Who Founded Starbucks?

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Starbucks, the internationally renowned coffee company, is synonymous with the daily routine of millions of people worldwide. But who were the masterminds behind this successful venture? This article delves deep into the history of Starbucks and the individuals who made it all happen.


Starbucks was founded by three friends – Gerald Baldwin, Gordon Bowker, and Zev Siegl. They were all students at the University of San Francisco, inspired by coffee-roasting entrepreneur Alfred Peet. The first Starbucks store was opened on March 31, 1971, in Seattle, Washington. Howard Schultz, who joined the company in the early 1980s, played a significant role in transforming Starbucks into a global coffeehouse chain.

The Beginning

Starbucks was founded by three friends – Gerald Baldwin, Gordon Bowker, and Zev Siegl. These individuals were not just friends but also shared a passion for the arts, fine food, good wine, and great coffee. They were all students at the University of San Francisco and were inspired by Alfred Peet, a coffee-roasting entrepreneur, to start their own coffee shop.

On March 31, 1971, they opened the first Starbucks store in Seattle, Washington, selling high-quality coffee beans and equipment. The store was located at 2000 Western Avenue from 1971–1976, and then it was moved to 1912 Pike Place, where it remains to this day.

The Vision

The initial vision of Starbucks was to provide access to high-quality dark-roasted coffee to the people of Seattle. They wanted to bring the delicious taste of premium coffee that they loved but had to travel out of town to get. Their focus was primarily on selling coffee beans and not brewed coffee. The only brewed coffee served in the store were free samples, allowing customers to taste the quality of their product.

The Arrival of Howard Schultz

In the early 1980s, a significant change occurred in Starbucks’ history with the arrival of Howard Schultz. Schultz joined the company as the director of retail operations and marketing. During a business trip to Italy, he was inspired by the warmth and artistry of the Italian coffee culture. Schultz saw potential in transforming Starbucks from a coffee bean store into a coffeehouse serving espresso-based drinks.

However, the original founders were not enthusiastic about this idea, as they wanted Starbucks to remain strictly a coffee and equipment seller. Schultz, undeterred, left Starbucks in 1985 and started his own coffee chain, Il Giornale, which was an immediate success.

Starbucks Today

In 1987, when the original owners decided to sell Starbucks, Schultz was in a position to buy the company. He rebranded his Il Giornale coffee outlets as Starbucks and quickly began to expand the company.

Under Schultz’s leadership, Starbucks grew from fewer than 20 stores to more than 100 in just four years. Today, Starbucks is a global powerhouse with more than 36,000 locations in countries from the US to Japan. Schultz served as CEO of Starbucks from 1986 to 2000, and then again from 2008 to 2017, and briefly in 2022.

Wrapping Up

The founders’ background and experience in the arts, education, and their passion for quality coffee laid the foundation for Starbucks’ success. Their commitment to quality and the unique coffeehouse experience, combined with Howard Schultz’s vision and leadership, helped the company grow into the global brand it is today. Starbucks’ focus on customer experience has also contributed to its success, creating a welcoming atmosphere, ensuring quality coffee, providing excellent customer service, and ensuring employee satisfaction.

Starbucks has become more than just a coffee shop; it’s a part of people’s daily lives. And it all started with three friends who had a passion for coffee and a vision to share it with the world.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the meaning behind the name “Starbucks”?

The name “Starbucks” is inspired by the novel Moby-Dick, specifically the character Starbuck, who is the first mate of the ship Pequod. Co-founder Gordon Bowker, who was a writer, believed that names starting with “St” were powerful and memorable, hence the choice.

The Starbucks logo is a Siren, not a mermaid. The founders wanted a nautical theme to pay homage to the seafaring history of coffee and Seattle’s strong seaport roots. They found a 16th century Norse woodcut of a twin-tailed mermaid, or Siren. The Siren was enticing, and that’s exactly what Starbucks was aspiring to be – a seductive and irresistible experience.

What was Howard Schultz’s role before joining Starbucks?

Before joining Starbucks, Howard Schultz was a general manager at Hammarplast, a Swedish kitchenware and housewares business. It was while working here that he noticed a small coffee shop named Starbucks was buying many of the company’s espresso makers, which sparked his interest in the brand.

Is Starbucks involved in any charity or social responsibility initiatives?

Yes, Starbucks is involved in several social responsibility initiatives. Through the Starbucks Foundation, the company has contributed to causes like youth leadership, veterans and military support, and refugee hiring. They also have initiatives for environmental stewardship and ethical sourcing of their coffee beans.

What is the “Starbucks Experience”?

The “Starbucks Experience” refers to the comfortable, welcoming atmosphere that Starbucks aims to provide in all its locations, along with the personal connection between their staff (referred to as “partners”) and customers. It’s part of their mission to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.

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