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Grounds For Success Coffee talk with Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz.

By Scott S. Smith

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Everyone knows Starbucks, the ubiquitous retail chain that sellscoffee beverages, beans and accessories, but few know HowardSchultz, the self-effacing chairman, CEO and mastermind behindStarbucks' astonishing growth.

A child of Brooklyn's Bayview Projects, Schultz earned abachelor's degree in communications, worked as a salesman forXerox, and eventually became vice president of U.S. operations fora Swedish housewares manufacturer. It was there that he noticed afour-store retailer in Seattle was ordering a large number of hiscompany's drip coffee makers. He decided to find out why, andhe scheduled a sales trip to Starbucks Coffee, Tea and Spice in1981. Schultz was so impressed with the then-10-year-oldcompany's dedication to providing customers with qualityimported coffee beans, he signed on as director of Starbucks'retail operations and marketing the following year.

In 1983, while attending a housewares convention in Milan,Italy, Schultz noticed the coffee-bar phenomenon. Serving exoticbeverages such as espresso, there were 1,500 of them in Milanalone--all of them packed. Certain that coffee bars would do wellin the United States, he convinced Starbucks to open one thefollowing year, then left the company to start Il Giornale, his ownchain of coffee bars, in 1985. Two years later, he raised enoughventure capital to buy out Starbucks' two founding partners andmerged the firm with his own, renaming the new company StarbucksCorp. The combined operation had 100 employees and 17 locations inthe Seattle area.

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