Howard Schultz, CEO and chairman of Starbucks, shares his personal story about believing he could succeed.
- You grew up in Canarsie, in the projects. You got a scholarship to be able to go to college. What kind of advice do you give kids today who are going through life and not seeing the possibilities? What do you say to someone who says I want to be Howard Schultz? - If you and I walked the streets of Canarsie and the projects today, it's almost impossible to go from there to here. But it happened and it's not a Hollywood movie it's a real story and I wasn't smarter than anyone else.
I didn't go to a pedigree school, I don't have a business degree, So how did it happen? I think I've been very fortunate and I've been very lucky, but I believe I put myself in a position to succeed. On a number of levels: One, is my mother drilled into me that you are going to college. So, there was no way I wasn't going to college in some way, and whether I was going to get that scholarship to Northern Michigan or go to a city school in New York, I was going to college.
Second, she instilled in all of us this level of self esteem. That our station in life was not going to define us. That the promise of America, and the American dream was, and is, real. And I believe that today, that's why I fight so hard for the things that I believe. That the American promise, the American dream, has to be available to everybody. And if you are an African American kid living on the other side of Milwaukee today, and you look up, and you don't see anyone who looks like you who's successful, and you start believing that you're station in life is now going to define you, and there's no future.
Then what happened to the promise of America? That is what I'm trying to fight for. And so the answer to your question is, I had great parents who believed in the country and believed in their son, I was taught to believe that my dreams could come true. Once I finished school I understood the value of surrounding myself with people who are smarter than myself. And I think I've always kind of believed that we were going to be able to do something that everyone else said we couldn't.
When we started raising money for Starbucks way way back in the mid 80s, 242 people said no. 17 people said yes. My wife was pregnant with my first child, I didn't have a job, the story has been well documented. Her father took me for a walk and said, this hobby is not working, you got to get a job. She's eight months pregnant. I started crying, went home that night and I said your father said I got to get a job, what should we do? And Sheri said we're not giving up.
Or else I wouldn't be here! So I think also finding a life partner who not only has like minded values but is going to support you through very tough times. And I strongly believe that our success as a company and my own success has been based on paying it forward.