How Starbucks Partners create belonging, build connections, uplift communities

Our partners (employees) have always been the heart of Starbucks.  In every store and every community, they bring joy to the everyday.  

Starbucks partners in more than 38,000 stores across more than 85 markets share a unique passion for creating meaningful connections over coffee.  

Even on the toughest days, our partners who wear the green apron share experiences that restore our faith in kindness and exemplify the best of humanity. 

Here’s just a snapshot of what they do to uplift others, in their own words. 

Kelsie, Starbucks shift supervisor

"I think people are born kind, but you have to make a choice every day about how you're going to treat people. When you make somebody happy, you're happy. It's basic math."

Kelsie learned American Sign Language (ASL) and Tactile Sign Language (TSL) to communicate with Robert, a Deafblind customer who visits her store regularly. Kelsie now teaches other partners to communicate with him too. Robert and Kelsie often chat about gardening, and Kelsie continues to work on their signing skills. 

“It's very life-giving to be able to have that moment or be able to connect with someone. He's made me so much more thoughtful about the way I talk to people. I don't want anyone to feel like they're not welcome or I wouldn't go the extra mile to get to know them." 

Kelsie is also featured in a short film by Self and Starbucks called Kindness: A Universal Language

Olivia, Starbucks store manager

"Every last customer that comes in, every student, every partner [at my store] – they just enrich my life so much and it has been such an invigorating year to be with them."

Ten years ago, Olivia learned about a new Starbucks initiative focused on hiring service members, veterans and spouses. She applied and got the job. When her husband was transferred by the U.S. Army to a different base, she moved with him and continued her partner journey in a new city. She managed a store where a customer named Jeff came in every single day. He once told her, “I want you to know that even though you're not from this neighborhood, you're part of this neighborhood because of what you've done at this location and the work that you've done with the partners.” Midway through the COVID-19 pandemic, Jeff stopped coming in. His wife came in to tell Olivia Jeff had passed away. 

“It was hard for us to not see [Jeff] every day. Every once in a while, we would make his drink and we would call it out just because we missed him so much. I always want Jeff to know that he was seen and he was heard and he was loved by not only his community, but he was loved by his Starbucks community as well.” 

Rosa, Starbucks store manager 

"You see a little bit of everything. You see people going to work, coming home from work, taking their kids to school. It's important to make those genuine connections within 30 to 45 seconds that you have at the window with them."  

Rosa has worked in multiple Starbucks store formats and currently manages a drive-thru location. Throughout her career, she has learned having the right leader who sees you is the key to growing and thriving. She strives to replicate what her mentors have taught her by creating a supportive and fun environment for her partners. While many regular customer interactions stand out, the team recently had a meeting and talked about Joe – a customer who rolls through daily with the same order.  

“Joe honestly is the sweetest person ever. The whole team presses on their mics to say hi to him in the morning. He always brings us something really nice, like a little loaf to celebrate us or just to tell us we're great. And then we feed off that energy and he makes our day. He embodies happiness.” 

Andy, Starbucks barista, "Out of all the jobs I've worked at, I feel like it was the first job at where I could actually be myself. They say we want you to be you, and put that apron on top."

Andy left a career in finance to join Starbucks during the COVID-19 pandemic. What was initially intended as a temporary change has become a permanent career shift. Andy loves being an early-bird and indulging in a passion for coffee craft. He enjoys the bustling energy of the mornings in-store and the opportunity to become a part of customers' daily routines. Andy’s aim is to foster a sense of belonging by connecting with every single customer who walks through the doors, a value he learned from his favorite regular. 

“I have this customer named Helen. There is a bit of a language barrier with me and her, but she is one of the people who comes in every single day, and one of the reasons why we started bonding was because she would come in and always tell me how much I look like her son.” 

Related links:

Read about Starbucks updated mission

Starbucks partner benefits and perks