Starbucks: Where I Got My Start and Why I Respect Who They Are

Monday January 22, 2018


Almost everyday Friday in the summer of 2008 I walked down to the local Starbucks in Hollister and asked for a job, but didn't get hired until fall of 2009 where I started working in coffee.  I only drank chais and did not like coffee, really.  My partner numbers were 1678905 and I was really stoked on my first job.  My manager Lisa would sit down with us and do coffee pairings and have us try what we served in the café, I of course did not like any of it.  I was really excited because it this time I saw all of these older people working there that I couldn't wait to get to know and the idea of being a barista was really intriguing, not to mention my mom was happy I got discounted whole beans.  In working for Starbucks, I learned how to work hard, detail clean, deal with customers all at once (although being professional was hard at the time, because I was a goof-off).  If I wasn't wearing the new mops on my head to piss off my assistant manager, I was changing his last name in his contact info to Bieber instead of Barber.  Or even taking the company laptop out and watching the Giants in their 2010 World Series and then try to hide it when our DM made a surprise visit. I could go on about the stories, but it was fun.  I had a lot of growing up to do, but that just came with time.  I was good at my job there and 90% of the time, my goofing around did not affect my work directly.  I really got along with customers and had a knack of doing a good job, covering for people when they couldn't show up, and working effectively by myself on bar when it was busy.  

Working for Starbucks definitely taught me more than I realized at the time, because in dealing with unhappy customers, really nice regulars or holding down a busy bar I first did all of that at Starbucks.  I was able to see what training programs looked like for the first time, and how effective they were.  Looking back now I understand how good Starbucks is at setting up employees in effective workspaces with very little to worry about functionality-wise (at least in my experience).  At the time our store was not a drive-thru and we dealt with every customer face to face, and on any given busy morning we would have a line to the door for at least 4 hours (nonstop).  I really learned how to get through the tough work environments of being short-handed, equipment failing, forgetting orders in a rush,  and worst off running out of frappuccino mix during frappuccino happy hour (HO-LY SHIT DUDE).  It was all very crazy at times and in the process I connected with so many people in my community as well as established friendships with co-workers that to this day I still see.  

I have ZERO regrets in working for Starbucks and I in no way shape or form, dislike the company.  In fact I like Starbucks for what they have done.  I still go to Starbucks in my town on a regular basis and snag an iced coffee and talk with the staff there.  It is a nice environment for the most part and I enjoy the face-to-face interactions.  I became involved in specialty coffee because of my brother.  I enjoyed what I did at Starbucks (making coffee, talking to people, working with energetic friends)  I was just in the wrong environment and the wrong part of the coffee industry.  There was too much structure for I what I really wanted to do with coffee.  I loved the idea of watching a small business become more popular and develop it's own identity.  As I began understanding the difference in how good the coffee was I really started to respect and appreciate what I was doing. I think I have always been more interested in developing my own way rather than going underneath somebody else and watching them make things happen.  I'm all about that action and I never wanted to be somebody who would take all the credit with no work to show for it.  In working at Starbucks I wasn't able to branch out and do more and with specialty coffee I saw more opportunities in this community full of individuals who could truly be themselves where they worked.  I respected the individuals in this community who were able to really become professionals in a  way that I didn't think was possible.   

I wanted to have that same ability, to be myself in my work environment and be able to create and help the company I worked for grow.  I wanted them to see their vision come to life and I wanted to legitimize what they were doing because I was proud to work there.  I wanted people to see Vertigo as a place where they could go and feel really happy after leaving.  I began taking things seriously and becoming more of a professional, I mean I was still myself and I'm a jokester. But at this point I realized that I took this industry seriously and I wanted to be good if not the best at what I was doing for Vertigo as well as myself.  This all came with time and after a while understood that this was my industry and I was staying in it for the long haul.  I want this to carry over to my own business and I want to have people come work for me who share this same passion, not just coffee but learning what becoming a professional is and working in an environment where you can succeed.  Having an outlet like Vertigo allowed me to really become who I am now and working hard for them gave me a feeling of legitimacy, I have connected with so many people inside and outside of the industry.  

Without even realizing it, the timing what was most important.  I worked for Starbucks and had fun, worked hard, but I never took it seriously as a career or anything more than a job.  By the time I got to Vertigo I took the hard work and the skills that I learned and applied them to this new concept which was much more my speed. Although I was still very young and a jokester I began to take my role much more seriously.  I left Vertigo and went back to Starbucks, because of my school schedule, but that did not last long and I eventually landed back where I wanted to be, at Vertigo. What I took from Starbucks was that structure is what makes or breaks you, with structure everyone succeeds and without it there is very little room for success.  However for me, too much structure encapsulates people and people like myself do not do well in those environments either.  I believe that under a properly structured business, individuals who have the same idea as one another and about what the vision truly means will succeed together while maintaining their own individuality.  I don't want to take from anybody's individuality, but I want people who can be professional and understand why structure matters and why having a vision is important.  I learned all of that from both Starbucks and Vertigo.  

I don't like when people try to talk Starbucks down.  I respect the company and without Starbucks the specialty coffee industry wouldn't be what it is. I have taken much more from Starbucks in the long run than I ever realized up until this point.  I applied their skillset to the specialty coffee industry and it has helped me get to where I'm going.  After working for a company like Starbucks I was able to truly appreciate Vertigo and what a great job I had.  I found coffee at Vertigo.  I found happiness and I found my industry.