End of an era

Wore this for almost 3.5 years

Wore this for almost 3.5 years

Last weekend(7th Feb 2010) marks the end of my second stint with Starbucks. I first worked for Starbucks Singapore in 2002 – yes,even back then, their empire stretched across Asia – when I was going through this ‘what are you doing for the rest of your life’ phase.  Gone through the usual self-help  books like ‘what colour is your parachute?’, and then I realize I enjoy working for myself and I like interacting with people in a non-office setting. Voila.. I could potentially run a cafe and I decided to apply to Starbucks to test out my wild idea.

That spur of the moment’s decision probably changed my career direction. Till then, I was the typical guy who had the fortune of receiving a good education, worked in great companies and even co-founded my own consulting firm; hence, working on my feet making coffee does not look like a food return on investment. However, as i learned more about coffee and understand the cafe culture, the more I realized that this is no longer a job, but a passion. It is the pursue of a dream; something that does not reward the best financially, laborious like hell, but yet so rewarding and and fulfilling.

That passion took a backseat when we moved to Toronto in 2004, as we seek to find our feet in Canada. We were fortunate to land good jobs in our first few years, but deep down inside, I know my passion is still very much brewing. Working at Starbucks again was a good way to rekindle my passion and allow me to experience the coffee scene again. Like the first time, it has been an absolute joy and it lasted 2 full years from February 2007.

So what have I learn?

As much as the third wave coffee geeks have derided Starbucks as a commercial juggernaut, there are many things that Starbucks have done mightily well. It has to be doing something right as it has becomes ubiquitous in North America. It excels in marketing and provided great training to their partners(their term for employees), and by and large, serve good coffee, better than most of the bigger chains in Canada.  However, at the end of the day, a lot more depend on the barista and for a company with over 15 thousand stores, it has become a hit-or-miss situation when you visit a Starbucks store.

I like to think of Starbucks like Tiger Woods(no, not the scandalous version). Much like Tiger bringing in popularity and money to golf, Starbucks has made the coffee scene more viable for smaller entrepreneurs. You have to tip your hat off to Starbucks like we do with Tiger, but yet at the same time, you are thankful for its presence, especially when you know you can definitely do better than them.

I will take away many fond memories of Starbucks, and even though I will be competing with them in a few months, it will always hold a special place in my heart. I have made many friends at Starbucks in Singapore and here in Toronto. I had my tattoo done when I was with Starbucks, I froth milk with the La Marzocco for the first time at Starbucks, and I have met many great customers along the way. I am sad to see it come to an end, but I am excited about the prospect of finally able to run my own espresso bar, with no more memos coming from the head office.

I can hardly wait.

Posted on
Monday, February 15th, 2010

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