The founder of Starbucks shares his dramatic, untold personal story—from his childhood in Brooklyn’s housing projects to his rise as a business icon—and lays out his vision for how companies can improve their social impact.
Howard Schultz was born and raised in the Canarsie Housing Projects in Brooklyn, New York, the child of a fractured family—his father a bitter truck driver put out of work by an injury, his mother an optimist with dark secrets. Howard hid in the concrete stairwells at night, while his parents turned their apartment into a den of illegal activity, serving the local population of gambler and drinkers. By day he learned the hard lessons of the project playgrounds, as well as the consolations of a working-class community’s spirit. He also learned what it meant to be on the wrong side of the American dream—and his own dream was to create a company that would take care of workers like his father, instead of discarding them, and bring people together instead of profiting from their isolation. But soon his ambitions grew even beyond that.
This is the story of how Schultz did it, from the business trip to Milan as a young salesman that set him on fire with the idea of creating an American “third place,” to the struggles and reversals that marked the early, uncertain days of Starbucks, to Howard’s encounters with baristas, managers, and customers around the country that transformed his sense of what Starbucks needed to become.
He also tells the dramatic stories of a succession of major Starbucks initiatives that arose from this vision: the company’s early, controversial expansion of benefits to same-sex couples; their push to create a fund to support small, local entrepreneurs during the depths of the recession; hiring programs for veterans and refugees; support for workers with undocumented relatives; initiatives around race and police violence; programs to raise starting wages, offer benefits to part-time employees, and provide free college to all staff.
Throughout these compelling stories is a manifesto about the ethical obligations of powerful businesses in a time of radical inequality and dysfunctional government—and the responsibility we all have to prioritize our shared humanity over the destructive, mindless, and heartless incentives of capitalism.
“Howard Schultz’s story is a clear reminder that success is not achieved through individual determination alone, but through partnership and community. Howard’s commitment to both have helped him build one of the world’s most recognized brands. It will be exciting to see what he accomplishes next.”—Bill Gates
“From the Ground Up will resonate with anyone who knows what it’s like to overcome adversity. Howard Schultz’s dream to make the world more fair and welcoming for everyone is truly a breath of fresh air.”—Serena Williams
“Howard Schultz has written a compelling and moving story about how his childhood hardships influenced his creation of Starbucks and inspired him to create a company with a social conscience. Schultz offers powerful lessons about how companies can help address social problems and how we as a society can come together to ensure that every American has the opportunities open to a poor boy from Canarsie—to see the world ‘not as it was, but as it could be.’”—Secretary Robert Gates
“It’s rare for powerful Fortune 500 CEOs and entrepreneurs to open up and share their vulnerabilities and personal challenges. In From the Ground Up, Howard Schultz does just that. More important, he documents how these have motivated him to take on monumental challenges that set the example that capitalism can be a platform for not just accomplishment but also compassion. From the Ground Up is a great read that will inspire all of us to try harder to help those who need it.”—Mark Cuban
“In From the Ground Up, Howard Schultz shares a uniquely American journey that begins in the public housing projects of Brooklyn and leads to the boardroom of one of the world’s most admired companies. More than a memoir or compilation of business lessons, it’s a compelling story about how character and values can spur positive change in people’s lives.”—Admiral William H. McRaven