I managed Starbucks waste and recycling activities for a number of years and would occasionally attend recycling conferences. The year was 2005-ish and I had just hired on a new waste consultant to manage our stores many waste haulers. My key account manager and I were meeting for the first time at a recycling conference in Minneapolis MN. One afternoon we needed to attend an off-site event. At that time, GPS systems were always a crap shoot in cars... They didn't necessarily take you where you wanted to go. That day it navigated us to an old empty abandoned parking lot, where plants were growing up between the cracks in the pavement, and announced "You have arrived." Diane and I are still close friends today and still laugh about that little adventure.
Submitted by Kathie Lindemann Starbucks first entered the Middle East with the opening of Kuwait and Lebanon in 1999, in partnership with the MH Alshaya group from Kuwait. Together, we opened Qatar and the United Arab Emirates in early 2000. The Alshaya teams were amazing partners and very passionate about the brand and executing The Starbucks Experience in every country we entered. They went so far as to start every shift, in every store, with a team coffee tasting! The next Middle East market on the docket was Saudi Arabia. We knew the market would pose some unique challenges for us, due to cultural differences and strict religious laws, but we were committed to striking a balance between protecting the Starbucks brand and respecting the local culture. For example, our store designs needed to accommodate separate seating areas for families and other special service requirements, which the team did a great job of addressing. The greatest challenge we faced was with our logo, due to the human form of the mermaid, which we were told would never be acceptable in Saudi culture. The request was made to adapt our logo for the Saudi Arabia market only, which was not well received. The decision went to the top and we got HS’s blessing to proceed. Members of the Alshaya and Starbucks marketing teams worked together to design an adapted logo, with looked like the crown of the mermaid rising over the waves. The team believed the “new” logo was still clearly identifiable as Starbucks, while also being culturally acceptable in Saudi Arabia and the legal team on both sides of the partnership approved the new logo. Given the long lead time for production and shipping we went to press with the new logo - producing ceramic mugs, paper and plastic cups for to-go orders, bags, etc. - well in advance of our market entry. As we neared the selection of the first site, Moje Akhbari (Market Development Consultant) and I (International Operations) visited Riyadh. I was the first Starbucks Executive to visit the market – and I was a woman! As a woman, I was required to wear all black, floor length skirts, with long sleeves and a black “hijab” to cover my hair, neck and chest. (As a western woman, I was not expected to cover my face completely.) We were invited to the offices of the local market partner to start our site tour, but there was concern about my being seen in the office by two elderly, traditional men who worked there. I offered to wait in the car, while Moje and the others went into the office to gather the participants for our tour. A few minutes later, Moje came to the car and told me that Muhammad, the market leader, wanted me to come in. The two elderly gentlemen happened to be out of the office that day and he wanted to spend some time getting to know each other before we set out on our tour. I was very nervous, to say the least, and kept telling myself “keep your eyes to yourself and don’t speak unless spoken to”. Muhammad was incredibly friendly and gracious and made me feel comfortable in minutes. He went on to tell me about his time as a student at Central Washington University and how much he loved the Northwest – and Starbucks! The world felt much smaller in that moment. When it came time to go on the site tour, I was not able to ride in the car with Muhammad due to cultural rules, but he pointed his car out to us in the parking garage as we walked by. He specifically wanted us to see the Starbucks logo on the bumper of his car. Not the new logo we had created for the Saudi Arabia market entry, but the mermaid logo we used in every other market! He said he didn’t care what people thought. He loved the logo and was proud to display it. And so the saga began….. Orders had been placed for all products for the Saudi Arabia market to bear the new logo and yet the market leader wanted to be bold and try to enter with our standard logo. The debate was opened up again. At the end of the day, the decision was made to open the Saudi Arabia market with the new logo and to gradually transition to the standard logo. Unfortunately, little evidence remains of the logo created for the Saudi Arabia market, which is why I hang on to the white tumbler I have that bears the crown of the mermaid rising over the waves and remember fondly my unique experience in Riyadh. Kathie with Muhammad and other members of the Alshaya team, standing by the SBUX logo on his bumper. Unfortunately, it was taken in a parking garage so it is quite dark. :(
Submitted by Kathie Lindemann Back in 1998 , the site for the first Starbucks store in Beijing, China had been selected. Robert Wu (Market Development Consultant), King Choi (Store Designer), Jane Melvin (International Marketing) and I (International Operations) were sent to Beijing to review the final site plans and store design with our market partner and to begin conversations about the market launch. Given that there was no Starbucks Coffee in China yet, we carried our own coffee, French Press and Starbucks logo paper cups with us on the journey. We ended up with one free day to be tourists and we all quickly agreed to visit the Great Wall. We took our coffee, French Press and cups with us, along with a thermos of hot water. Who could pass up the opportunity to have a fresh cup of Starbucks Coffee on the Great Wall - and do a little grass roots marketing at the same time? The Great Wall was even more magnificent than I had imagined, stretching as far as the eye could see in both directions, snaking over the mountains like a great stone serpent. It was a sunny day and the Wall was teaming with tourists and locals. After climbing for an hour or so, we stopped to take out our “tools of the trade” and make a French Press of Starbucks Coffee to enjoy together. We made sure the logo on our cups was always facing outward, to complement the logo on Robert’s shirt and Jane’s hat. Many people looked at us as though we were crazy, but we didn’t care. We were so proud and excited to be there and to know that we would be bringing Starbucks Coffee to China very soon. As we packed up our wares, Robert noticed a local man taking a picture of his elderly mother standing on the Wall. Robert asked the gentleman, in Chinese, if he would like a picture taken of him with his mother. He enthusiastically accepted. As the two of them stood together, having their picture taken on the Great Wall, the elderly woman started to cry. Robert asked if everything was OK. The man told him that his mother had grown up in China but had never been to the Great Wall. It was her dream to see it with her son. To have her picture taken there, with him, was a very special experience for her. It made the day even more special for us as well. After returning to the hotel, I called my husband to tell him about our day. He mentioned that he spoke to his brother earlier that day and told him where I was. My sister-in-law, a schoolteacher in Kansas, happened to be covering China with her 6th grade class that week. King was transmitting photos of the site to the design team back in Seattle that night, so I asked if he could send a photo of us on the Great Wall to my sister-in-law as well, which he did. Within hours of standing on the Great Wall of China, our picture was being shared with a classroom full of 6th graders in Kansas. This was in 1998!! That was pretty high-tech for the day. I have many fond memories of my visits to China, but that was top of my list.