Starbucks Mission Statement

History, Vision and Values of Starbucks Founders That Influence It Today

Acup of coffee
••• MakiEni's photo/Moment/Getty Images

The Starbucks Mission, Vision and Values Is NOT About Coffee!

Most people are surprised to find out that the Starbucks mission statement has nothing to do with coffee. But it’s because Starbucks sees its mission as bigger than its beverages that the chain continues to expand and thrive and create uniquely branded Starbucks customer experiences all over the world.  The Starbucks Mission Statement is:

"Our mission: to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time."

To accomplish that mission, Starbucks has six Principles that are really "corporate values" which guide its employees in their decision making every day.

Howard Schultz Is Not the Sole Founder of Starbucks!

Howard Schultz is such an iconic retail industry leader and so synonymous with the Starbucks brand that most people just assume that he is the founder of Starbucks.  In fact, though, it was Jerry Baldwin, Zev Siegl and Gordon Bowker who opened the first coffee store named Starbucks in Seattle, Washington in 1971.  That first Starbucks just sold coffee beans and coffee machines, not prepared beverages or food like the Starbucks stores today.

Howard Schultz was hired to be the Director of Retail Operations in 1982, and he convinced the founders to open a store that served beverages in 1984.  Schultz ended up buying the Starbucks company from the founders in 1987, and he is credited with being the founder of the Starbucks coffeehouse concept and building the value of the Starbucks brand, not with starting the Starbucks company.

Much of what is associated today with the Starbucks brand, products, services, and customer experience were created by Howard Schultz.  Since he is still the current CEO, he can be given credit for fashioning the Starbucks mission, vision, and values - or at least approving them.  

Early Life History That Influenced Howard Schultz in the Founding of Starbucks

Howard Schultz was born in 1953 and grew up in New York.At the age of three, his family moved into the Bayview Housing Projects, which was not a violent or scary place to be at the time.  Still, no one - including Howard - was proud of living in the Projects, where the adults were referred to as "the working poor."  

Still, Schultz credits his upbringing in the Projects as a great contributor to what he refers to as a "well-balanced value system."  He was surrounded by diversity and learned how to establish good relationships with people from a wide variety of backgrounds. 

Schultz's natural leadership abilities emerged at a young age when he organized spur-of-the-moment games of baseball and basketball with neighborhood kids of all races and cultures.  "Nobody ever had to lecture us about diversity; we lived it," Schultz said in his book "Pouring Your Heart Into It.  

Schultz also relates in that book that his ability to make the Starbucks stores feel like a cozy and casual "escape" came from his childhood experience in using his imagination to "escape" the Projects.  But what helped Schultz the most to escape the plight of "the working poor" was his natural athletic ability and competitive drive.

Schulz focused his energies on sports success and found his way out of the projects with a football scholarship to Northern Michigan University. Coincidentally, the same year that Schultz started attending college, Starbucks was being founded thousands of miles away.  

Howard developed a strong work ethic in his early years, working in regular first-job types of positions.  His first job was a paper route at age 12, He then worked at a luncheonette, at a furrier in the Manhattan garment district stretching animal skins, and in a sweatshop steaming yarn for a knitting factory.  

Howard's biggest influence when he was growing up was his mother, who gave him the confidence to take risks, follow his dreams, and achieve great things.  In his book Schultz says:

"She encouraged me to challenge myself, to place myself in situations that weren't comfortable, so that I could learn to overcome adversity.  I don't know how she came to that knowledge because she didn't live by those rules.  But she willed us to succeed."

Not that he has risen above the circumstances of his childhood, Schultz is well known for his commitment to taking care of both his customers and his employees in meaningful ways.  His attitude towards pricing and wages reflect his desire to not create Starbucks employees who will not be part of "the working poor," in fact or by perception.  

Schultz is quick to credit his "humble" beginnings for his values in business.  Given the background of his early formative years, it's easy to see why words like "inspire," "nurture," and "neighborhood" found their way into the Starbucks mission statement.  

Rising above his impoverished circumstances, Schultz knows a thing or two about connecting with "the human spirit, " and it's easy to see why it's important to make that a focus of the Starbucks mission with all of its customers and employees.