By Bonnie Rochman / Special to Starbucks Newsroom
Veronica Park was working for a temp agency in 1991 when she got a two-week assignment on the switchboard for a Seattle company called Starbucks. “Honestly I don’t think I’d heard of them,” said Park, who showed up on her first day and joined two other young women in juggling 1,500 calls a day.
Headset on, she fielded calls from vendors in Italy trying to sell mugs and from baristas and managers with scheduling questions. Coffee farmers rang to get in touch with coffee guru Dave Olsen. “By day two, I fell in love with the company,” said Park. “By day three, they asked me not to leave.”
So she didn’t. Park is one of 80 partners who started working for Starbucks before the company made its initial public offering (IPO) of stock 25 years ago today, and are still with the company. Internally, Starbucks partners talk about their “Starbucks journeys;” these longtime partners have journeys that mirror the company’s own transformation.
When Starbucks rolled out its $0.27 cents-per-share – adjusted for six two-for-one stock splits – IPO on June 26, 1992, it had a market capitalization of $250 million. By the end of the fiscal year, it had accumulated $103 million in total net revenues, with 165 stores in five states and British Columbia. Today, the business has expanded to include more than 26,000 stores in 75 countries plus a robust channel development business, $21 billion in annual net revenues in 2016, and a market cap of approximately $86.6 billion. Over the past quarter-century, the stock price has climbed considerably, to $59.81 as of the close of trading on June 23, 2017. From the close of the first day of trading through today, Starbucks shareholders have enjoyed a total return of more than 19,000%.
To commemorate the IPO anniversary, chief financial officer Scott Maw rang the opening bell at NASDAQ on Monday morning, surrounded by partners from the New York City area. Then Starbucks hosted breakfast. (On the drink menu? Starbucks’ Pike Place blend, along with Teavana teas and Evolution Fresh juice.)
Maw credited Starbucks’ 330,000 partners for the company’s success saying, “it’s their hard work, their dedication and their focus on that elevated Starbucks experience each and every day in the stores that have built this company and made it all possible.”
Park, now a district manager in northern New Jersey, was 24 when she began working the switchboard at Starbucks Support Center in Seattle. She quickly rose to front desk supervisor and then was promoted to administrative assistant to Howard Behar, then senior vice president of retail. “He taught me about human connection and business,” said Park, who was also tapped to lead tours of Starbucks roasting plant in Kent, WA. “He allowed me to sit at the table and taught me life lessons: be humble, be patient.”
Park managed stores in the Seattle area before moving to Singapore, the company’s third international location, and the Philippines. Back in the U.S., she relocated to Washington, D.C., to help manage licensed stores on the East Coast, then to the New York area. When an opportunity to help open stores in Budapest arose, Park, a single mom, took her three kids along.
“I had no idea I would stay (with Starbucks) this long,” Park said. “Although we’re a coffee company, it is not just a cup of coffee. I stayed because it’s really about human connection.”
Aspiring rock star barista, now AV guru
With a degree in classical music, Jon Hyde was looking for a job that allowed him flexibility while he pursued his dream of becoming a professional musician. “I was going to become a rock star,” said Hyde, who is now in charge of audiovisual systems at Starbucks headquarters, with its 100-plus conference rooms. In 1990, he began working as a barista at 4th and Spring in downtown Seattle. When that location closed, he moved to the company’s original Pike Place location, then began driving a shuttle that took partners at the Support Center to and from their parking spaces. He joined the facilities department as coordinator, building the company’s AV department from the ground up. There’s something about AV equipment that makes many people quake, but Hyde wasn’t intimidated. “It’s just a bunch of plugs,” said Hyde, who plays guitar and steel guitar and sings. His music has been featured on Starbucks CD compilations. “Because I’m a musician, I wasn’t afraid of it.”
He’s now responsible for AV production work, operating audio mixing boards and video switches and feeding content to webcasts of Starbucks partner Town Halls on multiple platforms.
Hyde is still getting over having to sport a black bowtie along with the trademark green apron in his early years as a barista. “Obviously I wasn’t in on that decision,” Hyde said. “It’s been very interesting to watch the barista dress code change throughout my 27 years.” The green aprons alone are “way better” than the neckwear, said Hyde. “We were quite pleased when they went away.”
Meaningful benefits from the beginning
In 1991, Starbucks became the first privately owned U.S. company to offer a stock option program to all eligible employees, including part-time workers. The company already offered health care insurance to every qualified partner who worked at least 20 hours a week. But Bean Stock turned Starbucks employees into true partners by providing the opportunity to share in the financial success of the company through Starbucks stock. Since the first shares of Bean Stock were awarded, partners have benefited from more than $1 billion in pre-tax gains.
Chris Funchess is one of those partners. He started working at Starbucks in April 1992 as a part-time barista to supplement his overnight shift at Safeway. He’d report to work at Safeway as a journeyman food clerk at 11 p.m., leave that job at 7:30 a.m. and head to Starbucks’ Oakland store in the Rockridge Shopping Center, where he’d start brewing coffee at 8 a.m. “I had a ball,” Funchess said. “I would jump on the bar, and it was already the middle of my day.”
Funchess, now a district manager supporting 23 licensed stores in northern California, has kept his barista skills sharp because he often does training at store openings. There’s little doubt that the drink menu has grown over the years. “When I started, we didn’t have Frappuccinos,” Funchess said. “We had a total of four syrups on the bar.”
Funchess used Bean Stock to make a down payment on his Alameda home and to purchase a new Honda Accord payment-free. Four years ago after his mother had a series of small strokes, she moved to an assisted living facility. To pay for it, Funchess and his brother decided to undertake a major renovation of their mother’s home so they could rent it out. Funchess again tapped his Bean Stock to fund the renovations.
Carol Wise started at Starbucks on a whim, as a part-time barista while she found her “forever career.” She and her husband had flipped a coin to decide whether to leave Los Angeles for Portland, Ore., or Boise, Idaho. Portland won the coin toss. Wise was in need of a job that offered health insurance so she headed to the library to do some research about potential employers and learned about Starbucks. Intrigued, Wise showed up at the Starbucks at 4th and Alder and met the manager, whom Wise said seemed to share the company’s mission and values. She started in October 1991. “I got charged up about that interview at this little coffee company,” said Wise, who is now senior vice president for Siren Retail, which includes the premium Roastery and Reserve sectors. “I had been in the restaurant and retail industry forever so I knew what to look for.”
The part-time job turned into her forever career, as she opened markets in southern Oregon and Idaho, rejuvenated the Hawaii market and took on leadership roles in customer service, in the Pacific Northwest and in the U.K. Looking back 25 years after the IPO, Wise said her decision to build a career with Starbucks “wasn’t one dramatic moment but lots of small moments. What’s important to me is to be a part of, and nurture an environment, where everyone feels valued and respected."