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Howard Schultz

The Womens Conference

How He Empowers Others

Howard Schultz, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Starbucks Coffee Company, first walked into Starbucks in Seattle’s Pike Place Market in 1981. Howard 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, Howard 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, Howard 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 16,000 stores in over 50 countries.

A Company with Soul

From the beginning, Howard 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, Howard 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. Howard 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.

Transforming Starbucks for the Future

Chairman since 2000, Howard 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.

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. 


Howard has been recognized for his passion, his leadership, and his efforts to strengthen communities. In 2007, Howard was honored with the Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh Award for Business Ethics by Notre Dame University’s Mendoza College of Business and First magazine’s International Award for Responsible Capitalism. He was also recognized as one of the 2007 recipients of the Horatio Alger Award, given to those who have overcome adversity to achieve success through the American free enterprise system. In 2004, he was included in Time magazine “Time 100,” a list of the most influential people in the world. In 2002, he was named one of the top 25 managers of the year by Business Week magazine and in 2000, he was honored by the Columbia University School of Business with the Botwinick Prize in Business Ethics.

Howard created The Starbucks Foundation in 1997, initially funded by profits from his best-selling book, Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time. The Foundation initially supported literacy and is currently providing support to organizations that encourage young people to create change in their communities.

Howard 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.