An In-depth Look into the Life of Howard Schultz: 10 Things You Didn’t Know

Howard Schultz, best known for the success of the multi-billion dollars global giant Starbucks, is more than just a business tycoon. Though a public face with his corporate stakes, there still exist aspects of Schultz’s life that are less known to the public. If you thought you knew enough about him, think again! We are about to unveil ten things about Howard Schultz that you likely didn’t know.

1. Schultz grew up in poverty

Widely projected as the corporate mogul, Howard Schultz has a humble beginning to his story. Not only did he grow up in a working-class family in Brooklyn, New York, but also he lived in social housing—a federally subsidized housing project known as the Bayview Houses.

This early exposure to poverty, he says, served not as an obstacle but as a personal motivator. It helped shape his worldview, particularly when it comes to business and human rights. Schultz’s philosophy revolves around creating opportunities for people no matter their socio-economic level. In essence, his childhood experiences have had lasting implications on his life and his entrepreneurial journey.

2. He was a stellar sportsman

Before his corporate life, Schultz showed promise in sports. As a youngster, he earned an athletic scholarship for football at Northern Michigan University— indeed, an exciting fact unknown to many.

Even more astonishing is that before he became the first in his family to attend college, he had no intent of pursuing a professional degree. He apparently accepted the scholarship primarily because it offered him a chance to get out of his impoverished neighborhood. This determination and ambition to better his life conditions made the young Schultz accept the offer, setting him onto a path that would eventually lead him to unprecedented success.

3. His original venture was not Starbucks

Unlike common knowledge and what one might expect, Schultz did not commence his entrepreneurial journey with Starbucks. Before becoming Starbucks CEO, Schultz initially worked as the Director of Retail Operations and Marketing for the original Starbucks.

Later, Schultz opened his own coffeehouse chain named “Il Giornale.” After successfully operating this cafe, he purchased Starbucks – which was selling only coffee beans and equipment at that time and not their trademark coffee – and converted more than 100 Starbucks stores into Il Giornale coffee houses.

4. He stepped down as Starbucks CEO twice

Howard Schultz has had an on-off relationship with Starbucks in terms of his role as chief executive officer. He first stepped down in 2000, intending just to be a strategist and chairman. During this time, Starbucks started to falter due to the lack of managerial direction, a deviation from its original brand image and rising competition.

Schultz stepped in again as CEO in 2008 to bring the company back on track amid these declining elements, which he successfully did, navigating the coffee giant through the global financial crisis. He then stepped down again in 2017, this time focusing on Starbucks’ high-end initiative and social endeavors.

5. He is a published author

Schultz’s influence is not just limited to his business success. He has also shared his knowledge and thoughts through his writing. Schultz is the author of “Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time” and “Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul.”

Through these books, Schultz shared his extraordinary journey as a business executive and the valuable lessons he’s learned along the way. Covering various topics from leadership to moral courage, his books are a great read for all inspiring entrepreneurs.

6. George Washington University awarded him an honorary degree

Despite being a college graduate, Schultz’s biggest academic honor came from George Washington University. In 2017, the university conferred upon him an honorary degree, Doctor of Public Service, an acknowledgement of his dedication and leadership in the realms of ethical and socially responsible business.

This marked yet another validation of Schultz’s efforts toward the creation of opportunities for others, particularly young people, and transforming Starbucks into a socially responsible global brand.

7. He has been a part of several high-profile executive boards

Being an influential figure, Schultz has served on numerous executive boards over the years. He has been on the Board of Directors of Square, Inc., a mobile payment company. He served on the board of e-commerce giant, Groupon, and remarkably, is a former owner of the NBA team, the Seattle Supersonics.

These roles, apart from his involvement with Starbucks, have offered Schultz invaluable experiences, making him one of the most versatile and proficient corporate leaders of our times.

8. He considered running for President

Yes, you read that right. In 2019, Schultz announced that he was seriously considering running as an independent candidate for the U.S. presidency in the 2020 elections. He stated that his campaign would focus on reducing national debt, affordable healthcare, and comprehensive tax reform.

However, amidst criticism and a lack of public support, Schultz eventually decided against running for the presidency. This was ostensibly to prevent a re-election of incumbent president Donald Trump by potentially splitting the opposition vote.

9. Schultz has consistently advocated for social issues

Known for his philanthropic efforts, Schultz has consistently used his position to advocate for vital social issues. He has been vocal about relevant matters such as America’s national debt, immigration reform, and veteran affairs. He has even implemented numerous socially cognizant policies at Starbucks, including comprehensive healthcare for employees (including part-time workers) and initiatives to hire veterans and refugees.

Under Schultz’s leadership, Starbucks has launched multiple initiatives to encourage discussion on race relations, foster youth employment, and moderate gun violence, asserting his belief in the potential of businesses to effect social change.

10. He has pledged to give away majority of his wealth

In alignment with his strong commitment to societal welfare, Schultz, alongside his wife Sheri Schultz, signed The Giving Pledge – an initiative by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet where billionaires pledge to give away a majority of their wealth during their lifetime or in their will.

Schultz’s interest in philanthropy and social responsibility mirrors in his approach to wealth. His decision places him among the world’s wealthiest who have pledged to dedicate their wealth to usher in social transformation.

Conclusion

Undoubtedly, Howard Schultz’s life is marked by remarkable determination, soaring ambition, and an unwavering commitment to social justice. His journey from a poor neighborhood in Brooklyn to being a globally influential figure is truly inspiring, bringing to light these lesser-known facts about his life.

Useful Links

Starbucks About Us |
Howard Schultz Official Website |
The Giving Pledge