If Howard Schultz’s family didn’t fall on hard times would Starbucks be the company it is today?
If a neighbor hadn’t invited a then 8-year-old Schultz to the Brownsville Boys Club in Brooklyn, New York would the global coffee giant as we know it even exist?
Schultz, the Starbucks executive chairman, was the keynote speaker Monday at the Boys &Girls Clubs of Martin County’s sixth annual Distinguished Speaker’s Luncheon. The national organization’s name was changed to Boys &Girls Clubs of America in 1990.
In past years, Dr. Ben Carson and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke at the series.
“I’m quite sure what the Boys Club gave me at the age of 8 was a level of self-esteem, confidence, interpersonal relationships and the ability to carry that shame without the chip on my shoulder to get in trouble, to fight and to feel as if I was being left behind,” Schultz said.
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Schultz said he attended the luncheon as a way to “pay it forward” and told an audience of 230 how how he is “living proof” of the promise of the American Dream.
Tickets for the event, which served as a fundraiser for the club, cost $175 each.
Board president William F. Whitman Jr. said they’re looking to raise $450,000 for new buses, noting the buses the club uses are from the early 1990s and “10 years older than any kid who will graduate from high school this year.”
During the luncheon held at Martin County’s Sailfish Point Country Club, Dr. Phil Schein was honored for his work with the local chapter and his induction into the Boys &Girls Clubs of America Alumni Hall of Fame.
Considered an international authority in the treatment of cancer, Schein credited the Boys &Girls Club in Asbury Park, New Jersey for helping change his life.
“I was being provided extraordinary opportunities and experiences that provided me the opportunity to develop and test myself in ways that were just impossible for a kid in my circumstances at the time,” said Schein, who also was cochairman of the luncheon. “The end result was a realization that with some hard work and a few breaks I could probably do something with my life.”
Yet, Schein said, perhaps there were a few missed opportunities.
“I have a few regrets. Most notably, in retrospect, I wish I’d gone into the coffee business,” Schein said, getting a big laugh from the audience.
Living the dream
Schultz, former CEO of the Seattle-based global company, was the day’s main event.
He spoke of Starbucks’ rise from a small company to the giant it is today with 28,000 stores in 76 countries, 100 million customers a week and 350,000 employees.
“I thought we hit the lottery in 1992. Starbucks market cap was $250 million and to me that was like I don’t know where we’re going to go from here, but only in America,” Schultz said. “Twenty six years later, Starbucks market cap is between $80 and $90 billion.”
He spoke of his New York upbringing where he lived in public housing and how the Brownsville Boys Club became a place for him to be himself and where he could “escape from the shame and vulnerability of what I was experiencing.”
“This suit is just armor. I’m still this vulnerable, insecure … kid from Brooklyn, New York who lived in public housing and at the age of 7 had one of those life-changing experiences in which you’re witnessing a fracturing of your family and the fracturing of the American Dream,” Schultz said.
Schultz credits his success to that dream but said today he worries it’s in jeopardy.
“Is the availability of that promise in the American Dream as alive today as it was when I was growing up in Brooklyn?” he said. “As Americans we must make sure that the enduring promise of the country and the opportunity for all stays available and present for everyone.”
Noting the country’s growing debt and how it is affecting organizations like the Boys &Girls Club, Schultz said he believes businesses and leaders have a role and responsibility to help their communities and employees.
Starbucks provides free college tuition for employees and has established a foundation to give back.
In 1996, Schultz and his wife Sheri co-founded the Schultz Family Foundation, which has two major initiatives, one for youth and one for veterans.
“I concluded many years ago that a true reason for a company’s existence is to achieve the fragile balance between profit and conscious.”
Kelly Tyko is a columnist for Treasure Coast Newspapers and TCPalm.com, part of the USA TODAY NETWORK. This column reflects her opinion.
By Kelly Tyko,
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