In February, Starbucks is proud to honor Black History Month and celebrate Black excellence and the many ways partners (employees) demonstrate it every day. Join us and:
In their own words: Starbucks partners on what everyday Black excellence means to them
Shannon, Northern California
Shannon, a partner resource manager supporting retail operations in Northern California, is committed to community service. A former elementary school teacher, Shannon is on the board of her local soccer club, serves as vice president of the Omega Upsilon Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Inc., the oldest African American sorority in the country, and works with the NorCal chapter of the Starbucks Black Partner Network to support families in her community. She has helped with food drives through her church, supported local high school STEM programs financially and donated a kidney to her sister.
“Everyday excellence is showing up and giving your best, and your best could change each and every day, because there’s a lot of things going on… and how do we show up to support one another?”
“So, I always try to stress around excellence, the connections we make every day with each other and connecting with other human beings. And if I can make someone feel better, if I can impart wisdom, if I can leave someone in a better place than I found them, that is Black excellence.” — Shannon
Maceo, who also goes by Mase, just joined Starbucks in June as a store manager but almost immediately began making an impact. One example is “Motivational Mondays with Mase,” an online conversation he leads each week with partners in his district to share experiences and empower each other. Maceo knows first-hand the importance of lifting others up. He was raised by a single mom on the South Side of Chicago who taught him to care for others. After she died when he was 16, he was adopted by his uncle who he says taught him how to tie a tie, go into a business meeting and move through the world. Maceo is also a graduate of Kentucky State University, an HBCU (historically Black college or university). He’s a strong believer in the power of journaling as a ritual and as a way to hold himself accountable. Outside of work, he writes stories and poems for his young son and is helping to grow his wife’s apparel business.
“For me, Black history is everyday Black excellence, right? So, every day we are making history of different things that we’re doing in our daily lives.”
“So being able to make those footprints and steps for the next generation to come and follow. Being that example for the younger generation that’s following, looking up to me in the current day of how I’m moving, what I’m going after, what I’m doing. … Everyday Black excellence for me is being observant and being able to look and see what the next person looks like, what the next person needs. So regardless if you look like me, or you come from the same background as me, being able to provide opportunities for others so that we can all learn from it together, work together to be able to come and create a success plan.” — Maceo
Mercedes, a senior sourcing specialist in Seattle supporting the food and bakery category, grew up in a musical family. Her grandmother played the organ, her mother was active in the Seattle gospel choir scene and her father and uncles “could have been the Jackson 5,” she says. About six years ago, Mercedes joined DaNell Daymon & Greater Works, a community gospel choir that reached the semifinals of “America’s Got Talent” and recently wrapped up a live album project. She’s also active with the Starbucks Black Partner Network, having helped organize BPN’s second annual awards gala.
“For me, one of my goals entering 2020 was to really start to be more visible and really show my personality, and really invoke my culture into my work and into my spaces.”
“So, I kind of took it as a challenge upon myself to just really be more out there with my personality and really be my authentic self. It’s been a journey, but I do feel more recognized, and when I go into spaces, I feel more confident. There’s been times when I’ve put on a face or been something I’m not. But I’m getting to a level of authenticity, where I can come to the table as myself with my own recommendations, with my own ideas, and be accepted for that.” — Mercedes
Leading with love and joy: Meet Taki, a Starbucks partner renowned for bringing out the best in others
Starbucks store manager Taki attributes his gift for developing colleagues and creating inclusive, inspiring environments to his lived experience as a Black American, upbringing with a single mom and his love for performance.
By Thanh Tan
On a recent winter morning, thousands of Starbucks partners (employees) gathered virtually for a coffee tasting. Nearly two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, a new variant had emerged and was surging across the world. People were tired. Political divisions continued to split the country.
But on this day, Taki, a Starbucks store manager in Hiram, Georgia, was ready to kick off the video call with a hot cup of Pike Place Roast – and talk about the power of “leading with love.”
“Ask for support if you need it,” he implored. “We’re humans first. Then partners. Then leaders. And as leaders, we get to create an environment of love and safety.”
Taki (pronounced ‘Tie-key’), an 11-year Starbucks partner, is known for his boundless energy – no matter the day, no matter the challenge. When colleagues talk about him, you can sense the importance and the urgency of his presence, and not just because at 6 feet 3 inches tall, he’s been likened to a human teddy bear. He embodies everyday Black excellence.
“He’s dedicated. Loyal. Strong. He shows up,” says Sharif, his friend and former peer now managing a nearby district.
To step inside Taki’s store in a small town outside of Atlanta is to feel his brand of joy. Partners are dancing. Customers are in and out with ease. The numbers reflect the mood.
His district manager, Amy, believes the arrival of Taki’s personality and his strong work ethic helped strengthen his store at a critical moment three years ago when he arrived, and “not only did he turn it around, he turned the community around.”
Recently named the top manager of the quarter in his area, Taki doesn’t let all this buzz go to his head. He knows who he is and what he brings.
“I am a Black gay man who exemplifies what it means to love yourself, but then also to love others who maybe don’t love themselves or don’t have people around them to love them,” he says.
Bringing joy and everyday Black excellence to Starbucks
Flint, Michigan may be more synonymous these days with a water crisis, but Taki recalls a happy childhood filled with extracurricular activities. Raised by a single mother with two older sisters, Taki got his first taste of the spotlight in the 5th grade when he was cast as a mouse in the local production of “The Nutcracker”. He practiced his heart out. Those five minutes at center stage sparked something within.
At 13, he discovered African dance and wound up learning a style of performing that required big movements to live drumbeating. Soon, he was performing up to four shows a week with the Kuungana African Drum and Dance Company. He felt alive and part of something bigger than himself – “living a life that my ancestors couldn’t live.”
“You’re leaping, you’re up in the air. It’s electrifying. It literally just took over me,” he says, his eyes lighting up. “Even now, if I hear a beat, I’ll start dancing.”
In 2010, when Taki was 21, he joined Starbucks as a barista in a store in Maryland.
He remembers his manager encouraging him to view the role as a way to put his drama training into practice: “Starbucks is your stage. When you come out with your green apron and your name tag, you’re on stage and you get to talk to customers, suggest different drinks, and make great connections.”
Over the years, his career climbed. He was promoted to shift supervisor, assistant store manager and, in 2017, he became a store manager. At every step, he sought feedback on how to get to the next level.
“You’re leaping, you’re up in the air. It’s electrifying. It literally just took over me.” — Taki
He’s also continued to grow and give back as a dancer. Two years after joining Starbucks, he learned that one of his regular customers (“A skim caramel macchiato with two Splendas. Every single day!”) was a dance teacher at a local high school. She invited him to visit, and he wound up forming the Dancing Diamonds, a majorette-style dance line inspired by the marching bands that were formed during the civil rights era at historically Black colleges and universities, known as HBCUs.
Taki coached the team for six years, right up until he moved to Georgia in 2018 to explore new opportunities.
“It’s a movement celebrating Black culture,” he says of that era in his life and the students he guided. “It opened their mindsets to how important they are, how valued they are and taught them teamwork. But I would say it also taught them that nothing you want in life comes easy. You have to work for it.”
Working together to bring out the best in others
Being part of Taki’s team, whether it’s a dance group or at a Starbucks, also means that you don’t have to do it alone.
Two years ago, Taki learned a teenage barista at his store was preparing for a major milestone – alone. It was prom time. With her father in prison and her mother out of state, she was being raised by her grandmother (“Nana”), who was too busy working to help her find a dress.
“I know what it feels like to be without a father, and I’m very close to my mom. I’ve been helping her choose clothes since I was 12,” he recalls, “So for this partner to be without a father or mother, I can’t imagine.”
Taki not only volunteered to take the girl shopping, but he also showed up on prom day to get her ready and recruited another barista to do her make-up. Sharif snapped the pictures.
“She’s like my Starbucks daughter,” Taki says. He helped her move into her college dorm that fall. Now 20, the two just shared Christmas dinner together. Nana came, too.
This is just one of many stories shared by those in Taki’s network. When someone looks sad in a meeting, he’s the first to notice and check in. When a partner (employee) in the area wants to grow in their role, he helps them develop a plan, they say.
Taki says genuine curiosity goes a long way. He makes a point of asking all new hires their origin story, including what brought them to Starbucks and how previous work experiences helped or hindered their growth.
“I want to make sure that when I am leading, I’m bringing out the best in you,” he explains.
Amy, the district manager and a 21-year Starbucks partner, says Taki’s superpower is his ability to develop partners and role model for others. She’s seen few who can match the level of connection he has with his team.
“They trust him, they believe in him. It’s so much easier to get results when you have that,” she says. “He’s like a machine. You see sprinkles of Taki [in partners] everywhere!”
Beyond his own four walls, when regional leaders need support with external projects, from helping the homeless in the community to sharing retail best practices, they know exactly who to call. Taki routinely visits multiple stores in the region and allows colleagues to shadow his team.
For Taki, the concept of everyday excellence means “holding my head up and finding something to be proud of every day.” He prides himself on having high standards and in providing tough love and accountability when needed.
‘There’s enough room for everyone at the table’
Despite the many wins, there are still plenty of challenging moments exacerbated by the pandemic.
For support, Taki turns to his leaders and is an active member of Starbucks’ Black Partner Network, a safe space where he feels he can fully be himself. In his view, being open and vulnerable is a strength, not a weakness.
“If you don’t understand something, it’s okay to ask questions, to get the clarification and understanding you need, versus just coming up with an assumption on your own,” he says.
Amy, the district manager, believes anyone can see a bit of themselves reflected in Taki’s story, including her own son.
“I call it Black boy joy. That’s this space where their light is so bright. And it stands out because it’s not always like that for our Black men. Taki’s light is bright, and it’s that joy that’s coming through, and you can’t not see it because it captures you and your attention.”
In turn, Taki is more than willing to share the spotlight. It’s what he does best.
“I want to see everyone win,” he says. “There’s enough room for everyone at the table. So, let’s all try to get there.”
Explore opportunities to participate in uplifting the Black community
As part of our commitment to support BIPOC youth, since 2020 The Starbucks Foundation has awarded more than $5 million in grants to support programs led by national nonprofits that have served more than 100,000 young people of color. These organizations help play an important role in bridging the opportunity gap and building thriving and equitable communities.
Explore ways you can help the next generation recognize their (everyday) excellence:
Big Brothers Big Sisters of America is the nation’s largest youth mentoring organization, with more than 230 local agencies serving more than 5,000 communities nationwide to create and support 1-to-1 mentoring relationships. Learn how to become a Big Brother or Big Sister and find other ways to get involved. Go to BBBS
MENTOR is the unifying champion for mentoring relationships across the United States, expanding opportunities for young people by building a youth mentoring movement and serving as the go-to resource on quality mentoring.
Begin your path to mentorship with MENTOR and take the Mentoring Mindset Workshop to learn how to help young people feel encouraged, inspired, and empowered. Go to MENTOR
Public Allies is a national nonprofit committed to advancing social justice and racial equity by engaging and activating the leadership of all people. Learn more about how to join Public Allies’ national network of emerging leaders or support by hosting an Ally. Go to Public Allies
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