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Love at first sip hooks Starbucks CEO

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When the 29-year-old Howard Schultz first tasted a cup of Starbucks coffee, he couldn’t believe it.

“I went outside whispering to my­­self, ‘Oh my gosh, what a wonderful business, what a wonderful city! I want to be a part of this,’” recalls Schultz, now the longtime CEO of Starbucks. He begged the founders for a job; at the time, Starbucks only consisted of a few Seattle stores.

Initially, the founders waved off the pesky young man. But Schultz kept urging Jerry Baldwin, the top executive, to expand.

To allay Baldwin’s fears about rapid expansion diluting the Starbucks brand, Schultz said, “Well, let’s do it all gradually, in your usual pace, but let’s also create something truly significant.”

That comment hit home with Baldwin. The next day, he offered Schultz the job of marketing director.

Despite the fact that Schultz, then a salesman at Swedish manufacturer Hamamaplast, would earn less than half of his current salary, he eagerly signed on.

Within a year, Schultz traveled to Italy to get coffee recipes. He returned with the knowledge and ingredients to launch latte and cappuccino, which tripled Starbucks’ annual sales.

But Schultz couldn’t convince the founders to refashion their stores as meeting places. So he quit and opened his own competing coffeehouse in 1986. A year later, the original Starbucks founders decided to sell their company—and Schultz snapped it up for $4 million.

Today, Schultz is worth more than $2 billion.

— Adapted from “Success story of Starbucks CEO,” www.astrumpeople.com.

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