Howard Schultz is arguably the single reason US coffee culture exists as we know it today. Inspired by the ill fate of his father who suffered a workplace injury at a time before employee insurance, Schultz wanted to create a company where employees were looked after.
During the 1970's the young Xerox salesman walked into a Seattle store called 'Starbucks' that sold coffee beans (you couldn't buy a cup of coffee though!), he was so blown away by the quality of the coffee he tasted that he quit his job in New York and begged the owners of the store to hire him.
After visiting a trade fair in Italy where Schultz recognised the beauty of the local coffee culture, Schultz identified something special that he needed to bring to the US, he describes this as "a third place" i.e. a place for people to be outside of their home or workplace. Starting out with just four stores, today Starbucks operates more than 30,000 stores and employees more than 250,000 people who benefit from the company health insurance program.
Schultz tells a couple of great stories in this podcast about the Starbucks expansion to Japan as well as a chance meeting with Bill Gates Sr. The story of Howard Schultz and Starbucks is one of both luck and determination.