Military Training Contributes to Starbucks Barista’s Success

Tom Tice was curious to know more about Jenny Chapin when he saw her behind the bar at a Starbucks in Issaquah, Washington, wearing a green apron that displayed the American flag just above the Starbucks Siren logo.

Tice, Starbucks recruiting manager and a 20-year U.S. Marine, knew patriotic flag-adorned aprons are presented to select Starbucks partners (employees) in recognition of their service as veterans and military spouses. He decided to strike up a conversation with Chapin.

“She appeared so young,” Tice said. “I looked at the flag and I thought there was a mistake – that she’d forgotten her apron and just grabbed one in the back of the store.”

After a few questions, Tice had a clearer picture of the young barista’s status. Chapin had earned her patriotic apron by serving in the 909th Human Resources Company, a U.S. Army Reserve unit headquartered in Bothell, Washington.

The 20-year-old Covington, Washington, native graduated from high school in 2015 and found herself feeling restless. She’d already accumulated college credits through her school’s Running Start program, but she was strongly drawn to service. Two months after receiving her high school diploma, she signed on for six years active and two years inactive as a Reservist.

Her training took Chapin to South Carolina, where initial doubts gave way to a surge in self-confidence. In the company of her “battle buddies” she confronted a fear of heights, repelling down a 60-foot wall, and discovered new levels of physical and mental strength.

“When you’re going through basic training, you’re taught how to go about a situation,” Chapin said. “First you observe and then you react. You don’t get caught up in the emotions. You just handle the situation.”

Prepared to Make a Difference

While in South Carolina, Chapin and others from her unit made a Starbucks near their base a regular stop. She was struck by the welcoming atmosphere they encountered and found herself thinking, “Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?” She applied for work with Starbucks and, when she arrived home, interviewed in Issaquah and was hired on the spot.

The qualities instilled in Reservists like Chapin provide a foundation for success with Starbucks, according to Dija Fraser, vice president of North American Talent Acquisition for the company.

“Our recruiters strive to find people who hit the job running, and that’s defined by an ability to walk on to the floor and make a difference instantly,” said Fraser, a 23-year Starbucks partner. “We’re looking for leadership ability and we’re looking for people who can work and serve with others as part of a team.”

Fraser met Chapin when Tice invited her to the Starbucks headquarters last fall to meet other partners in the military community and see the company’s Honor Wall, a space maintained to show gratitude for their service. Like Chapin, Fraser took on challenges as a young woman, managing a Starbucks store when she was just 20 years old. Recruiting partners who can apply the leadership skills they’ve developed in the military aligns with Starbucks goal of hiring 10,000 veterans and military spouses by the end of 2018.

“It’s difficult to be a Reservist if you have to do it on your own time, so we offer hours and flexibility with that in mind,” said Fraser. “Our benefits program accommodates the needs that they have.”

Starbucks Military Service Pay benefit provides eligible partners with up to 80 hours of pay each year when service obligations take them away from their work with the company. Starbucks also provides Military Allowance for eligible partners called to active duty. If a partner’s military pay is less than their rate of pay when the absence begins, Starbucks pays the difference.

Chapin also intends to enroll at Arizona State University later this year through the Starbucks College Achievement Plan, which provides partners full tuition reimbursement for an undergraduate degree from ASU through its online program.

She’ll keep wearing the green apron as a Starbucks barista while she presses ahead as a Reservist and student. Her patriotic apron, however, has been updated, thanks to Tice, who noticed during that first meeting that it was missing Chapin’s name and military affiliation.

“My apron means the world to me,” Chapin said. “There are veterans who come into the store all the time who ask me about it. It’s so cool meeting these people. We have a connection. It’s something we share.”

Discover more stories about how Starbucks is Paying Tribute and Creating Opportunity for people who've served and sacrificed for the country.

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