The word “No” made me into a billionaire


I grew up poor in the housing projects of
Brooklyn, New York. The word “no” has been said to me more than “yes”, but I never let that stop me from building the fifth largest food chain in the world. I am now the 232nd richest person in the United
States with a net worth of $2.9 Billion dollars. Guess Who? Their life from beginning to present. I was born on July 19, 1953, to a family
that didn’t have a lot of money. Money was a challenge as my mother was a receptionist
and my father was a World War II veteran working as a diaper delivery driver. They didn’t have a college education, but they worked hard for the family, and they loved their work. I don’t know if they were ever able to enjoy life. When my father fractured his ankle while working,
it brought us to our lowest point . Little money in our pockets, medical bills to pay,
we lived by the day. It was difficult seeing hard working people struggle for survival. I promised myself it wouldn’t happen to anyone else. Most people work their first job at 18.
My first job was at 12 years old. I sold newspaper and worked in a local cafe. I guess you can say my childhood wasn’t really
much of a childhood except for playing sports. I wasn’t a straight-A student or most voted to succeed, but I was really good at American Football. It was a way for me to escape my
world and enjoy something I was good at. I worked hard and was awarded a football scholarship to Northern Michigan University where I became the first person in my family to go to college. I always knew I wouldn’t become a professional football player , but I did know I wanted to be educated. I worked hard for it and became the first person in my family to graduate from college. I worked various jobs and have
always been determined to succeed at my goals. At 26 years old, I became Vice President
in charge of sales for a Swedish Houseware company – no, it’s not IKEA if that’s what you’re thinking . In some people’s minds, this would be seen as “successful”. I mean, Vice President isn’t an easy job title at such a young age. But not me. I didn’t feel happiness, joy or fulfillment. Not until I visited a shop that was placing large orders for one of our items; a drip coffeemaker. At the time, the two owners were selling whole coffee beans, teas, spices and coffee-making accessories. I felt their passion and love for something as simple as coffee. Coffee! Can you believe it? Keep in mind, this was 1981 when coffee was a quick drink to get you through the weekday. I knew this was where I belonged. I fell in love with what they created and the passion they had for something that was overlooked. For 1 year, I called, I asked, I nagged and
I visited asking them to let me join their team. I must have annoyed them really badly because later that year , I became their Director of Marketing . 1 year into the job, I went on a business trip to Milan. And what I saw was a complete difference from
American coffee drinking culture. People actually sat down and enjoyed their drinks. It was more than a drink, it was a relationship – a place where people went to meet, talk, and appreciate a finely made coffee. “This is what we need”, I thought . This was my second eureka moment! I told the owners of my vision, but they wanted to stay true to their current business of selling bulk items, not individual drinks.
I didn’t blame them. Americans at the time didn’t even know what
a latte was! I decided I would create my own coffee shop. The challenge was trying to raise $1.6 million dollars in 1 year. I spoke to 242 people,
and 217 said “no” – that’s a 90% no by the way. They’d tell me it wasn’t worth the money.
That it wouldn’t work. That there was no real profit in such a business.
I won’t lie. I was discouraged and I even questioned my idea.
But growing up poor, I wasn’t after profits or millions. I was after my dreams to become a reality.
I didn’t get my full $1.6 million, but I got what I needed to open my first shop, “Il Giornale”. I made many mistakes in that first store, but I learned very quickly and picked myself up until we were making annual sales of half a million dollars. I was one step closer to my goal.
But something was still missing. Remember that shop I had to be apart of and
worked for? Well, soon after, the owners decided to sell their business. I had a deep relationship with that shop and I just couldn’t let it go. So, in 1987, I bought their 6 stores for $3.8 million dollars and combined my stores with their 6 and became the CEO of Starbucks Coffee. You heard it correctly. Starbucks was that first coffee shop I walked
into, worked for, and eventually bought. Although, it wasn’t the Starbucks you know today. Over the years, I managed to transform it into the drink shop I always imagined that people said was “dumb”, a “bad idea”, “wouldn’t work”. It’s grown to be a place that is more than
specialty coffee drinks, but a place to study, meet friends and feel comfortable. There are now more than 26,736 Starbucks stores in more than 75 countries employing over 300,000 people. But that’s not where my successes lie. I found my success when I was finally able to give back to every Starbucks employee or, partners is what I call them, with stock
options, free health care, dental care, retirement plans, adoption assistance, and paid college
tuition for all of our partners. My father passed away before he could see what I’ve done. But I think he’d be proud to see Starbucks providing hard working class people with benefits he wasn’t able to enjoy or provide. No, I wasn’t the original founder of Starbucks
Coffee Company. But I had the goal to build a relationship between man and coffee, and I made it into the Starbucks you know today. Most of all, I had the dream to build a
company that my father was never able to work for. A company that treated their employees
how my father and family wanted to be treated. It was never about the money, the profits
or the possible wealth. It was about the people I would help. That is my success. That is my greatest achievement . My name is Howard Schultz, and I am the rags
to riches who built Starbucks Coffee Company into one of the world’s most recognizable brands.