The New York Times last week, saying he intended to “think about a range of options, and that could include public service” when specifically asked if he’d consider a POTUS candidacy.
Here are 9 things to know about the man behind the global coffee brand.
His parents were considered “working poor.”
They lived with their three children (Howard is the oldest) in the projects of Brooklyn, NY. When Schultz earned a letterman’s jacket for playing football, his folks couldn’t afford the $29 to buy the jacket, so Schultz borrowed the money from a friend and hid the jacket from his parents until they could afford it.
Schultz was the quarterback of his high school football team.
According to his book Pour Your Heart Into It, it made him a Big Man on Campus among the 5,700 students of Canarsie High. “The school was so poor that we didn’t even have a football field,” he wrote. All of their games were away games.
He received a football scholarship from Northern Michigan University and majored in communications.
He graduated in 1975 — the first college graduate in his family.
His first job out of college was at a ski lodge.
Then, it was on to Xerox to sell personal computers. His first big paying gig was as VP for a Swedish company called Hammarplast, where he was basically selling fancier IKEA housewares and kitchen equipment. He made $75,000 a year. And this was back in 1980!
Schultz first discovered Starbucks in 1981 during his first trip to Seattle.
He was taken aback by the fact that this small retailer (at the time, there were only 4 stores that sold strictly bags of whole bean coffee) was a temple for coffee worship. By the time his plane landed back home in New York, he had decided to make Starbucks his next career move.
His initial attempt at getting hired at Starbucks in 1982 backfired.
Schultz’s vision was to expand and the founders feared change. Wrote Schultz in his book Pour Your Heart Into It, They also thought my style and energy would clash with the existing culture.” He was devastated. Two days later, not taking no for an answer, Schultz convinced them otherwise and got the job.
He has Italy to thank for his success.
During a business trip to Milan, Italy in 1983, he found, in his words, “the inspiration and vision that have driven my own life, and the course of Starbucks, from quiet Seattle to national prominence.” Overcome by the ritual and the romance of Italian coffee bars, he had an epiphany: Starbucks needed to start offering coffee by the cup!
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His first latte was during that same trip to Italy.
He mimicked someone else’s order and asked for a “caffe latte” expecting just coffee and milk. What he got — a shot of espresso with steamed milk and foam — blew his mind. “No one in America knows about this,” Schultz wrote in Pour Your Heart Into It. “I’ve got to take it back with me.”
He purchased the Seattle Sonics in 2001.
He sold the team to an investment group from Oklahoma City five years later. Goodbye, Supersonics! Seattle has held a grudge every since.