How travel was the catalyst for Starbucks

Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz’s business trip to Milan changed the fortunes of the world’s biggest coffee company. Turning one small shop in Seattle into a global brand valued at $60 billion.



A year after joining Starbucks as director of retail operations and marketing, Schultz ventured to the home of coffee for an international housewares show in Milan. At the time Starbucks was in the coffee bean business, however, Schultz had an epiphany whilst encountering numerous coffee bars in Milan, where baristas had made the business an art.

Regulars returned in their droves due to the high-class service provided.  It was clear that people liked a place where they are known by name and where the coffee is carefully made, presented and served. It wasn’t just one element of the Italian coffee scene that changed how Schultz thought about coffee, it was all of them. How they worked in harmony together to create a unique vibe that the American market was missing. A personal relationship between the consumer and the coffee would not only propel Starbucks to a new level but would create a new standard for coffee brands to live up to.

“One thing I’ve noticed about romantics. They try to create a new and better world far from the drabness of everyday life. That is Starbucks’ aim, too. We try to create, in our stores, an oasis, a little neighborhood spot where you can take a break, listen to some jazz, and ponder universal or personal or even whimsical questions over a cup of coffee.” – Schultz

Before Schultz took off for Milan

  • Sold beans only
  • Had 1 store in Seattle, Washington


  • Sells more coffee to more people around the global than any other company ever
  • 26,000 stores in 75 countries
  • 60 billion dollar market cap
  • 3rd on Forbes ‘Worlds Most Admired Companies In The World’