The Inspiration That Sparked the Rapid Growth of Starbucks

Luke Lazarus
3 min readNov 19, 2020


Starbucks is known for great coffee, but the company is perhaps even more famous for expanding from a single location in Seattle to a huge chain that seems to be every place you turn in urban and suburban environments. The prevalence and rapid growth of this company have inspired jokes about how numerous these coffee shops are, especially in downtown areas of major cities. What most people probably don’t know is the origin of inspiration to transform the US coffee industry to the point where gourmet shops are now within walking distance in any densely populated area.

The idea to rapidly expand the company into the worldwide empire that it is today came from Howard Schultz who became the CEO of Starbucks Coffee Company in 1986. Schultz revealed that he took a trip to Italy that made a profound impression on him. In 1981, Schultz was the director of marketing for Starbucks at the age of 28, and he was on a business trip in Milan, Italy. Schultz was impressed by the quality of the espresso in the shops there, and he was intrigued by how numerous the shops were. He also realized that these spots were important social gathering places that provided a rich part of the culture and neighborhood atmosphere.

Everyone knows how this story ends. Schultz took a lot from his experiences in Milan, and he transformed the coffee shop business model so that it could rapidly expand and become a focal point for outstanding coffee and warm social atmospheres. Starbucks is currently the largest coffee shop chain in the world with more than 19,500 locations that have opened in over 50 countries.

A lesson that entrepreneurs can take from this success story is the benefit of leaving their familiar surroundings to experience new things and learn about people in other cultures. Sometimes entrepreneurs get too focused on day-to-day business routines and daily activities. Busy schedules can prevent people from experiencing new things and exploring new places. It’s important to be informed about your industry and your target market, but it’s also helpful to step away and learn about other parts of the world and aspects of life. When people step outside of familiar surroundings, this is often when they have their most valuable moments of inspiration.

If you find that your business is stagnating, it could be that you need some inspiration to spark some creativity. One way to get out of a mental rut is to take a trip. You don’t need to travel overseas as Schultz did. Visiting parts of the country that you haven’t seen is bound to reveal some interesting sites and cultural experiences that will expand your mind. Exploration is an important part of being human, and it’s especially beneficial for entrepreneurs who are constantly looking for the next great idea.